LEST WE FORGET
Flight Sergeant Thomas Leo ROBERTS
Service No: 423922
Born: Annandale NSW, 3 February 1923
Enlisted in the RAAF: 18 July 1942
Unit: No. 467 Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations: The Battle for Normandy (No. 467 Squadron Lancaster aircraft LM101), Belgium, 21 July 1944, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Wevelgem Communal Cemetery, Wevelgem, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Thomas David and Maud Marion Roberts, of Kingsford, New South Wales, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Kingsford NSW
Remembered: Panel 111, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Two nights later on 20th-21st July both Nos. 1 and 5 Groups combined to attack the important railway centre of Courtrai with 321 bombers, the largest force used against this class of target during the campaign. In the first wave 18 of No. 463 and 14 of No. 467 joined in a very successful attack against marshalling yards. Raid accounts refer to excellent marking with sound control and a good concentration of bombs. There was some criticism of the spoof fighter flares designed to confuse the Luftwaffe. In the opinion of some crews these were too close to the actual target and in fact illuminated the fringes of the bomber stream. No. 467 lost two freshman crews but otherwise casualties were very light. An hour later 22 Lancasters of No. 460 arrived in the second wave to attack the triangle main lines junction under the direction of the master bomber, Squadron Leader Swan of No. 635. Crews were again critical of the spoof flares which seemed to aid rather than distract enemy fighters. Five bombers were lost and there were many combats reported by crews which did return. Nevertheless the 1,650 tons of bombs dropped at the two Courtrai aiming points created a scene of devastation. Reception and dispatch sidings were destroyed, the passenger station was almost gutted, and a bridge carrying five sets of tracks was demolished. An effective bottleneck had been created at a significant point in relation to the land battle.
Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Page 237
Lancaster LM101 took off from RAF Waddington at 2329 hours on the night of 20/21st July 1944 to bomb railway yards at Coutrai, Belgium. Bomb load 11 x 1000 lb (pound) (450 kg) and 4 x 500 lb (225 kg) bombs. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Fourteen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and two of these including LM 101 failed to return. Post war it was established that the aircraft crashed near Marke (West Vlaanderen) in the south west outskirts of Coutrai.
The crew members of LM101 were:
Flight Sergeant Philip William Benson (424949) (Navigator)
Flight Sergeant Albert James Downie (414916) (Bomb Aimer)
Warrant Officer John Ernest Richard Ede (628555) (RAF) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Alan Brian Hartley (426838) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Douglas Bruce Jeffery (427420) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Thomas Leo Roberts (423922) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Maxwell Keith Gordon Roy (437162) (Rear Gunner)
No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster ND654 (Flying Officer Reginald Harold Jopling (410065) (Pilot)) on 21 July 1944.
No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster LM119 (Flying Officer David Arnold Barlow (417781) (Pilot)) on 21 July 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, 166/36/317