LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant John Albert James WHITBURN

Service No: 424809
Born: Broken Hill NSW, 30 August 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 9 October 1942
Unit: No. 455 Squadron, RAF Station Langham
Died: Air Operations: (No. 455 Squadron Beaufighter aircraft NE206), off the Dutch Coast, 6 May 1944, Aged 27 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Albert Wesley Whitburn and Gertrude Maude Whitburn, of Norwood, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Broken Hill NSW
Remembered: Panel 262, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 106, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Beaufighter NE 206 took off from Langham at 1730 hours on the night of 5/6 May 1944 to carry out a shipping strike north of Borkum on the Dutch coast. The mission was to fly up the shipping lanes from north of Terschelling eastwards to attack a convoy sighted on a previous reconnaissance. 12 Beaufighters from the Squadron took part in the mission and of these NE206 failed to return.
The No. 455 Squadron Beaufighters were accompanied by 6 Torpedo-equipped Beaufighters and 5 anti-flak Beaufighters of No. 489 Squadron (RNZAF). At 1815 hours the formation sighted an enemy convoy of 7 Motor Vessels in 2 columns, 10 armed trawlers and two ‘R’ boats as escort. The formation turned to attack in the sun and the convoy appeared to be taken by surprise. The aircraft experienced intense flak at first but meagre flak towards the end of the encounter. All aircraft obtained many hits. The Torpedo Beaufighters released all their torpedoes and 3 escort vessels, 2 ‘R’ boats and 3 Motor Vessels were claimed as damaged. NE206 was lagging behind the formation prior to the attack and not until the other aircraft had returned to base was it realised that the aircraft was missing. No trace of the missing aircraft or crew was found and the names of the missing crew are commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing, Runnymede.

The crew members of NE206 were:

Flight Lieutenant Byron Atkinson (119121) (RAFVR) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant John Albert James Whitburn (424809) (Navigator Wireless)

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 Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/43/657