Warrant Officer William Wallace COLLENS

Service No: 401184
Born: Castlemaine VIC, 12 May 1914
Enlisted in the RAAF: 4 January 1941
Unit: No. 464 Squadron, Feltwell, Norfolk
Died: Air Operations: (No. 464 Squadron Ventura aircraft AJ169) Netherlands Coast, 4 April 1943, Aged 28 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Eugene Edgar Beaumont Collens and Catherine Duncan Collens; husband of Annie Thelma Collens, of Cobram, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Kyabram VIC
Remembered: Panel 191, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 109, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

In daylight attacks against fringe targets (targets of tactical importance requiring only brief penetration of enemy territory) the Venturas flew in close formation across the English Channel at low level to avoid detection by enemy radar and then climbed quickly to their bombing height of 10,000 feet, swiftly diving again to sea level after the attack and leaving their escort to prevent any pursuit. Actual losses were light on these tip-and-run raids, but on many occasions some of the aircraft were badly damaged although they returned safely. The Ventura, although it endeared itself to aircrews because of its apparent ability to sustain heavy material damage and yet still fly, was not an outstanding success as a daylight bomber. It was too slow and not sufficiently well armed to withstand enemy fighter attack.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 458-9

Ventura AJ169 took off from RAF Methwold at 1800 hours on the 4 April 1943 to bomb the docks at Rotterdam, Holland. Twelve aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and AJ 169 failed to return. At 1830 hours the Squadron aircraft rendezvous with 12 aircraft from No. 487 Squadron (RNZAF) and with a fighter escort.

There was considerable opposition over the target area with heavy and accurate flak and several aircraft were damaged. AJ169 was hit over the target area but continued in formation until about 40 miles from the Dutch coast when it lagged behind, lost height and eventually ditched and was believed finished off by enemy fighters in the vicinity. A search sent out later in the day was unsuccessful.

The crew members of AJ169 were:

Warrant Officer Eric Cole (R/87628) (RCAF) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer William Wallace Collens (401184) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Dudley Francis Fulford (406975) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Albert Leonard Lush (1376013) (RAFVR) (Pilot)


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, 166/8/79


Lax, M. (Mark) and Leon Kane-Maguire The Gestapo Hunters: 464 Squadron RAAF 1942-5, Banner Books Maryborough QLD 4650, 1999

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