Pilot Officer Searn Wrist NIELSON

Service No: 2678
Born: Day Dawn WA, 13 July 1914
Enlisted in the RAAF: 2 February 1937 (at RAAF Station Laverton VIC)
Unit: No. 550 Squadron (RAF), RAF Station North Killingholme
Died: Air Operations: (No. 550 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ME503), Germany, 7 March 1945, Aged 30 Years
Buried: Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Searn and Alma Henrietta Nielson; husband of Dorothy May Nielson, of Sevenoaks, Kent, England
Roll of Honour: Arncliffe NSW
Remembered: Panel 128, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Kokoda Track Rose Garden, Concord NSW

At 1708 hours on the night of 7 March 1945, Lancaster ME503 took off from North Killingholme detailed to bomb Dessau, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. A Missing Research & Enquiry team stated: “The aircraft was attacked by an enemy night fighter and crashed in a wood one mile east of Sollnits on the 7 March 1945. Sollnits is approximately five miles south of Dessau.” Five of the crew members were killed and two were taken prisoner.

The crew members of ME503 were:

Sergeant C A Delaveleye (1814844) (RAFVR) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Sergeant A Finnigan (1880943) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer) PoW
Sergeant Robert Kerr (627549) (RAF) (Air Bomber)
Pilot Officer Searn Wrist Nielson (2678) (Pilot)
Sergeant R F Stevens (848514) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner) PoW
Sergeant John Henry Stuart-Ritson (1865453) (RAFVR) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Bruce Milton Trowbridge (433793) (Navigator)

A POW report by Sergeant Finnigan stated: “The outward trip was normal and the target successfully bombed. On the camera run immediately after the bombing, the aircraft was attacked from below believed to be flying on a reciprocal course. The port inner was hit with cannon shell and burst into flames which reached the Rear turret and fuselage probably from burning petrol, and smoke filled the central fuselage. The Captain ordered “prepare to bale out” and instructed the Flight Engineer to feather the port inner. This was not possible owing to the failure of all pressure. The Captain said “bale out chaps, I can’t hold her” No drill acknowledgement was heard by either the Flight Engineer or the Rear Gunner. A violent explosion then occurred, and both the Rear Gunner, who had reached the draft proof doors on his way to the rear escape hatch, and the Flight Engineer who was in the Bomb Aimers compartment were blown out. of the aircraft and felt themselves falling. Both rip cords pulled satisfactorily. Prior to the bale out, the Flight Engineer saw the Bomb Aimer in the nose of the aircraft in front of him, and he believed that the bomb aimer was not wearing his chute. The aircraft was seen to crash and burn. Both landed about 10 kms south of Dessau. The Flight Engineer hid his mae west and chute in some bushes, walked about 60 yards and due probably to shock remained there till dawn. Hr then consulted his escape map and used his compass. He decided to get out of the wood, but he only proceeded for a short distance when he was accosted by a forester who took him into custody and led him to the Burgomaster of the village nearby. There he met the Rear Gunner.”

A PoW report by the Rear Gunner stated “I lost my flying boots when I descended and landed in the branches of a tree, injuring two ribs and muscles in the leg. At dawn I examined my escape maps and compass, and proceeded out of the wood and walked eastward. I was accosted by a Polish land worker, who by signs escorted me to some German foresters. The Pole was not going to give any assistance. The foresters took me into custody, and escorted me to the local village, where I met the Flight Engineer.”


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 166/29/222
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

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