25/26.02.1944 61 Squadron Lancaster I LL775 QR-O Flt.Lt. Einarson DFC DFM
Date: 25/26th February 1944 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: 61 Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Location: Lagarde, North East Luneville, France
Pilot: Flt.Lt. Johann Walter 'Wally' Einarson DFC. DFM. J/17276 RCAF Age 23. Killed (1)
Flt.Eng: Sgt. Maurice 'Maurie' Leonard Worth 1623406 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Nav: Plt.Off. Allan James Collins 412112 RAAF Age 27. Killed
Air/Bmr: WO. Barnaby Ryder Greatrex RAAF Age 23. Evaded (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Reginald Thomas Gill 408367 RAAF Age 25. Killed
Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Phillip Llewellyn Jones 865682 RAFVR Age 35. Killed
Air/Gnr: Plt.Off. Herbert 'Paddy' Rankin DFM. 173840 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 18:17 hrs from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire to to bomb the Man works at Augsburg. 594 aircraft took part including 461 Lancasters, 123 Halifaxes and 10 Mosquitoes. This was the first large raid on this target and the success of this raid was considered as outstanding with clear weather conditions and very light flak defences. The pathfinders ground marking was very accurate and 2,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the target area.
Crew L-R Rear: Sgt. Reginald Gill, Sgt. Maurice Worth, Flt.Lt. Johann Einarson, Plt.Off. Allan Collins, W/O. Barney Greatrex, Front: Plt.Off. Herbert Rankin, Flt.Sgt. Phillip Jones.
2,920 houses were destroyed and another 5,000 were damaged resulting in over 85,000 bombed out of their homes. Much of the city was destroyed including 16 churches and 11 hospitals. Over 700 people were killed on the ground and another 2,500 people were injured in what the Germans described as 'an extreme example of terror bombing'. Damage on the second wave caused considerable damage to a important aircraft component factory and also to some former paper and cotton mills that had been taken over by the MAN engineering company.
21 allied aircraft were lost on this raid, 16 Lancasters and 5 Halifaxes although 4 of these losses were due to collisions. 102 aircrew were killed, 43 were made PoW and another 6 were interred in Switzerland.
Lancaster LL775 was intercepted on the outward part of the trip and claimed by Oblt Wilhelm Engel 3./NJG6 - La Garde North East of Luneville at 21:29 (3)
Another 61 Sqn Lancaster I was also lost on this raid, that of DV294 QR-K flown by 21 year old Fg.Off. Francis J. Nixon RAFVR killed with all 6 other crew members.
The crew of an Avro Lancaster B Mk I of 61 Sqn RAF walk towards their aircraft at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, before taking off for a raid on Hamburg, Germany. (courtesy IWM)
Left Lancaster B Mk I, DS604 QR-W, of 61 Sqn RAF taxying past the windsock at Coningsby, Lincolnshire. (DS604 later joined 115 Squadron RAF and was lost over Frankfurt on 10/11 April 1943) (courtesy IWM). On the right is an image of a Lancaster B Mk II (Hercules VI or XVI engines) with the same code of QR-W. Most Lancaster B Mk IIs were converted to Lancaster B Mk I.
(1) His twin brother, Flt.Sgt. Harold Bjorn Einarson was killed earlier in the war. Flying a Lancaster I R5628 EM-Q, on the 10th September 1942. All crew killed after being shot down and crashing at 04:09 hrs into the North Sea off Thyboron, Denmark.
29th April 1942 piloting Whitley Z6641 with 19 OTU forced to land on a beach at Inver drouth east of Tain. No injuries.
25th July 1943 piloting a Whitley LA878 ZV-A also with 19 OTU ditched ten miles south of Largo Bay in the Firth of Forth while attempting to reach Drem airfield with one engine serviceable. Crew of seven took to their dinghy and were picked up by a trawler at 12:18. Transferred to a naval vessel and taken into Methill.
His DFC Citation published on the 25th January 1944 reads:
'This officer has completed a very large number of sorties including five attacks on Berlin. On the last occasion one night in November 1943, his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and sustained damage. Nevertheless, Flying Officer Einarson pressed home his attack. Soon after the bombs had been released, the aircraft was struck, the starboard wing tip and part of the aileron were torn away and the aircraft went into a steep dive. Flying Officer Einarson succeeded in regaining control and afterwards flew safely to an airfield in this country. Throughout his tour of operations this officer has invariably displayed a high degree of skill, courage and determination.'
(2) WO. Barney Greatrex managed to escape after parachuting from the aircraft. He joined and fought with the Marquis before returning to England on the 13th October 1944. He described his amazing escape and evasion story in an article he wrote (submitted to us by Richard Mort, nephew of Barney Greatrex) Born on the 09th April 1920 in Toronto, New South Wales, Australia. Left the service on the 19th April 1945 as a Fg.Off.
Barney Greatrex - Author Michael Veitch Published by Hachette Australia (25 Jan. 2018) ISBN 13: 9780733637230
(3) Also claimed by Oblt Martin Becker 2/NJG6 - Benamenil 12km East of Luneville: 5,100m at 21:30 hrs. Oblt Engel only listed in KTB Stab NJG6 and not listed in OKL/RLM 3./NJG6. Confirmed Abschussubersicht rejected. Victory for Oblt Becker confirmed on 23rd June 1944. (Nachtjagd Combat Archives Part 1 1944 - Theo Boiten).
Right: Choloy War Cemetery (courtesy CWGC)
Flt.Lt. Johann Walter Einarson DFC. DFM. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.G.2. Son of Haraldur B. Einarson and Elin Einarson of Wynyard, Saskatchewan, Canada, Epitaph reads: ‘At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Them.’
Sgt. Maurice Leonard Worth. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.G.3. Son of Leonard and Daisy Worth, of Widnes, Lancashire, England. Epitaph reads: ‘Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten.’
Plt.Off. Allan James Collins. Choloy War Cemetery. Joint grave 1.G.5-6. Born on the 16th December 1916 at Yass, New South Wales, the son of Thomas James Collins and Mabel May Collins, of Canterbury, New South Wales, Australia. Epitaph reads: ‘RIP Loved Son Of Mrs. M. Collins of Sydney, NSW.’
Sgt. Reginald Thomas Gill. Choloy War Cemetery. Joint grave 1.G.5-6. Born on the 22nd July 1918 at Launceston, the son of Thomas Henry and Violet May Gill, of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. Epitaph reads: ‘His Duty Nobly Done, Sadly Missed And Ever Remembered.’
Flt.Sgt. Phillip Llewellyn Jones. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.G.4. Son of Samuel and Mary Ann Jones, of Cardiff, Wales. Epitaph reads: ‘Great Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends.’
Plt.Off. Herbert Rankin DFM. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 1.G.1. Son of Hugh and Agnes Rankin, of Dublin, Irish Republic. Epitaph reads: ‘Underneath Are The Everlasting Arms.’
Researched for Richard Mort, nephew of Barney Greatrex and Barney himself - still around, aged 94 in 2013. Hoping that we will receive further information / photographs from him soon that we are able to add. With thanks to sources as shown. Thanks to John Jones for the update to the German nighter fighter claim.