LEST WE FORGET
Flight Lieutenant John Dennis COTTMAN
Service No: 418813
Born: Caulfield VIC, 17 July 1923
Enlisted in the RAAF: 19 June 1942
Unit: No. 97 Squadron (RAF), RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 97 Squadron Lancaster aircraft PA973), Germany, 21 March 1945, Aged 21 Years
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Walter Thomas Cottman and Lily Elizabeth Cottman, of Toorak, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Melbourne VIC
Remembered: Panel 282, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 120, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
The Germans gave priority to repairing the Bohlen oil installations because of their relative distance from English bomber bases, and within a fortnight Bomber Command assessed that some units were again in operation. Thus on 20th-21st March No. 463 sent 16 and No. 467 17 crews in a force of 224 which in much better weather dropped 946 tons of bombs in the most concentrated of the series of attacks against Bohlen. Photographs, obtained 12 hours after the main attack, showed fires burning in various parts of the plant; apart from severe and widespread damage to vital units the internal marshalling yards had been heavily hit and it was estimated that Bohlen was unlikely to be substantially operative for at least two months. In the event, because of the progress of the armies, no further bombing attack was necessary, but this last attack was relatively costly as 10 bombers were lost, including one of No. 463 and one each piloted by Australians of Nos. 50, 57, 61, 97 and 207 Squadrons, while another Australian pilot failed to return from a small feint attack by 12 aircraft against Halle which was intended to divert enemy fighters from Bohlen.
Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Page 427
Lancaster PA 973 of No 97 (Strait Settlements) Squadron took off at 2335 hours from RAF Station Coningsby on 20 March 1945 to bomb a target at Bohlen. The weather was clear, visibility good and anti-aircraft fire over the target moderate to intense. The aircraft did not return to base and there was no evidence as to loss or whether the aircraft was shot down over the target. No messages were received from the aircraft. With no trace of the aircraft or crew were found following post war investigations and enquiries, it was recorded in 1949 that the missing crew had no known grave.
The crew members of PA973 were:
Warrant Officer Harold James Arney (428596) (Wireless Operator)
Flight Sergeant Lawrence Joseph Bull (430011) (Rear Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Stewart Coster (430103) (Air Bomber)
Flight Lieutenant John Dennis Cottman (418813) (Pilot)
Sergeant John William Cross (139533) (RAFVR) Flight Engineer.
Pilot Officer Aubrey George Murray (432022) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Victor Edward Petschel (437562) (Mid Upper Gunner)
No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster PB845 (Flying Officer Richard Stewart Bennett (436327) (Pilot)) on 21 March 1945.
No. 50 Squadron (RAF) lost Lancaster ME441 (Pilot Officer Allan Neil Levy (429153) (Pilot)) on 21 March 1945.
No. 57 Squadron (RAF) lost Lancaster LM653 (Flight Lieutenant Aubrey Robert Palling (428261) (Pilot)) on 21 March 1945
In addition to the loss of LM 653, No. 57 Squadron (RAF) lost Lancaster RA530 (Flying Officer Charles Alan Cobern (5870) (Pilot)) which crashed soon after take-off on 20 March 1945.
No. 61 Squadron (RAF) lost Lancaster RA560 (Flying Officer John Frederick Swales (422989) (Pilot)) on 21 March 1945.
No. 207 Squadron (RAF) lost Lancaster PA196 (Flying Officer Raymond Allan Lewis (19892) (Pilot)) on 21 March 1945.
In the small feint attack against Halle, No. 227 Squadron (RAF) lost Lancaster PA 259 (Flying Officer Warren Henry Pitts (436480) (Pilot)) on 21 March 1945.
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, 166/8/927