Flying Officer Charles Ridley FAIRBAIRN DFC

Service No: 419988
Born: Melbourne VIC, 3 June 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 9 October 1942
Unit: No. 50 Squadron (RAF), RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), 18 September 1945 (Citation Title: No. 50 Squadron (RAF))
Died: Air Operations: (No. 50 Squadron Lancaster aircraft PD346), Germany, 1 February 1945, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Rheinberg War Cemetery, Kamp Lintfort, Nordrhein-Westfal, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Charles Osborne Fairbairn and Irene Florence Fairbairn, of Skipton, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Skipton VIC
Remembered: Panel 122, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

DFC Citation: Pilot Officer Fairbairn has completed many sorties including attacks against such distant targets as Bruz, Politz, Nuremburg and Trondheim. Throughout his operational career he has shown brilliant leadership and cool courage in the face of danger. In December 1944, ten
minutes before reaching the target, his aircraft was involved in a collision as a result of which one engine was wrecked. Dangerous vibrations were set up throughout the aircraft. Despite this, Flying Officer Fairbairn pressed home his attack successfully in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire which damaged two gun turrets. By superb airmanship he flew his damaged aircraft back to this country and executed a safe landing. Flying Officer Fairbairn’s outstanding skill, determination and devotion to duty have always merited the highest praise.”

The action for which Flying Officer Fairbairn was awarded the DFC is told at page 309 of Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963. During this action, No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster LL 874 (Flying Officer Kenneth Edwin Harold Bennett (424117) (Pilot and Aircraft Captain)).

Lancaster PD346 took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 1638 hours on the night of 1 February 1945 detailed to bomb Siegen, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. The aircraft crashed into wooded hillside near Ehrenstein about 50 kms south east of Siegen. Five of the crew members were killed and two became Prisoners of War.

The crew members of PD346 were:

Sergeant C E Atkins (1675910) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner) PoW
Flying Officer Charles Ridley Fairbairn DFC (419988) (Pilot)
Flying Officer Alan Berkeley Fitzhardinge (424293) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant N G Jones (1852150) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner) PoW
Flying Officer John Stanley Edward Locock (154080) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Sergeant Jack Pannett (1592609) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Warrant Officer Barry Sydney Smith (424471) (Air Bomber)

In a later report Sergeant Atkins stated: “the aircraft crashed 30 miles south east of Siegen. Met the Mid Upper Gunner at the reception centre. The other five crew members were killed.”


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, 166/13/392

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