LEST WE FORGET
Warrant Officer Athol Neil Douglas McPHEE
Service No: 412261
Born: South Melbourne VIC, 4 May 1915
Enlisted in the RAAF: 22 June 1941 (at Sydney NSW)
Unit: No. 466 Squadron, RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 466 Squadron Halifax LV781), North West Europe, 20 February 1944, Aged 28 Years
CWGC Additional Information: Son of John and Sarah Ann McPhee, of East Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Melbourne VIC
Remembered: Panel 259, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 110, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Date: 19-20 February 1944
Total Force: Dispatched – 823, Attacking – 730
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 24, Attacking – 23; No. 463 Dispatched – 18, Attacking – 17; No. 466 Dispatched – 14, Attacking – 11; No. 467 Dispatched – 17, Attacking – 17
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 2,291
Total Aircraft Lost: 78
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 460 – 2; No. 463 – 1; No. 466 – 2
The third and largest raid on 19th-20th February, which opened the week of all out effort against Luftwaffe resources, was an anticlimax. The German fighters ignored a large-scale demonstration by mine-laying aircraft near Kiel and while investigating intruder activity over Dutch airfields, by an unlucky chance met the main bomber stream at the beginning of its journey. One Halifax of No. 466 was harassed persistently by three Ju-88’s for a long part of the route and other Australians were forced to evade fighters. Adding to this dispersion of the bomber stream, incorrect wind forecasts upset the entire navigation plan. Most bombers arrived early at the scheduled turning points and milled round with greatly-increased risks from collisions as well as offering ideal targets for fighters. Twenty bombers were seen to go down in flames and another four as a result of collisions before the target was reached. The main stream was again early over Leipzig and crews of No. 460 who were in the first wave found Lancasters orbiting and bombing on all headings, even before the appointed time. When the Pathfinders laid their markers the attack settled down and most of the Australians were confident that a satisfactory concentration was achieved. On the following day, 184 American Fortresses made a precision attack on Leipzig and the result of these two attacks was extensive damage in five of the ten largest war factories, including the Erla aircraft works, the A.T.A.G. assembly plant and an aircraft-engine works.
Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Page 654
Halifax LV781 took off from RAF Leconfield at 0017 hours on the night of 19/20th February 1944 to bomb Leipzig, Germany. Fourteen aircraft took part in the raid and all returned except LV 781. Following post war enquiries it was believed that the aircraft was shot down by a night fighter and crashed in the North Sea off Harlingen, Holland.
The crew members of LV781 were:
Sergeant Ronald Frederick Banks (1755008) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Sergeant Gerald Edwin Brown (1851490) (RAFVR) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Sergeant Edward Harper (631720) (RAF) (Rear Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Leslie Alexander Laver (425449) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Warrant Officer Athol Neil Douglas McPhee (412261) (Navigator)
Warrant Officer James Francisco Moran (415168) (Pilot)
Flying Officer Merton George Pepper (423178) (Bomb Aimer)
No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster JB610 (Pilot Officer Kenneth James Godwin (412945) (Pilot)) on 19/20 February 1944.
No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster ND569 (Flight Sergeant Stanley Vincent Mackrell (410248) (Pilot)) on 19/20 February 1944.
No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster DV338 (Flying Officer Ernest Athol Fayle (412396) (Pilot)) on 19/20 February 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, 166/26/380