Flying Officer James Robert PRESTON

Service No: 421756
Born: Stanthorpe QLD, 22 February 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 28 March 1942 (at Sydney NSW)
Unit: No. 51 Squadron (RAF), RAF Station Snaith
Died: Air Operations: (No. 51 Squadron Halifax aircraft MZ319), Germany, 11 September 1944, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Arthur and Irene Frances Annette Preston, of Newstead, Queensland, Australia
Roll of Honour: Sydney NSW
Remembered: Panel 129, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 1616 hours on 11 September 1944 Halifax MZ319 took off from Snaith detailed to bomb Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after-take off and it failed to return to base. The aircraft crashed at 1850 hours on to the Zimmerai-Platz at Bochum, Germany. Four of the crew members were killed and three taken prisoner.

The crew members of MZ319 were:

Sergeant Raymond Hughes (1591723) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Sergeant Leonard Hunter (1531347) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Flying Officer John Frederick Pollitt (153909) (RAFVR) (Navigator) PoW
Flying Officer James Robert Preston (421756) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Henry Vincent Shirley (419905) (Air Bomber) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 10 January 1946
Flying Officer Ronald Noble Stockwell (422653) (Wireless Air Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 28 November 1945
Sergeant Herbert Wright (1595252) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)

Flight Sergeant Shirley later stated “We were bombarded by flak. The port outer was on fire, the port inner CSU was unserviceable and the tail control gear was shot away. The order for crew to put on chutes was acknowledged. I was wounded in the head. The Navigator baled out before me. Five were still in the aircraft when I went at 18,500 feet. The aircraft was out of control and crashed around Bochum. The other two POWs were with him in a cell at Bochum.”


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, 163/152/237