RICHARDS John Edward 415357

LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant John Edward RICHARDS

Service No: 415357
Born: Perth WA, 16 February 1923
Enlisted in the RAAF: 14 September 1941
Unit: No. 466 Squadron, RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire
Died: Air Operations (No. 466 Squadron Halifax aircraft HX231), Germany, 19 March 1944, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Rheinberg War Cemetery, Kamp Lintfort, Nordrhein-Westfal, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of John Daniel and Eleanor Florence Richards, of Cottesloe, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Perth WA
Remembered: Panel 110, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

TDate: 18-19 March 1944
Target: Frankfurt
Total Force: Dispatched – 846, Attacking – 769
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 21, Attacking – 21; No. 463 – 18, 16; No. 466 – 12, 10; No. 467 – 22, 22
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 3,086
Total Aircraft Lost: 22
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 463 – 1; No. 466 – 3

When Bomber Command returned to Frankfurt-on-Main on 18th-19th March 1944, however, it carried a record bomb load. No. 5 Group alone dropped over 1,000 tons of bombs and No. 467 earned special praise in creating a record for a two-flight squadron in dispatching twenty-two aircraft carrying 118 tons of bombs. As cover for this vast air armada a diversion was made by 100 aircraft which laid mines near Heligoland, and these machines pre-occupied the enemy fighters from northern Germany until it was too late for them to catch up with the bomber stream. Local fighter defences were active over Frankfurt-on-Main but although four Lancasters of No. 467 were intercepted each escaped without damage. Despite thick haze the Pathfinder markers were easily seen and checked by H2S which gave a good picture of the target. Australians were particularly careful to avoid dummy target indicators, which were again in evidence, as well as decoy fires blazing in open country six miles north of the city. The only hindrance to good bombing was an undue concentration of aircraft over the target, so that, unable to manoeuvre, some RAAF crews had to bomb outer markers with the result that the attack strayed to the east of the city centre and the largest concentration of bombs ultimately occurred in the river-dock areas.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 651-2

Halifax HX231 took off from RAF Leconfield at 1908 hours on the night of 18/19th March 1944 to bomb Frankfurt, Germany. Twelve aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and three of these including HX231 failed to return.

The crew members of HX231 were:

Flight Sergeant Robert Stow Bray (417152) (Bomb Aimer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 22 September 1945
Flight Sergeant Jack Dansie (426059) (Rear Gunner)
Warrant Officer George Ross De Fraine (414774) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Noel John Lees (434463) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Edward Richards (415357) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Kenneth Meiklejohn Wilson (422654) (Navigator) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 13 November 1945
Sergeant D F Woolridge (1891256) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer) PoW

In a 1945 report the then Warrant Officer Bray reported “The aircraft was hit by gun fire from an unknown source. My Intercom was shot away so no orders were received by me except by visual signals from the WOP. Nav left by front escape hatch some minutes before me. I baled out next from 19,000 feet. Aircraft under control. No fire observed, but due to lack of oxygen was not a competent observer of such facts. WOP still in aircraft when I left. Lying in snow and picked up by German Home guard. Later made contact with Nav and Engineer. Germans said four of the crew had been killed. Thigh and stomach muscles torn and spent time in hospital then in prison camps. Liberated by British Army 25th Group on 15 April 1945.”

No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster EE191 (Pilot Officer James William Gardner (1043255) (413977) (Pilot)) on 18/19 March 1944.

No. 466 Squadron lost Halifax ZW369 (Flight Lieutenant Lancelot Douglas Curnow (286104) (Pilot)) on 18/19 March 1944.

No. 466 Squadron lost Halifax LV827 (Pilot Officer Malcolm Douglas Watson (420314) (Pilot)) on 18/19 March 1944.

References:

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, 166/35/236