STEPHENS Ernest Victor 406413

LEST WE FORGET

Sergeant Ernest Victor STEPHENS

Service No: 406413
Born: West Leederville WA, 26 December 1915
Enlisted in the RAAF: 9 December 1940
Unit: No. 21 Operational Training Unit (RAF), RAF Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire
Died: Air Operations (No. 21 Operational Training Unit Wellington aircraft W5618), Belgium, 2 June 1942, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Charleroi Communal Cemetery, Charleroi, Hainaut, Belgium
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Thomas Henry and Bessie Martha Stephens, of West Leederville, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Perth WA
Remembered: Panel 130, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

Wellington W5618 took off from RAF Moreton-in-Marsh, detailed to bomb Essen, Germany. The aircraft was last heard making a wireless transmission at 0416 hours and was advised to steer a course of 282 degrees. Nothing further was heard and the aircraft failed to return to base. The aircraft crashed, killing four of the crew, one evaded capture and the sixth member became a Prisoner of War.

The crew members of W5618 were:

Flight Sergeant Frederick Bruce Albright (R/76714) (RCAF) (Pilot)
Sergeant Rex Theodore Burt (407601) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Hamilton Forsyth (R/86422) (RCAF) (Second Pilot) Evaded Capture, Killed in an accident on 6 June 1942
Pilot Officer William Mortimer Richards (J/15450) (RCAF) (Rear Gunner)
Sergeant Ernest Victor Stephens (406413) (Observer)
Warrant Officer Douglas Alexander George Watkins (406542) (Wireless Air Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 29 November 1945

Flight Sergeant Forsyth evaded capture, but on the 6th June he was hit and killed by an express train at, or near Chalon-sur-Saone station, in Saone-et-Loire, having made considerable progress through France on his evasion attempt.

In a PoW report, Warrant Officer Watkins stated: “The aircraft was returning from Essen on the 1st June 1942 at about 0230 hours. The aircraft was over Belgium, and was attacked from the rear. In the first burst the port engine was hit and probably other parts of the aircraft. The plane immediately filled with smoke, one wing dropped and it dived in. I heard the Captain shout “abandon”, and I had some difficulty in clipping on my chute. I do not know the height at which I baled out, but we were not very far from the ground. I managed to fall out. The aircraft was burning fiercely on the ground. Some of the crew might have got out, but later the Germans said there were five bodies in the aircraft. Possibly the Rear Gunner was killed in the shooting. We crashed near Charleroi in Belgium. In my opinion all the others were killed. I managed to get an old suit of civilian, but was seen and apprehended by the Germans. I was released by the British Army on 2nd May 1945.”

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, 163/163/386