Personnel Index - Detail
Image courtesy of Mat Marshall
Colquhoun, Myers, Lawrence, Bonnett, Dangerfield, Wallis and Brookes
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24 October, 1942; MILAN (DAYLIGHT):
At 06.30hrs, on the morning of Saturday 24 October, orders came in on the teleprinter giving details for a daylight attack on the Italian town of Milan. In this hazardous operation, the 88 Lancasters of 5 Group were to fly independently across France, using the cloud as cover, before arriving at Lake Annecy, the Group's rendezvous. The bombers arrived over a surprised Milan around 17.00hrs. They descended below the cloud base of 4,500 feet, in order to deliver 135 tons of bombs during the next 18 minutes. A 49 Squadron Lancaster, W4306, crashed in England on return from Milan.
The only survivor Sgt Colquhoun recalls..... "The aircraft was badly damaged but that she still held together, and we had the wireless on - we turned the Identification Friend or Foe on - we turned it on stubb 3, the emergency stubb, we didn't want to break radio silence, but just wanted to send an SOS on the IFF... just red. Anyway they brought us in through the Ford searchlights - just kept waving us in. It was dark now, about eight or nine o’clock. I don't think we had much fuel left... we couldn't get high enough to bale out... no climbing power. I can remember seeing the spire of Chichester Cathedral go past. We followed these searchlights and they took us to Ford - 30 or 40 searchlights came up in a cone so it was as bright as day.
They did everything they could to give us a hand. So we started to make an approach, and we rightly got in a crash position; we had to get the rear gunner out because he was in bit of a daze from when the flak had hit us... he wasn't in too good a shape. As we reduced speed, the starboard wing just dropped over and she went straight in. The fuselage broke in half just behind me... she was burning... I turned around but my legs weren't working too good... I grabbed one chap, he was the rear gunner. I could hear someone moaning but couldn't see who it was... grabbed him by the harness and started back out again, then someone grabbed my arm and stuck a needle in it. And thats the last I can remember."
F/L D.D. Bonnett DFC Pilot (Killed)
Sgt R.J. Wallis F/E (Killed)
F/S R.D. Dangerfield RAAF DFM NAV (Killed)
F/S R.G. Lawrence RAAF W/OP (Killed)
Sgt W.A. Colquhoun A/G (Injured)
P/O W.H.I. Myers RAAF DFM B/A (Killed)
Sgt E. Brookes A/G (Killed)
Click on the link to read a letter written by crew member Ray Lawrence to a friend which contains a very vivid description of operational life. He felt that after a particularily dicey raid on Weismar he would most certainly live to be 100 years old. He was killed three weeks later.
This is F/Sgt Dangerfield's initial grave.
Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial via Geoff Swallow.