Flight Sergeant Robert Magnay HOWELL

Service No: 430207
Born: Bright VIC, 26 August 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 1 January 1943
Unit: No. 463 Squadron, RAF Station Waddington, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 463 Squadron Lancaster aircraft PB792), France, 4 December 1944, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Choloy War Cemetery, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Clifton William Alexander Howell and Olive Howell, of McKinnon, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Bright VIC
Remembered: Panel 109, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Date: 4-5 December 1944
Target: Heilbronn
Total Force: Dispatched – 292, Attacking – 284
RAAF Force: No. 463 Dispatched – 21, Attacking – 21; No. 467 Dispatched – 20, Attacking – 20
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 1,267
Total Aircraft Lost: 12
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 463 – 1; No. 467 – 1

Two forces were dispatched on 4th-5th December against Karlsruhe and Heilbronn and both achieved moderate success, but, whereas No. 460 had a quiet night over Karlsruhe, Nos. 463 and 467 had trouble both with icing and with enemy fighters which swarmed to the bomber stream after some loads of incendiaries had been dropped by accident or in emergency on the outward journey. Twelve bombers were shot down including one from each RAAF squadron while Flying Officer Huxtable (1), Flight Lieutenant Kynoch (2), Flying Officer Shanahan (3) and Flight Lieutenant Redwood (4) all had to fight off enemy attacks.

(1) Flying Officer Denzil Christopher Huxtable DFC (421733) Discharged from the RAAF: 3 December 1945
(2) Flight Lieutenant William Morris Kynoch DFC (419657) Discharged from the RAAF: 11 April 1946
(3) Flight Lieutenant Peter Kenneth Shanahan (425902) Discharged from the RAAF: 11 January 1946
(4) Flight Lieutenant Henry George Redwood DFC (428804) Discharged from the RAAF: 29 November 1945

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Page 307-8

Lancaster PB792 took off from RAF Waddington at 1627 hours on the night of 4/5th December 1944 to bomb Heilbronn, Germany. The bomb load was 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg), 6 x 1000 lb (450 kg) and 6 x 500 lb (225 kg). It was later established that the aircraft when homebound flew into the side of a hill near Le Hohwald (Bas Rhin) about 20kms north west of Selestat. Six of the crew members were killed and Flight Sergeant Cheesman survived the crash.

The crew members of PB 792 were:

Flight Sergeant John Lane Brosnan (428396) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Lyle Henry John Cheesman (431610) (Air Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 10 October 1945
Flight Sergeant George Caleb Groves (428642) (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant Robert Magnay Howell (430207) (Wireless Operator Air)
Sergeant John Smith (1556800) (RAF) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Robert Park Templeton (431591) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Flying Officer Jocelyn King Waring (434058) (Pilot)

The following compiled from information provided by Flight Sergeant Cheesman is recorded in the Squadron Operations Record Book “Sortie completed Hear B/A direct Captain on to markers. Attack successful. Having bombed we set course for “D” 48.25N 08.15E, descending in steps as briefed, and when we arrived at 48.30N 007.45E the Navigator told Captain we were below “safety height”, and the Captain replied that he wanted to get out of the cloud. “I, Sgt Cheesman, declare that this was the last speech heard over the intercom” Also I have no idea of the height of Aircraft, and that immediately after this remark the Aircraft hit the hillside. The Aircraft crashed near 48.27N 007 22E. I was thrown out of my turret and landed up under the mid upper turret. I eventually regained consciousness, and after calling out the names of the other members for 15 minutes, decided to sit in the Aircraft until daylight out of the inclement weather. Daylight arrived with a heavy fall of snow and I found my missing boot which with great difficulty I put on with my right arm and left hand being broken, and jumped out of the Aircraft. The Aircraft had broken in half behind the wings. The hillside was covered with trees 20/30ft high. The Mid Upper was dead in his turret and the others were 15/20 yards from the Aircraft all dead. I set course south west with aid of compass, walking all day on 5th, spent that night in an uninhabited tower, walked again on the 6th and that afternoon contacted a vacant house. Sat on the verandah for two hours and eventually a man came and he directed me Hohwald with 6 FFI men who took me to St Blaise. The next day an ambulance took me to American hospital at Mulheim. The Americans arranged for the burial of the six crew members at Hochfeden. Arrived in UK 20 January 1945.”

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster PB740 (Flying Officer John Bithel Plumridge (428353) (Pilot)) on 4 December 1944.

No. 467 Squadron Lancaster LM100 lost Rear Gunner (Sergeant Ronald Arthur William Steele (1867974) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner)) on 4 December 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, 166/18/557

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