Flight Sergeant Archie Oswald GILLETT

Service No: 417831
Born: Port Pirie SA, 31 July 1920
Enlisted in the RAAF: 18 July 1942
Unit: No. 463 Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations (No. 463 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ME614), France, 4 July 1944, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Marissel French National Cemetery, Oise, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Walter Joseph and Rosenia May Gillett, of Kensington, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Norwood SA
Remembered: Panel 109, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide

Both No. 463 and No. 467 were sent out in force on 4th-5th July when 227 Lancasters attacked St Leu d’Esserent. Here, as Intelligence reports correctly indicated, limestone caverns and quarries were being used as stores for the FZG76s. The attack plan had as its object the collapse of the roofs of the caverns, estimated to be of an average thickness of 25 feet; a subsidiary aim was disruption of road and rail communications between the entrance to the caves and the near-by River Oise. In favourable weather, with only moderate anti-aircraft fire but persistent night-fighter opposition, the Australians all reported good bombing with a tendency for the weight of the attack to creep to the north-east of the target during the later stages. No fewer than seven crews of No. 463 submitted target photographs showing the allotted aiming point and all were enthusiastic about the high standard of marking and the way in which Squadron Leader Locke (1) of No. 97, the emergency master bomber, had controlled the operation. Nevertheless although two aircraft of No. 463 were specially briefed to attack gun defences with fragmentation bombs, which led to the silencing of one heavy battery and diminution in fire from another, 13 Lancasters were lost and many more were damaged by night fighters. Wing Commander Brill (2), the commanding officer of No. 467, was attacked by three fighters immediately after he had dropped his bombs from 14,000 feet, but he skilfully evaded these attacks and damage to his Lancaster was confined to bullet holes in the fuselage. Flying Officer Frank Francis Molinas (425454) of No. 619 was less fortunate as his aircraft was attacked and severely damaged while he was on a careful bombing run. Molinas was wounded and many of his flying-control instruments shattered, but he manoeuvred his aircraft so well that his gunners caught the attacking aircraft in a withering fire on its second approach and it was seen to turn over on its back and dive steeply out of control. He then continued with his bombing run and flew safely back to base. Almost immediately after the main attack 17 Lancasters of No. 617 Squadron reached the target, each carrying a 12,000-lb Tallboy bomb, to attack the mouths of the tunnels connecting the caves. Eleven of these, including two piloted by Flying Officers Kell (3) and Lee (4), dropped their bombs accurately on special target indicators provided for this phase of the operation. Intelligence reports indicated that this attack on St Leu succeeded in blocking all approaches to the caves and that a large quantity of earth above the caves had fallen into them.

(1) Squadron Leader Harry Baker Locke DSO DFC (401980) was discharged from the RAAF on 1 July 1947.
(2) Group Captain William Lloyd Brill DSO DFC & Bar (402933) was discharged from the RAAF on 12 October 1964.
(3) Flying Officer Arthur Edward Kell DFC & Bar (412969) was discharged from the RAAF on 21 March 1945.
(4) Flying Officer William Richard Lee DFC (405693) was discharged from the RAAF on 18 September 1945.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Page 181

Lancaster ME614 took off from RAF Waddington at 2306 hours on the night of 4/5th July 1944 to bomb flying bomb installations at St Leu Desserent. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Fifteen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and carried a total of 83 tons of bombs. Two of these aircraft including ME 614 failed to return. Post war it was established that the aircraft was shot down by a night fighter and crashed some 2 kms south west of Lyon-La-Foret.

The crew members of ME614 were:

Flying Officer Arthur Albert Connor (10981) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Patrick John Dunford (418258) (Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Ernest Gatenby Fletcher (414792) (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant Archie Oswald Gillett (417831) (Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Launcelot Harrison (420009) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Sergeant Thomas Hendry (2215589) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flying Officer Malcolm John McLeod (12189) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Noel Edwin Webb (420726) (Pilot)

No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster ME536 (Flying Officer Alfred Kyrwood Carter (421887) (Pilot)) on 5 July 1944.


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, 166/15/279

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