Flying Officer William Noel Thomsett RUSSELL DFC

Service No: 410122
Born: Skipton VIC, 16 December 1913
Enlisted in the RAAF: 8 November 1941
Unit: No. 466 Squadron, RAF Station Leconfield, Yorkshire
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), 25 April 1944 (Citation Title: No. 466 Squadron)
Died: Air Operations: (No. 466 Squadron Halifax aircraft HX337), Belgium, 23 April 1944, Aged 30 Years
Buried: Heverlee War Cemetery, Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William and Emmeline Florence Russell, of South Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Ballarat VIC
Remembered: Panel 110, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Date: 22-23 April 1944
Target: Dusseldorf
Total Force: Dispatched – 596, Attacking – 567
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 19, Attacking – 18; No. 466* Dispatched – 15, Attacking – Unavailable
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 2,150
Total Aircraft Lost: 30
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 460 – 1; No. 466 – 1

* Details of No. 466 Squadron contribution to the Dusseldorf raid has been omitted from the Official History and has been added to the table from Squadron records.

Forty per cent of the tonnage of bombs carried to Cologne (on 20-21 April) had been incendiaries, but this ratio was increased to 57 per cent two nights later when the target was Dusseldorf. The RAAF Lancaster and Halifax crews praised the clear pathfinder marking and vividly described a mass of fires raging over two or three square miles; later photographic reconnaissance of Dusseldorf showed that 28 industrial concerns had received damage. Of particular importance was a high level of destruction at two branches of the Rheinmetall steel combine, then the most important armaments works in Germany, It was, however, far from an easy operation and German fighters penetrated the bomber stream during the outward journey shooting down one aircraft from each RAAF squadron, and damaging the Lancaster flown by Squadron Leader Willis (1) of No. 460 so badly that he dropped his bombs on Krefeld and prudently struggled home with one engine unserviceable, one fuel tank punctured, the mid-upper turret and hydraulic controls out of action, and his bomb doors almost shot away. Several more aircraft were damaged by accurate ground-fire, and Squadron Leader Connolly (2) of No. 466 suffered a large hole torn in his port rudder-fin by a bomb released from another aircraft.

(1) Squadron Leader Anthony Vincent Willis DFC DFM (402940) Discharged from the RAAF: 31 July 1946
(2) Squadron Leader Hamilton Wellesley Connolly DFC & Bar (402492) Discharged from the RAAF: 9 August 1945

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 46-7

Halifax HX337 took off from RAF Leconfield at 2216 hours on the night of 22/23rd April 1944 to bomb Dusseldorf, Germany. A post war report by a Missing Research and Enquiry unit stated that the aircraft crashed at Bethleen, 3 kms north east of Sorrine-la-Longue.

The crew members of HX337 were:

Flight Sergeant William Michael Cashman (410869) (Rear Gunner)
Flight Sergeant C R Draper (R/63149) (RCAF) (Mid Upper Gunner) PoW
Flight Sergeant George Bridges Hall (21111) (Bomb Aimer) Evaded capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 22 August 1945
Sergeant G P Holder (185105) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer) PoW
Warrant Officer David Purcell (410379) (Navigator) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 10 October 1945
Flying Officer Roy Sigmont (410820) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) Evaded capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 16 April 1946
Flying Officer William Noel Thomsett Russell DFC (410122) (Pilot)

In a report by Warrant Officer Purcell he stated “Before reaching the target when at a height of 19,000 feet the aircraft collided with another aircraft causing it to become uncontrollable and go into a dive. The order to bale out was given. I left the aircraft followed by Flying Officer Sigmont at approx 10/12,000ft. Sigmont saw no other chutes in the air but he made contact with Hall a week later and the Resistance Movement informed him that Russell and Eastman had lost their lives.”

From the information given in Chorley W R Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Volume 5 Aircraft and Aircrew Losses 1944, none of the other 29 aircraft lost appear to have been as a result of the collision. Therefore the other aircraft in that collision was likely either one of the 537 that returned to base safely or else an enemy aircraft.

Leconfield Operation Order No 155 required:

16 (15 took off) aircraft from the Squadron

Bomb Load: All aircraft carry 1 x 2000 lb, 69 x 41B ‘X’ type, 56 x 30 IB, 480 x 4 IB.
Route: Base – Orfordness – 51.50N 02.23E – 50.28N 0245E – 50.25N 06.02E – Target –
51.17N 06.48E – 51.30N 06.20E – 51.50N –03.00E – Orfordness – Base.

No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster LM525 (Flight Sergeant Russell Allen (5182) (Pilot)) on 22 April 1944.

No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster LL892 (Flying Officer Charles Copley Schomberg (413798) (Pilot)) in the raid on Brunswick on 22 April 1943.


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, 166/36/251

Book Now Book Now