Flight Sergeant William Alexander CUNNINGHAM

Service No: 433250
Born: Werris Creek NSW, 17 June 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 27 February 1943
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations (No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ME326), Germany, 2 February 1945, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Albert Charles and Nellie Hendry Cunningham, of Werris Creek, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Werris Creek NSW
Remembered: Panel 107, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

On 2 February 1945 24 RAAF crews were sent to attack Wiesbaden where enemy troops were reported as billeted for rest and refitting. On this occasion four crews failed to drop their bombs, but the remainder returned confident that the target had been heavily hit. One Lancaster was shot down
during this attack while another collided with its neighbour in the bomber stream and crashed near Abbeville, the only survivor being Group Captain Parsons the commanding officer of RAF Station Binbrook.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 410-1

Lancaster ME326 took off from RAF Binbrook at 2045 hours on 2 February 1945 to bomb Weisbaden, Germany. The bomb load was 1 x 4,000 lb (1,800 kg), 10 x 150 x 4 and 2 x 60 x 4 lb (2 kg) incendiaries. Twenty four aircraft from the squadron took part in the raid and two of these including ME 326 failed to return. The aircraft crashed 8 miles south west of Abbeville, France. Group Captain Parsons who was Commanding Officer of the Squadron at the time survived the crash and all the other crew members were killed.

The crew members of ME326 were:

Sergeant James Henry Bull (1394093) (RAFVR) (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant William Alexander Cunningham (433250) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flight Sergeant Fredrick John Flattery (1581726) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Sergeant William Arla George (1709173) (RAFVR) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Sergeant Frederick Human (1595696) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner)
Sergeant Walter Thomas Jeffries (3030656) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Group Captain (later Air Commodore) Keith Raymond John Parsons DSO DFC (O339) (Pilot) was discharged from the RAAF on 28 June 1969.

Group Captain Parsons later reported “At approximately 2300 hours while at 19,000 feet with “George” engaged I observed another Lancaster about 150 yards on my starboard beam. We were flying through scattered cirrus cloud at the time and upon emerging from one of these I observed this Lancaster turning straight across our path. I immediately disengaged George (autopilot) and attempted to pull up over the other aircraft to starboard, but he apparently became aware of my approach at the same instant and took the same avoiding action which unfortunately caused the tail end of his aircraft to wipe over the top of mine smashing the canopy over my head, stopping the port inner engine and knocking the port outer engine right out of the wing. My aircraft immediately went into a spin from which despite every effort I was unable to regain control. I ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft and after seeing the navigator move up past me to the front I myself left the aircraft (by parachute) at a height of about 2,000 feet by means of a hole in the canopy. The aircraft hit the ground and burnt within 500 yards of where I landed. On later investigation I found that the Bomb Aimer and Rear Gunner had both left the aircraft but were too close to the ground, the Bomb Aimer being killed instantly and the Rear Gunner dying in hospital at Abbeville. The other members of the crew were still in the aircraft and were killed instantly. The following morning I ascertained that the aircraft with which I collided was Obo 2 of No. 626 Squadron Wickenby. I also ascertained that the rear turret of this aircraft had been completely knocked off by the collision and was lying within 100 yards of my aircraft, the rear gunner being found a few yards away from this spot having been killed instantly upon hitting the ground. All other members of this crew parachuted safely. There is no other information.”

The No. 626 Squadron Rear Gunner killed was Sergeant Henry Kenneth Norton (1609939) (RAFVR) in the loss of Lancaster PD286.

No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster PB807 (Flying Officer John Maguire (419193) (Pilot)) on 2 April 1945.


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Chorley, W.R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Volume 6 Aircraft and Aircrew Losses 1945, Midland Counties Publications UK, 1998
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, 166/8/854


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

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