HARPER Wilfred 415379

LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant Wilfred HARPER

Service No: 415379
Born: East Guildford WA, 21 April 1921
Enlisted in the RAAF: 9 October 1941
Unit: No. 466 Squadron, RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 466 Squadron Wellington aircraft HX580), North Sea, 26 July 1943, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Harcourt Robert and Daisy Florence Harper, of Guildford, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Guildford WA
Remembered: Panel 192, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 110, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

Date: 25-26 July 1943
Target: Essen
Total Force: Dispatched – 705, Attacking – 599
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 25, Attacking – 23; No. 466 – 10, 7; No.467 – 14, 13
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 1,948
Total Aircraft Lost: 24
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 466 – 1

After an interval of two months (from May 27-28 1943) Bomber Command staged the heaviest raid on Essen to that date. Gun, searchlight, and night-fighter defences strongly opposed the first wave of bombers, but the Pathfinders appeared punctually and their markers were refreshed throughout the attack which lasted for fifty minutes. The dreadful hail of forty tons of bombs every minute soon disorganised ground defences and the main bomber stream was not unduly troubled. Paradoxically this high degree of concentration which gave general protection, exposed occasional aircraft to special hazards. Flying Officer Christensen’s (1) Lancaster was hit by incendiaries falling from another aircraft and lost much of its elevator surface before the fire could be put out by diving. While still blazing the Lancaster was singled out by searchlights and guns and damaged further. While straggling behind the returning bomber stream it was again attacked, this time by a night fighter, but eventually it reached Hawkinge where a successful crash landing was made using only faulty controls. One other Lancaster (of No. 467) was hit by gun fire, but other crews, already heartened by the tremendous success achieved the previous night at Hamburg, made the greatest possible use of clear weather and disorganised opposition. The Australians checked the position of Pathfinder markers which were still visible even when a fantastic pall of smoke billowed up to 22,000 feet. Fires were still burning twelve hours after this attack and severe damage was noticeable in a broad swathe extending from Ruttenscheid in the south-east to Vogelheim in the north with the centre of damage at Krupps. Here no fewer than 110 of the 190 main workshops and buildings had suffered in varying degree and the effect of this raid was as severe as the cumulative damage caused by all previous attacks. At long last Essen was removed from the list of primary objectives and Bomber Command did not return for a long time.

(1) Flying Officer Lionel James Christensen DFM (415100) was discharged from the RAAF on 11 June 1945.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 482-3

Wellington HX580 took off from RAF Leconfield at 2246 hours on the night of 25/26th July 1943 to bomb Essen Germany. Bomb load 2 x 500 lb (pound) (225 kg), 3 SBC 90 x 4, 4 SBC 8 x 30. Ten aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and one of these HX 580 failed to return. It was later established that the aircraft crashed into the sea.

The crew members of HX580 were:

Flight Sergeant Charles Robert Cowan (410459) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Wilfred Harper (415379) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Jack Harrison-Owen (400392) (Rear Gunner)
Flight Sergeant David Poole Speechley (410177) (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant Raoul Ellery Thorpe (416794) (Pilot)

References:

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, 166/17/239