LEST WE FORGET

Flying Officer John ROBERTS DFC

Service No: 416893
Born: Bowden SA, 23 April 1920
Enlisted in the RAAF: 11 October 1941
Unit: No. 463 Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), 21 December 1945 (Citation Title: No. 463 Squadron)
Died: Died: Air Operations (No. 463 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ME573), Germany, 15 March 1944, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Durnbach War Cemetery,
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Alfred and Doris Ada Roberts, of Brighton, South Australia.
Roll of Honour: Brighton SA
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: 15-16 March 1944
Target: Stuttgart
Total Force: Despatched – 863, Attacking – 813
RAAF Force: No. 460 Dispatched – 24, Attacking – 24; No. 463 – 17, 17; No. 466 – 17, 16; No. 467 – 19, 19
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 2,609
Total Aircraft Lost: 36
RAAF Aircraft Lost: No. 460 – 1; No. 463 – 2; No. 466 – 2

The maximum strength raid (on Stuttgart) a fortnight later (March 15-16) was almost a complete failure, because after struggling against incorrectly forecasted winds and many attacks by fighters the Australians arrived over Stuttgart to find Pathfinder markers in clusters miles apart with dummy enemy markers further adding to the confusion. Two pilots of No. 460 described the attack as “irresponsible, scattered and unimpressive” and criticised the “wild bombing” which put most of the weight of the attack near fourteen villages to the south-west of the target.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 658-660

Lancaster ME573 took off from RAF Waddington at 1904 hours on the night of 15/16th March 1944 to bomb Stuttgart, Germany. Bomb load 1 x 4000 lb (pound) (1,800 kg) bomb, 64 x 30 lb (14 kg), 600 x 4 lb (2 kg) incendiaries. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Seventeen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and one of these ME 573 failed to return. Post war it was established that the aircraft crashed near Kornwesheim approximately 10 kms north of Stuttgart.

The crew members of ME573 were:

Flight Sergeant James MacAdam Benzie (413526) (Bomb Aimer)
Pilot Officer Peter Charles Russell Brown (145370) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Pilot Officer Jack Leslie Childs DFC (414863) (RNZAF) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Stanley John Fielding Palmer (415677) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Sergeant Ronald Pead (1818530) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Flying Officer John Roberts DFC (416893) (Pilot)
Sergeant James Wilby (1584697) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)

No. 460 Squadron lost Lancaster ND393 (Pilot Officer George Edward Parkinson (413416) (Pilot)) on 15 March 1944.

No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster ED606 (Pilot Officer William Alexander Graham (413988) (Pilot)) on 15 March 1944.

No. 466 Squadron lost Halifax HX341 (Flying Officer Harold Callaway Wills (412787) (Pilot)) on 15 March 1944.

No. 466 Squadron lost Halifax LW521 (Flight Sergeant John Cecil Bond (420433) (Pilot)) on 15 March 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, 166/36/217

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