Flight Sergeant William Joseph LEA

Service No: 418963
Born: Richmond VIC, 5 March 1923
Enlisted in the RAAF: 20 June 1942
Unit: No. 1654 Conversion Unit (RAF), RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 1654 Conversion Unit Stirling aircraft LJ524), Nottinghamshire, 11 May 1944, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Oxford (Botley) Cemetery, Oxfordshire
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Thomas Leonard and Evelyn Lea, of Ivanhoe, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Heidelberg VIC
Remembered: Panel 125, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

On the 11th May 1944, Stirling LJ524 took off from RAF Wigsley detailed to carry out a non-operational night exercise. The aircraft crashed at 0253 hours near Harby, about 20 kms south east of Nottingham, and five of the crew died and three were injured. The engine failed while the aircraft was approaching to land, and the causes of the accident were threefold, (1) the Pilot PO Dunn had applied the wrong trim, (2) he decided to go around again at ground level on three engines at night because he was not quite lined up with the runway, and (3) the aircraft stalled when at 300 feet. It was concluded that it was bad flying and airmanship on Dunn’s part.

The crew members of LJ524 were:

Flight Sergeant George Edward Dowling (429881) (Air Gunner) Injured, Later killed on Air Operations: 5 July 1944
Pilot Officer Robert Wyndham Dunn (422460) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Ronald Walter Ely (26355) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Harold Eric Hughes (26382) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant William Joseph Lea (418963) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)
Sergeant E J Wild (53389) (RAF) ((Flight Engineer) Injured
Sergeant Ernest Arthur Wilmshurst (941200) (RAF) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Roy Whimpey BEM (434299) (Air Gunner) Injured, Later Killed on Air Operations: 5 July 1944

Flight Sergeant Whimpey, despite being badly shocked, was one of the first to enter the burning fuselage and begin the task of pulling bodies from the wreckage. For his courage he was awarded the British Empire Medal, but by the time this honour was gazetted, he had perished in action when with No. 463 Squadron, along with Flight Sergeant Dowling.


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, 166/24/451

Book Now Book Now