Flight Sergeant William Robertson McLACHLAN

Service No: 414947
Born: Paisley, Scotland, 19 November 1920
Enlisted in the RAAF: 6 December 1941 (at Brisbane QLD)
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft JA860), Germany, 27 January 1944, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, Poland
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William and Marion Nimmo McLachlan, of West End, Queensland, Australia
Roll of Honour: Townsville QLD
Remembered: Panel 108, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Date: 27-28 January 1944
Target: Berlin
Total Force: Dispatched – 530, Attacking – 481
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 18, Attacking – 18; No. 463 Dispatched – 16, Attacking – 16; No. 467 Dispatched – 15, Attacking – 14
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 1,761
Total Aircraft Lost: 33
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 460 – 3, No. 463 – 1; No. 467 – 2

For the next major raid on 27th-28th January further measures were taken to defeat early contact by enemy fighters. A long route over the North Sea was chosen in conjunction with a diversionary attack on Heligoland and support action by Mosquitos which dropped false route markers and fighter were waiting over Berlin and were not entirely shaken off by a sharp turn incorporated in the withdrawal route. This defensive manoeuvre was indeed criticised by Australians as greatly increasing the risk of collision, several aircraft being forced to dive away from other Lancasters approaching Berlin somewhat off-track. Fighter activity also caused some bunching of the Lancasters over Berlin and Squadron Leader Brill of No. 463 had his aircraft severely damaged by incendiaries falling from another aircraft. He instructed his crew to abandon the Lancaster, but then regained control and cancelled the order. Losses were again high, especially for the RAAF squadrons, which lost six of forty-eight Lancasters sent out, but with the glow of large fires reflected on the clouds the airmen were confident that the attack had been successful. This was later borne out by gloomy and hysterical German radio fulminations against this “terror raid on the residential districts of Berlin”.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 643, 644-5

Lancaster JA860 took off from RAF Binbrook at 1735 hours on 27 January 1944 to bomb Berlin. The bomb load was 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg) bomb, 56 x 30 lb (14 kg) and 1070 x 4 lb (2 kg) incendiaries. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. Post war it was discovered that four crew members had been killed and three had become Prisoners of War.

The crew members of JA860 were:

Flight Sergeant Warwick Atherton Jonas (424189) (Mid Upper Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 21 November 1946
Sergeant James Michael Jones (1384281) (RAFVR) (Bomb Aimer)
Flight Sergeant William Robertson McLachlan (414947) (Pilot)
Sergeant William Valentine Murray (1607910) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Reginald James Rofe (413143) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 14 December 1945
Sergeant Ronald Charles Yates (1577128) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Sergeant Reginald Duncan White (1890676) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner) PoW

In a later statement by Flight Sergeant Rofe he reported “The aircraft was attacked by two fighters at about 21,000 feet. The attack made the back turret and the intercom unserviceable. The abandon order was given but was not heard by the navigator, bomb aimer and flight engineer apparently as they were still in the aircraft when the two gunners and I baled out. The flight engineer was wounded in the leg, but did not know if he was able to bale out. I baled out at about 8/10,000 feet. The members left in the aircraft were McLachlan, Yates, Jones and Murray. At the time the aircraft was in a dive and out of control. I was captured the next day.”

No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster JB637 (Warrant Officer Richard John Power (409590) (Pilot)) on 27 January 1944.

No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster JB296 (Squadron Leader Lorraine Joseph Simpson DFC (401542) (Pilot)) on 27 January 1944.

No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster ME563 (Flying Officer Alan James Durham Leslie (409721) (Pilot)) on 27 January 1944

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster ME575 (Pilot Officer Stephen Charles Grugeon (413855) (Pilot)) on 27 January 1944.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster ED539 (Pilot Officer Cecil O’Brien (420250) (Pilot)) on 28 January 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, 166/26/353


Firkins, P. C. (Peter Charles) (441386) Strike and Return, Westward Ho Publishing City Beach WA, 1985

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