Flight Lieutenant Francis John HOWELLS DFC

Service No: 419044
Born: Hawthorn VIC, 9 May 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 26 June 1942
Unit: No. 463 Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), 24 April 1945 (Citation Title: For service during an attack on the Merseberg Leuna in January 1945)
Died: Air Operations: (No. 463 Squadron Lancaster aircraft NG469), Germany, 3 March 1945, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Frank and Ada May Howells, of Caulfield, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Caulfield VIC
Remembered: Panel 109, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

The final act at Ladbergen was delayed for only one week, as on 3rd-4th March a slightly larger force of 222 aircraft from No. 5 Group set out with 1,000 tons of bombs. Weather was again poorer than expected at the target and the preliminary markers fell over a wide area. Good raid discipline in the face of apparently strengthened defences led to concentrated bombing of the most favourable cluster of target indicators, assessed as being close to the true aiming point. Each RAAF squadron sent 15 Lancasters, and, although crews were satisfied with their attacks, they suffered relatively heavily for the scrupulous way in which they pressed them home, the units between them losing four of the seven aircraft missing from the whole operation. Among the three crews lost by No. 467 were Wing Commander Langlois (416685), acting commanding officer, and Flying Officer Taylor (25299), the new gunnery leader. The bombers faced a further hazard on return to base, for this was the night when the Luftwaffe, in a desperate attempt to offset the declining effectiveness of its night-fighter defences over Germany, dispatched some 140 night fighters (mainly Ju-88’s) on long-range intruder tasks over Bomber Command bases. The Australians arrived at Waddington to find enemy fighters attacking the airfield. A bomb dump was set on fire but all the Lancasters landed safely.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Page 413

Lancaster NG469 took off from RAF Waddington at 1832 hours on the night of 3 March 1945 to bomb the Dortmund-Ems Canal. Bomb load 14 x 1000 lb (pound) (450 kg). 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 one of these NG469 failed to return. A 1949 report by a Missing Research and Enquiry team stated “Investigations and interrogations of local inhabitants established that the aircraft crashed at Mesum at 2200 hours on 3 March 1945. Mesum is approximately 24 miles north west of Munster. The aircraft was on fire and crashed near the Schruender farm burning the whole farm down.

The crew members of NG469 were:

Flight Sergeant Philip Tyers Barlow (1802589) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Sergeant Douglas Bates (1594894) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Sergeant Charles Edward Billard (1595492) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Osric Brownrigg Elliott (432217) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Sergeant Eugene Kenneth Foreman (436456) (Bomb Aimer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 27 June 1946
Flight Lieutenant Francis John Howells DFC (419044) (Pilot)
Sergeant J M H Millar (1570619) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner) PoW

In a report Sergeant Millar stated “Flight Sergeant Foreman baled out before me. When I left the Captain, Nav and WOP were still in the aircraft. The aircraft crashed near the Rhine airfield Dortmund.”

No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster NG502 (Flight Sergeant Robert Eric Davey (437403) (Crew Member)) that was shot down by German intruders over England on 4 March 1945

No. 466 Squadron lost Halifax NR179 (Pilot Officer Alan Percy William Shelton (428602) (Pilot)) that was shot down by German intruders over England on 4 March 1945

No. 466 Squadron lost Halifax NR250 (Flying Officer Albert Edward Schrank (434508) (Pilot)) that was shot down by German intruders over England on 4 March 1945.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster PB806 (Wing Commander Eric Le Page Langlois DFC (416685) (Pilot) (Commanding Officer No. 467 Squadron)) on 3/4 March 1945.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster ME453 (Flying Officer Rowland Telford Ward (428814) (Pilot)) on 3/4 March 1945.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster LM677 (Flying Officer Robert Bruce Eggins (424717) (Pilot)) on 3/4 March 1945.


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 A9301, 419044

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