THOMAS John Bullfinch 16696

LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant John Bullfinch THOMAS

Service No: 16696
Born: Cottesloe WA, 26 October 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 1 June 1940
Unit: No. 460 Squadron, RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire
Died: Accident (No. 460 Squadron Lancaster aircraft MN799), France, 5 June 1945, Aged 28 Years
Buried: Plevenon Communal Cemetery, Cotes-d’Armor, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Robert and Johanna Thomas, of Perth, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Perth WA
Remembered: Panel 108, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

Lancaster MN799 took off from RAF Binbrook at 2032 hours on the night of 4/5th June 1945 to carry out a night cross country training exercise over France and the English Channel. In a report on the flight the Captain of the aircraft stated: “The homeward route was from St Etienne to St Malo, France, and thence from 1.5 miles north of St Malo to position 48.54N, 0138W. Throughout the flight I had been in radio contact with all the crew including the Rear Gunner Flight Sergeant Thomas. I had spoken to Flight Sergeant Thomas within about 10 minutes of reaching St Malo.”

“After turning at St Malo the aircraft dived steeply for 4,000 feet (from 11,000 to 7,000 feet) due in my opinion to a fault in the automatic pilot which was engaged at the time. I disengaged the automatic pilot and pulled the aircraft out of the dive. This all happened in a few minutes and there was apparently no cause for alarm at the time. I was sure that Flight Sergeant Thomas said ‘what happened then’ to me at this time, and I replied that it was ‘all right now’. I had no further contact with him throughout the rest of the flight to base (Height 7,000 feet – 2,000 feet), and was not aware that he had baled out until we landed.”

The incident of the aircraft diving was the only possible cause that Flight Sergeant Thomas could have had for alarm so I assume that he baled out at that time, 0229 hours 5 June 1945, position 48.52N 01.55W.”

Flight Sergeant Thomas’s body was washed ashore on 27 July 1945 near the village of Plevenon.

The crew members of MN799 were:

Flight Sergeant Robert George Batty (430587) (Second Navigator) Discharged from the RAAF: 8 January 1945
Pilot Officer Saxe Eric Coverdale (434498) (Pilot) Discharged from the RAAF: 18 January 1946
Flight Sergeant George Richard Crute (436695) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 13 December 1945
Flight Sergeant Leonard Harris Duncan (436729) (Bomb Aimer) Discharged from the RAAF: 5 November 1948
Flying Officer Pauric Dennis Lane (436506) (Navigator) Discharged from the RAAF: 15 march 1946
Flight Sergeant Keith Henry McLean (430977) (Mid Upper Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 20 February 1946
Flight Sergeant A Maddocks (1684275) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant John Bullfinch Thomas (16696) (Rear Gunner)

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, 166/39/578

Bibliography:

Firkins, P. C. (Peter Charles) (441386) Strike and Return, Westward Ho Publishing City Beach WA, 1985