Pilot Officer William Neville DANIEL

Service No: 423996
Born: Hamilton NSW, 2 January 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 18 July 1942
Unit: No. 582 Squadron (RAF), RAF Station Little Staughton
Died: Air Operations: (No. 582 Squadron Lancaster aircraft PB123), France, 8 September 1944, Aged 20 Years
Buried: St Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. I. Daniel, of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 121, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 0630 hours on 8 September 1944 Lancaster PB123 took off from Little Staunton for air operations against an enemy target at Le Havre, France. The aircraft failed to return to Base. The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and six of the crew members were killed and two baled out and evaded capture.

The crew members of PB123 were:

Flight Lieutenant Howard Warburton Baker (151315) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Jack Beecroft (1438194) (RAFVR) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Pilot Officer William Neville Daniel (423996) (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Lieutenant A G De Beer (131590) (RAFVR) (Bomb Aimer) PoW, Released
Flight Lieutenant John Edward Goddard DFC (420658) (Pilot)
Warrant Officer George Edwards Lythgoe (964480) (RAF) (Wireless Operator)
Pilot Officer G Mackenzie DFC (54660) (RAF) (Flight Engineer) PoW, Released
Flying Officer Robert Alexander Newton (155991) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner)

Pilot Officer Mackenzie reported: “At 7.15am on 8 September 1944, the plane came in over Le Havre under the cloud with a base of 5,000 feet. The Hun opened up with flak hitting us – I was sitting at the side of Johnny (Goddard) in the second pilot’s seat, when there was a crash – the inter-com went dead and fire broke out around the wireless operator. There was a second bang right after the first and the whole front cabin filled with smoke and fire. Johnny shouted for full power and then shouted “jump Mac”. I got down and went back to the navigator’s cabin which was full of smoke, and dragged my chute out, then Neville’s, and then shouted into the smoke that we had to get out. A voice shouted OK. I turned back to the front escape hatch with two figures behind me, which might have been Neville and Howard. When I reached the hatch, it was open and Alan De Beer was just jumping. I went straight out over his heels. After my chute opened I could see the plane with all of the fuselage on fire flying on, until it disappeared into cloud. I looked below and saw another chute, Alan De Beer. After coming down some distance, I heard a crash which I assumed was the plane hitting the ground, but could not see any more chutes.

The following is a letter dated 8 September 1944 from Group Captain Cribb, Commanding No. 582 Squadron RAF, Path Finder Force, RAF: “Just before dawn the Squadron took off to attack strong points in the German defences at Le Havre. They were led by Flight Lieutenant Goddard who as Master Bomber was to control the whole weight of the Bomber Command attack. Pilot Officer Daniel was his Bomb Aimer. On the work of this crew depended the success of the mission. On the success of the mission hung the lives of many Allied soldiers who on that day were to assault the garrison for the last time. A crew is selected for a task of this nature only after they have shown in combat, that no effort within the compass of human endeavour, is too much to expect of them. Such a crew was that Captained by Flight Lieutenant Goddard. They were lost in a gallant attempt to complete their task, in defiance of adverse weather and fierce opposition. When they were hit, Pilot Officer Daniel was directing his Captain to the target, at the head of the attack Pilot Officer Daniel and other members of the crew were known to have left the blazing aircraft, and landed by parachute. Flying Officer De Beer and Pilot Officer MacKenzie were captured by the enemy and eventually released when the Le Havre garrison fell.” The letter written by Captain Hamilton, RE, tells us of the fate of Pilot Officer Daniel and Flight Lieutenant Baker. Of the rest of the crew we have no news. Pilot Officer Daniel died as he would have wished, with his comrades, and in a manner which does credit to his Squadron.”


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 Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/9/396


Feast, Sean Master Bombers: the experiences of a Pathfinder Squadron at war, 1944-1945, Grub Street, London, 2008

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