THORNTON Albert Eric 436120

LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant Albert Eric THORNTON

Service No: 436120
Born: Geelong VIC, 12 March 1923
Enlisted in the RAAF: 11 November 1942 (at Perth WA)
Unit: No. 462 Squadron, RAF Driffield, Yorkshire
Died: Air Operations (No. 462 Squadron Halifax aircraft MZ401), Belgium, 2 November 1944, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Hotton War Cemetery, Hotton, Luxembourg, Belgium
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Norman Leslie Thornton and Lilian Elsie Thornton, of Inverleigh, Victoria, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Inverleigh VIC
Remembered: Panel 109, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

Date: 2-3 November 1944
Target: Dusseldorf
Total Force: Dispatched – 992, Attacking – 946
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 23, Attacking – 23; No. 462 – 15, 15; No. 463 – 15, 15; No. 466 – 14, 14; No. 467 15, 15
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 4,484
Total Aircraft Lost: 16
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 462 – 2; No. 463 – 1; No. 467 – 1

Dusseldorf was the next target, and on 2nd-3rd November 992 Lancasters and Halifaxes dropped 4,484 tons of bombs from a cloudless sky on this administrative centre of the steel industry which had practically recovered from the 1943 raids. All five RAAF squadrons joined in this attack and the 82 crews were unanimous in their reports of accurate ground marking, good concentration of bombing and the incidence of extensive fires and major explosions while they were over the target. They also met much more spirited opposition, especially from fighters, than on recent raids. Aircraft piloted by Flying Officer Maxton (1) and Flying Officer Gray (428772) of No. 460 each sustained several attacks while Flying Officer Waxman (2) and Warrant Officer Willington (3) of No. 466 had inconclusive combats with enemy jet aircraft. Four RAAF bombers failed to return but almost all the crews survived. Some became prisoners of war but one crew baled out near the American front line and were quickly rescued. Pilot Officer Jubb (4) made a hazardous journey on foot (sometimes posing as an idiot) from near Dusseldorf to American positions close to Aachen; and Warrant Officer Scott (5), although arrested and detained in a house 20 miles south of Cologne, escaped and, after five days of hunger and exhaustion, found refuge with a civilian family near Duren and remained in hiding until rescued by American troops on 26th November.

(1) Flying Officer William Campbell Murray Maxton (415675) was discharged from the RAAF on 6 February 1946.
(2) Flying Officer Joseph Herbert Waxman DFC (418994) was discharged from the RAAF on 7 September 1945.
(3) Flying Officer Allan Frank Willington DFC (417142) was discharged from the RAAF on 4 September 1945.
(4) Flying Officer Robert Venters Jubb DFC (426609) was discharged from the RAAF on 31 August 1945.
(5) Warrant Officer Robert Walter Scott (418184) was discharged from the RAAF on 5 April 1947.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 302, 305-6

Halifax MZ401 took off from RAF Driffield at 1558 hours on the night of 2/3rd November 1944 to bomb Dusseldorf, Germany. Fifteen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and two of these including MZ401 failed to return.

The crew members of MZ401 were:

Sergeant A Kellard (2205580) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer) PoW
Flight Sergeant Terence Liddell Maguire (430548) (Mid Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 31 January 1946
Sergeant W McCorkindale (1568425) (RAFVRVR) (Navigator) PoW
Pilot Officer Robert Richard Mitchell (418452) (Pilot)
Warrant Officer Robert Walter Scott (418184) (Wireless Air Gunner) Evaded Capture, Discharged from the RAAF on 5 April 1947
Flying Officer Ronald James Smith (12060) (Bomb Aimer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 5 February 1946
Flight Sergeant Albert Eric Thornton (436120) (Rear Gunner)

In a 1945 report the then Warrant Officer Maguire stated “We were attacked by a fighter and the port aileron and port inner engine were on fire. The Pilot ordered put on chutes and then bale out. All the crew acknowledged. Five had baled out when I left at 6000 feet with the aircraft out of control. The Pilot was still at the controls. There was no fire in the fuselage but the wings were burning fiercely. We crashed approx 15 miles south west of Cologne. The Rear Gunner acknowledged the order and left the aircraft but has not been heard since 2/11/44. Told by Germans that the Pilot had been buried near sight of crash in a local village cemetery. I evaded capture for 12 days and captured in sight of American lines. Released by Russians on 22/4/45.”

In a later report Warrant Officer Scott stated “ I evaded capture for 6 days and was then given shelter and food for another 18 days and nights living in a dug out near a house occupied by friendly people with a large number of German troops in the vicinity. Found by the Americans on 26/11/44.”

No. 462 Squadron lost Halifax LL610 (Flight Sergeant Robert Venters Jubb DFC (426609) (Pilot)) on 2 November 1944.

No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster PD338 (Flight Sergeant David William Davidson (418355) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)) on 2 November 1944.

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster DV 396 (Flying Officer Leslie Keith Landridge (429972) (Pilot and Aircraft Captain)) on 2 November 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, 166/39/384