LEST WE FORGET
Flying Officer John Powell BIRD
Service No: 410619
Born: Canterbury VIC, 23 December 1920
Enlisted in the RAAF: 31 January 1942
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ME640), Germany, 24 March 1944, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Leigh and Lucie Stocker Bird, of Mont Albert, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Box Hill VIC
Remembered: Panel 107, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Date: 24-25 March 1944
Total Force: Dispatched – 810, Attacking – 726
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 24, Attacking – 24; No. 463 Dispatched – 14, Attacking – 12; No. 466 Dispatched – 14, Attacking – 12; No. 467 Dispatched – 19, Attacking – 17
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 2,493
Total Aircraft Lost: 72
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 460 – 2; No. 466 – 1
On 24-25 March the long Baltic route was employed and nearly 150 aircraft from operational training units and conversion units made diversionary sweeps to confuse enemy fighter controllers. As frequently happened the flight plan was disrupted by changed meteorological conditions. An exceptionally strong north wind caused the Pathfinders to overshoot the southern suburbs and also scattered the bomber stream over a very wide area. Aircraft lacking H2S including those from Nos. 463 and 467 were mostly blown off track and actually approached over the heavily gun-defended areas of Sylt, Flensburg and Kiel. Pilot Officer Gibbs (1) of No. 467 saw several aircraft shot down near Sylt and it is fairly certain that nearly three-quarters of the bombers lost fell victims to gun fire, either on approach or during withdrawal when similar failure to allow for the unexpected wind velocity carried many of them into the middle of the Ruhr defences. Even the H2S-equipped aircraft found navigation extremely difficult, and one crew of No. 460 overshot Berlin by fifty miles before the Pathfinder flares were seen falling well in the rear. This aircraft turned back and joined in the raid, but a Halifax of No. 466 was so far to the south of the target when the first markers went down that it could not reach Berlin before the attack ended and finally jettisoned its bombs sixty miles south of the capital. The raid might well have been a fiasco, but for the first time a master of ceremonies operated over Berlin and his instructions helped the bombers considerably as they straggled over the target. Precise assessment of this raid was impossible, for photographs, although they showed considerable fresh devastation, were obtained only after five daylight raids had been made by American aircraft.
(1) Flying Officer David Lloyd Gibbs DFC (413567) was discharged from the RAAF on 30 august 1945.
Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 643, 647-8
Lancaster ME640 took off from RAF Binbrook at 1839 on 24 March 1944 to bomb Berlin. The bomb load 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg) bomb, 156 x 30 lb (14 kg) and 420 x 4 lb (2 kg) incendiaries. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. It was established post war that the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed at 0018 hours on
25 March 1944 between Osterbrock and Teglingen, two villages east of the Dortmund-Ems Canal, and between the towns of Lingen and Meppen in the Althare district, Germany. Six crew members were killed and one became a Prisoner of War.
The crew members of ME640 were:
Flying Officer John Powell Bird (410619) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Alfred Craven (1138526) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flying Officer Gerald Desmond Fitzgerald DFC (402602) (Mid Upper Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 29 October 1945
Warrant Officer Joseph Ignatious Goodwin (32665) (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Lieutenant Allan Francis McKinnon DFC (407531) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant John David West (425392) (Rear Gunner)
Sergeant George Frederick White (1801266) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster ND463 (Pilot Officer Milford James Cusick (420157) (Pilot)) on 24 March 1944.
No. 466 Squadron lost Halifax LV900 (Flight Sergeant Ross Lange Robertson (416706) (Pilot)) on 24 March 1944.
Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/5/480
Firkins, P. C. (Peter Charles) (441386) Strike and Return, Westward Ho Publishing City Beach WA, 1985