LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant Jack HEATH

Service No: 408309
Born: Launceston TAS, 11 May 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 9 October 1941
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations (No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft W4960), Netherlands, 12 June 1943, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Gelderland, Netherlands
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Timothy John and Caroline Heath, of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Launceston TAS
Remembered: Panel 107, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Date: 11-12 June 1943
Target: Dusseldorf
Total Force: Dispatched – 783, Attacking – 693
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 27, Attacking – 22; No. 466 Dispatched – 16, Attacking -16; No. 467 Dispatched – 18, Attacking – 17
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 1,968
Total Aircraft Lost: 38
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 460 – 1; No. 466 – 2; No. 467 – 2

In perfect visibility the Pathfinders accurately placed their target-indicator bombs in the centre of the city. The main force of bombers, again including Nos. 460, 466 and 467, arrived promptly in a solid stream which soon had the effect of swamping the gun and searchlight ground defences which on this occasion were in full operation. A few of the Australians attacking early were caught and held in the beams of several searchlights and some had to jettison their bombs to take emergency evasive action, but the majority of bombs fell squarely in the heart of Dusseldorf and soon large fires began to get out of control. Over a third of the business and residential property in the centre of Dusseldorf proper was destroyed or damaged and sixty-four factories sustained varying degrees of damage. But this notable victory was not lightly gained, for once again German night fighters were very active both over Dusseldorf and along the line of flight and withdrawal. Five RAAF bombers failed to return and several others were very badly damaged. During this raid Flight Sergeant Williams (1), the Australian rear gunner of a Halifax of No. 35 Squadron (RAF) who had already been decorated twice for bravery in action, showed remarkable courage and ability when his aircraft was attacked by two night fighters. The initial attack destroyed the rear-turret mechanism and Williams sustained several bullet wounds in the legs and body. His cool mind now mastered his pain so that when the second fighter attacked he gave his pilot the correct directions for evasion and himself opened fire, hitting the enemy which exploded in the air. The first fighter then resumed the attack, but Williams, although temporarily partially paralysed, succeeded in destroying it. He remained at his post throughout the return journey and the turret then had to be cut away to release him. His shooting ability, sense of anticipation and above all his determination, undoubtedly contributed largely to the return of a valuable crew and aircraft.

(1) Squadron Leader Norman Francis Williams CGM DFM (411624) was discharged from the RAAF on 4 May 1948.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 489-90

Lancaster W4960 took off from RAF Binbrook at 2147 hours on 11 June 1943 to attack
Dusseldorf, Germany. The Bomb load was 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg) bomb, 48 x 30 lb (14 kg), 780 x 4 lb (2 kg) incendiaries. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. It was established post war that the aircraft was shot down by a night fighter and crashed at 0205 hours on 12 June 1943 at Sluipwijk (Zuide) Holland, and all the crew members were killed.

The crew members of W4960 were:

Flying Officer Bruce William Bennett (420637) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Robert Stanley Christie (416324) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Jack Heath (408309) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Peter John Hogan (413866) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Harold Horwood (414352) (Bomb Aimer)
Sergeant Reginald Sydney Kerwin (777739) (RAF) (Flight Engineer)
Sergeant Reginald Lawrence Lewis (1380317) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator)

No. 466 Squadron lost Wellington HE150 (Flight Sergeant Robert William Maroney (413315) (Second Pilot)) on 12 June 1943

No. 466 Squadron lost Wellington HE154 (Flight Sergeant Fletcher William Randall Green (408829) (Pilot)) on 12 June 1943.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster ED304 (Flight Sergeant Basil Frederick Wilmot (401083) (Pilot)) on 12 June 1943.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster W4983 (Squadron Leader Benjamin Southam Ambrose (40040) (Second Pilot)) on 12 June 1943.

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, 166/17/175

Bibliography:

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