Flight Lieutenant Leslie Gordon KNIGHT DSO MID

Service No: 401449
Born: Camberwell VIC, 7 March 1921
Enlisted in the RAAF: 3 February 1941
Unit: No. 617 Squadron, RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Awarded the Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
Awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), 28 May 1943 (Citation Title: No. 617 Squadron (RAF))
Died: Air Operations: (No. 617 Squadron Lancaster aircraft JB144), Netherlands, 16 September 1943, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Den Ham General Cemetery, Overijssel, Netherlands
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William Henry Harold and Nellie Marsom Knight, of Camberwell, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Camberwell VIC
Remembered: Panel 125, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Mention in Despatches Citation: “In recognition of distinguished service.”

DSO Citation: “Joint Citation for the Dam Busters raid on the Moehne, Eder and Scorpe Dams in
Germany on the night of 16th May 1943, with the award of the DSO to Acting Flight Lieutenant D J Shannon (1), and Pilot Officer L G Knight, a bar to the DFC of Acting Flight Lieutenant J F Leggo (3), the DFC to Flight Lieutenant R C Hay (3) to Pilot Officer C L Howard (4) and Pilot Officer F M Spafford DFM (5) and the DFM to Flight Sergeant T D Simpson (6). On the night of 16th May 1943, a force of Lancaster bombers was detailed to attack the Moehne, Eder and Scorpe dams in Germany. The operation was one of great difficulty and hazard, demanding a great degree of skill and courage and close cooperation between the crews of the aircraft engaged. Nevertheless a telling blow was struck at the enemy by the successful breaching of the Moehne and Eder dams. This outstanding success reflects the greatest credit on the efforts of the following personnel who participated in the operation in various capacities as members of aircraft crews. (London Gazette 28/5/1943 P2361)

(1) Squadron David John Shannon DSO DFC & Bar (407729) was discharged from the RAAF on 15 December 1945.
(2) Flight Lieutenant Jack Frederick Leggo DFC & Bar (402367) was discharged from the RAAF on 10 December 1945.
(3) Flight Lieutenant Robert Claude Hay DFC & Bar (407074) (Air Bomber) was killed on air operations on 13 February 1944.
(4) Flight Lieutenant Cecil Lancelot Howard DFC (406248) was discharged from the RAAF on 19 March 1945.
(5) Flying Officer Frederick Michael Spafford DFC DFM (407380) was killed on air operations on 16 September 1943.
(6) Flying Officer Thomas Drayton Simpson DFC DFM (408076) was discharged from the RAAF on 28 March 1945.

On the night of 15/16th September 1943, Lancaster JB144 took off from RAF Coningsby at 2358 hours, detailed to bomb the Dortmund-Ems Kanal near Ladbergen, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. The aircraft flew into trees in the target area and later seven of the crew baled out in the vicinity of Amelo, Netherlands. Flight Lieutenant Knight then attempted a forced landing at 0346 hours near Den Ham, but crashed into a bank, whereupon the aircraft exploded.

The crew members of JB144 were:

Flying Officer Raymond Ernest Grayson (15514) (RAF) (Flight Engineer) PoW
Pilot Officer H S Hormay DFC (119271) (RAF) (Navigator) Evaded capture
Flying Officer E C Johnson DFC (119126) (RAF) (Air Bomber) Evaded capture
Flying Officer Robert George Thomas Kellow DFM (411453) (Wireless Air Gunner) Evaded capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 23 April 1946
Flight Lieutenant Leslie Gordon Knight DSO MID (401449) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Henry Earl O’Brien (R/152242) (RCAF) (Air Gunner) PoW
Flight Sergeant F E Sutherland (R/113262) (RCAF) (Air Gunner) Evaded capture
Sergeant L C Woollard (332301) (RAF) (Air Gunner) Evaded capture

Apart from Sergeant Woollard, this was the crew who made the final breach in the Mohne
Dam. In a later report by Flying Officer Kellow, who evaded capture, he said: “We were number six in the order to bomb the target, and whilst waiting our turn were flying on the outskirts of the target at a height of 50 to 100 feet. We had completed two circuits when I felt a violent bump, which appeared to me to come from almost underneath the aircraft. The pilot started at once to climb and when he reached a height of about 500 feet he sought permission from the leader of the formation to jettison his bombs. Our aircraft for this operation was fitted with radio for inter-com purposes. The Leader of the formation gave permission to Flight Lieutenant Knight to jettison, which he did immediately. Flight Lieutenant Knight then stated over the radio that he had jettisoned his bombs and would endeavour to make base.

The Pilot continued to climb, but as the two port engines showed signs of catching fire they were feathered. After reaching a height of about 1,500 feet the starboard inner showed signs of catching fire, and was also feathered. The starboard rudder also appeared to be damaged. The aircraft then started to lose height gradually, and at about 1,200 feet, the Captain gave the order to”abandon aircraft.” Before I left the aircraft, the Bomb Aimer and the Rear Gunner left by the front escape hatch and were followed by the Flight Engineer and Navigator. I signalled to the Pilot to ask him if he was alright, and he gave me a sign indicating that he was alright. Before leaving the aircraft I did hear messages received from two of the aircraft wishing us good luck that was immediately after Flight Lieutenant Knight stated he was going to endeavour to return to base. For the purpose of the operation radio was used by the Leader of the formation to call in the aircraft in their order to bomb. While we were waiting for our turn to bomb the target we were flying through patchy fog. The weather up to within twenty minutes flying from the target was clear with bright moonlight, but ground fog developed within the vicinity of the target. The fog did not appear to extend above 200 feet.”


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, 166/23/21

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