Pilot Officer Robert William BURKE DFC

Service No: 420438
Born: Newtown NSW, 12 February 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 8 November 1941
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), 21 December 1945 (Citation Title: No. 460 Squadron)
Died: Air Operations (No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft JD600), Denmark, 10 April 1944, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Esbjerg (Fourfeldt) Cemetery, Esbjerg, Denmark
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Alfred and Florence May Burke, of Sans Souci, New South Wales, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Sydney NSW
Remembered: Panel 107, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

On 9th-10th April 11 Lancasters of No. 460 were in a special force which laid 450 mines in the Gulf of Danzig. For this very distant target, involving a round trip of nine hours, each Lancaster carried five mines, which for the first time were laid from high level. Enemy opposition was very strong and three RAAF aircraft were shot down and three others damaged, but the military result was significant as Danzig Bay was closed to traffic for 15 days.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 44-5.

Lancaster JD600 took off from RAF Binbrook at 2030 hours on 9 April 1944 to carry out a mining operation in the Danzig Bay area of the Baltic. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Twelve aircraft from the squadron took part in the operation. It was established post war that the aircraft was shot down when homeward bound by night fighters and crashed at 0330 hours near Torrrild, 10kms south of Skanderborg, Denmark. All the crew members except Flight Sergeant Cooper were killed.

The crew members of JD600 were:

Flight Sergeant James Lennox Brooks (426045) (Bomb Aimer)
Pilot Officer Robert William Burke DFC (420438) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Sydney William Cooper (427454) (Mid Upper Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 6 February 1946
Flight Sergeant Paul Stuart Fleming (421657) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Pilot Officer Andrew Henry (420385) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant John Stanley Hosier DFM (420388) (Rear Gunner)
Sergeant Edward Henry Steedman (1813152) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)

In a report Flight Sergeant Cooper stated ‘The aircraft was attacked by enemy aircraft over Denmark. The aircraft disintegrated. I was thrown clear and captured on landing. We had dropped our mines and were returning over Denmark when first attacked at 17,000 feet from underneath by a DO 217. The intercom was poor. The starboard inner engine was knocked out, the starboard wing set on fire and the fuselage damaged. I believe Hosier (Rear gunner) was killed in either the first or the second attack. The second attack was from astern. I believe the pilot was hit because evasive action ceased and the aircraft was in a shallow dive. On the second attack the mid upper gunner returned fire and this set the enemy aircraft port engine on fire and the starboard engine and cabin shortly after. The DO217 disintegrated. A minute later there was another attack by a JU88 from dead astern setting the remaining engines and fuselage on fire. The turret was being operated manually and the mid upper gunner got in a sustained burst on the JU88 setting it afire. The enemy aircraft broke away. The mid upper gunner was wounded in the foot, crawled out of the turret and donned his chute. Our aircraft was completely afire and went into a spin. It exploded and threw me clear. I landed near the crashed aircraft.’

No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster ME 663 (Flight Lieutenant Peter Alan Crosby DFC (416656) (Pilot)) on 10 April 1944.

No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster JD 734 (Pilot Officer Robert John Proud (413894) (Pilot)) on 10 April 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 A9300, BURKE R W


Firkins, P. C. (Peter Charles) (441386) Strike and Return, Westward Ho Publishing City Beach WA, 1985

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