Flight Sergeant Vernon Victor Russell LEEDER

Service No: 419272
Born: St Kilda VIC, 27 April 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 17 July 1942
Unit: No. 635 Squadron (RAF), RAF Station Downham Market
Died: Air Operations: (No. 635 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ND811), France, 4 August 1944, Aged 28 Years
Buried: Marissel French National Cemetery, Oise, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Victor Sandford Leeder and Ruby Ida Leeder, of Windsor, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Prahran VIC
Remembered: Panel 125, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Squadron Leader Bazalgette (RAF) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts during the loss of Lancaster ND811.

At 1115 hours on 4 August 1944 Lancaster ND811 took off from Downham Market detailed to mark a flying bomb storage depot at at Trossy, France. Nothing was hard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base. The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire which knocked out both starboard engines and mortally wounded Flight Lieutenant Hibbert. Having been partially abandoned, Squadron Leader Bazalgette tried to crash land the aircraft. This feat he accomplished, but as the aircraft touched down near Senantes (Eure-et-Loir), 2kms east north east of Nogent-le-Roi, it exploded. The three crew members remaining in the aircraft were killed and the four who had baled out evaded capture.

The crew members of ND811 were:

Squadron Leader Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC (118131) (RAFVR) (Pilot)
Flying Officer D Cameron DFM (146616) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner) Evaded capture
Flight Lieutenant G Goddard (158895) (RAFVR) (Navigator) Evaded capture
Flying Officer C R Godfrey DFC (146099) (RAFVR) (Wireless Air Gunner) Evaded capture
Flight Lieutenant Ivan Alderwyn Hibbert DFC (149827) (RAFVR) (Air Bomber)
Flight Sergeant Vernon Victor Russell Leeder (419272) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Sergeant G R Turner (1400098) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer) Evaded capture

In a letter dated 24 October 1944 from Mrs Bazalgette to Mr and Mrs Leeder, she told of the survivors’ story as follows: “The target was a flying bomb depot and rocket firing base. The plane was hit over the target by intense ack-ack fire and was set on fire. After bombs away they had difficulty in closing the bomb doors and the plane and lost height rapidly. Some of the crew succeeded in closing the doors and others believed they had got the fires extinguished. All believed they could get back to England. Apparently by closing the bomb doors it caused the fire not to go out, but to spreads inside the wings. My son quickly realized this and he gave the order to bale out. Unfortunately Hibbert was badly wounded and unable to bale out and Leeder had been overcome by the fumes. My son got the Flight Engineer to tie the crash landing belt on him in a desperate hope of crash landing the plane and save the lives of the two who could not bale out. The aircraft crashed and the bombs exploded.”


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 Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/24/511

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