LEST WE FORGET

Pilot Officer Robert Wentworth BYRNES

Service No: 28766
Born: Rose Park SA, 26 February 1918
Enlisted in the RAAF: 18 February 1941
Unit: No. 463 Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations (No. 463 Squadron Lancaster aircraft LL847), France, 18 December 1944, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Le Gros Theil Communal Cemetery, Eure, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Robert Wentworth Byrnes and Ena Louie Marie Byrnes, of Blanchetown, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 109, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide

Date: 17-18 December 1944
Target: Munich
Total Force: Dispatched – 288, Attacking – 270
RAAF Force: No. 463 Dispatched – 19, Attacking – 18; No. 467 – 22, 21
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 967
Total Aircraft Lost: 4
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 463 – 1; No. 467 – 1

No. 5 Group made its second attack on Munich in clear weather with good visibility. Crews from Waddington reported a good attack followed by large fires and the raid caused extensive new damage especially near the main railway station and goods yards. Enemy opposition was not unduly heavy, but two Australians showed fine airmanship arising from the natural hazards of the bomber stream. Flying Officer Evans (1) of No. 467 found on his outward journey that his Lancaster had a faulty engine and an unserviceable rear turret but he carried on with his mission. While on his bombing run at the target his aircraft collided with another Lancaster and part of the port wing tip was torn off. Evans’ Lancaster fell into a starboard spin and turned a full orbit before he regained control at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Evans turned for home, flying at reduced speed and steadily losing height, but before long an engine burst into flames and the fire could not be fully extinguished. When over France the Lancaster became unmanageable and the crew was ordered to bale out. When Evans tried to leave the aircraft his boot became caught and he could release himself
only by pulling the rip-cord of his parachute, and as a result three panels of the parachute were torn away. By this time the Lancaster was at 1,500 feet and Evans injured his leg when he landed heavily . The rest of the crew were safe but the aircraft almost hit them as it crashed 500 yards from the village of Chalons-sur-Marne. Meanwhile Flying Officer Fairbairn (2) of No. 50 Squadron, the pilot of the other Lancaster, had carried on to bomb Munich. One engine was severely damaged and could not be feathered and there was severe vibration throughout the aircraft which was then hit by flak and sustained further damage. Fairbairn persevered with his homeward flight until luckily the propeller of the damaged engine sheared off and the Lancaster, although still difficult to fly, became
more manageable and returned safely to base.

(1) Flight Lieutenant Terence Evared Evans DFC (429220) was discharged from the RAAF on 26 March 1946.
(2) Flying Officer Charles Ridley Fairbairn DFC (419988) was killed on Air Operations on 1 February 1945

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Page 307-9

Lancaster LL847 took off from RAF Waddington at 1631 hours on the night of 17/18th December 1944 to bomb Munich, Germany. Bomb load 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg), 9 x 150 x 4 lb (2 kg)
incendiaries. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Nineteen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and one of these LL 847 failed to return. Post war it was established that the aircraft crashed at Le Gros Theil (Eure) and that all the crew members were killed.

The crew members of LL847 were:

Flying Officer Kenneth Edwin Harold Bennett (424117) (Pilot)
Pilot Officer Robert Wentworth Byrnes (28766) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Samuel Easton (1522162) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Sergeant Henry Fowler (1826506) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Sergeant Gordon Abercromby Center Frizzell (1787720) (RAF) (Air Gunner)
Sergeant Reginald George Nuttall (1592205) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flying Officer James Henderson Ogilvie (418559) (Second Pilot)
Pilot Officer Thomas Nicholson Watson (187732) (RAFVR) (Bomb Aimer)

No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster PD215 (Flying Officer Terence Evared Evans DFC (429220) (Pilot)) on 18 December 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, 166/6/856

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