LEST WE FORGET

Pilot Officer Archibald Lancelot SMITH

Service No: 422309
Born: Epping NSW, 19 July 1923
Enlisted in the RAAF: 26 April 1942
Unit: No. 466 Squadron, RAF Station Leconfield, Yorkshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 466 Halifax Squadron aircraft HX271), France, 3 June 1944, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Dreux Communal Cemetery, Eure-et-Loir, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Lancelot Canterbury Smith and Stella Smith, of Epping, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Sydney NSW
Remembered: Panel 110, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Epping War Memorial, Epping NSW

Date: 2-3 June 1944
Target: Trappes Rail Centre
Total Force: Dispatched – 128, Attacking – 124
RAAF Force: No. 466 Dispatched – Unavailable, Attacking – 15
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 481
Total Aircraft Lost: 16
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 466 – 2

The last raid of the series, against Trappes near Paris on 2nd-3rd June, was again well executed but once more enemy fighters were waiting over the target; with the aid of moonlight and special flares they found many opportunities to attack. Two Halifaxes of No. 466 were shot down; another piloted by Flight Lieutenant J. H. Stevens (1) was severely damaged by an Me-210 and at one stage of the homeward journey lost height until it was almost at ground level, although Stevens managed to keep his aircraft under control and reached base. The Halifax flown by Pilot Officer Bancroft (2) of No. 158 Squadron was damaged even more extensively in a desperate encounter with a Ju-88. All the instruments and the inter-communication system were damaged, the hydraulic system was destroyed, causing the bomb-doors and flaps to fall open, and a large hole, three feet long and the full width of the aircraft, was smashed in the floor . Another gaping hole appeared near the radio position, both turrets were useless, one of the petrol tanks was holed, and fires broke out in the bomb bay and near the rear bulkhead. Bancroft wrestled with the controls of this battered hulk while his navigator, Pilot Officer Fripp (3) aided by the only two other survivors, tackled and extinguished the fires. The compasses had been destroyed but luckily the upper sky was clear and Bancroft steered by the North Star and reached Hurn airfield.

(1) Flight Lieutenant John Humphreys Stevens DFC (416802) Discharged from the RAAF: 6 September 1945
(2) Flying Officer Bruce Douglas Bancroft DFC GM (421635) Discharged from the RAAF: 8 February 1946
(3) Flying Officer Charles Fredrick Alwyn Fripp DFC (423092) Discharged from the RAAF: 3 December 1945

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 28, 30-1

Halifax HX271 took off from RAF Leconfield at 2222 hours on the night of 2/3rd June 1944 to bomb the railway yards at Trappes, France. Fifteen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and two of these including HX271 failed to return. Following post war enquiries it was established that the aircraft crashed at Dannemarie (Yvelines) 4 kms south south east of Houdan. Four of the crew members had been killed and three were taken prisoner.

The crew members of HX271 were:

Warrant Officer Max Milson Bettington (412306) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Donald Robert Campbell (408346) (Navigator) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 10 January 1946
Flight Sergeant Horace Clement Evans (417168) (Bomb Aimer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 13 December 1945
Flight Sergeant Victor Wilfred Phillips (428454) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Lisle John Pulbrook (430299) (Rear Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 25 February 1946
Pilot Officer Archibald Lancelot Smith (422309) (Pilot)
Sergeant Frederick William Sowerby (1083540) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)

In a 1945 statement the then Flight Lieutenant Campbell reported “Two consecutive attacks by fighter aircraft. Aircraft on fire and controls badly damaged. Order to abandon given after second attack. Height about 6,000 feet. Can only recall Bomb Aimer acknowledge. Aircraft diving under partial control with starboard inner on fire. Don’t know if anyone injured. Believe I left first at about 5000 feet. Aircraft crashed about 7 miles north of Coulam, east south east of Paris. Landed
safely. Met Evans and started to walk south. Captured by Germans 12 hours later. Met Rear Gunner when POW. Believe others killed. Released 22 April 1945.”

The then Warrant Officer Pulbrook in 1945 reported “Attacked by fighter Aircraft. Aircraft out of control and on fire. Bale out order given. Don’t know if acknowledged. Navigator and Rear Gunner baled out before me at 4,000 feet. My chute opened just before I hit the ground. Don’t think any one left after me. Aircraft crashed near Collompes near Dreux. Walked for 15 hours south in direction of Spain, then captured by Germans. Met up with Campbell and Evans. Released by Russians.”

No. 466 Squadron lost Halifax HX242 (Flight Sergeant Kenneth George Coleman (418810) (Pilot)) on 3 June 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, 166/38/544
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line