02/03.06.1942 No. 460 Squadron Wellington IV Z1394 UV-Q F/O. J.W. Keene
Date: 02/03rd June 1942 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 460 Squadron (RAAF)
Type: Wellington IV
Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire
Location: Ellewoutsdijk, Netherlands
Pilot: F/O. John Walter Keene AUS/402742 RAAF Age 25. Killed
Obs: Fl/Sgt. Ronald Frederick Waldon AUS/400894 RAAF Age 23. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Kendall 1309012 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Douglas Graham Butterworth AUS/404471 PoW No: 12675 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Reginald John Biglands AUS/407282 RAAF Age 28. Missing - believed killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 23:26 hrs from RAF Breighton to attack the city of Essen. One of 10 aircraft from the Squadron detailed to bomb the city of Essen. The weather that night was fine with little or no cloud
A relatively small force of 195 Aircraft took part - 97 Wellingtons, 38 Halifaxes, 27 Lancasters, 21 Stirlings and 12 Hampdens in the second night in succession bombing Essen. The attack was widely scattered and records show that only 3 high explosive and 300 incendiary bombs hit the city with no serious damage or injuries.
The RAF however lost 14 aircraft! 68 crew members were killed with a further 15 made prisoners of war.
The Squadron lost another crew on this operation: Wellington IV Z1249 UV-K. Flown by 22 year old Fl/Sgt. Solomon Levitus AUS/402910 RAAF - missing with all crew.
Above: Wellington Z1394 UV-Q L-R: Sgt. Hedley Hawkins, P/O. John Keene, Sgt. Graham Berry, Sgt. Doug Butterworth, Sgt. Ronald Waldron, Sgt. Reg Biglands.
(Note on photograph: Sgt. Graham Royston Berry AUS/407281 RAAF was ill on the night this aircraft was lost - his replacement had been Sgt. William Kendall. Sgt. Berry was shot down in Lancaster W4273 UV-A on an operation to Stuttgart - the first Lancaster lost with 460 Squadron on the 23rd November 1942. All the crew survived as either PoW or evading capture. Sgt. Hawkins maybe Sgt. Hedley Maurice Hawkins AUS/404433 RAAF lost on a Gardening Operation whilst with 101 Squadron on the 22nd September 1942)
After they had dropped their bomb load they started on the return flight, flying very low (200-300 ft) to avoid German night fighters.
No reports that a night fighter shot the aircraft down and according to the surviving crew member the reason for the aircraft crashing was probably due to instrument malfunction or that the pilot never realised precisely how low they were when they had just set a course for home.
Statement from Sgt. Doug Butterworth described that after the aircraft hit the water, both he (suffering from cuts on temple and scalp, right knee and left ankle dislocated) and P/O. Keene (no severe injuries) spoke to one another and started to swim ashore but became separated. No sign of Sgt. Kendall and Sgt. Biglands. Two young German Navy sailors in a small launch captured Sgt. Butterworth some 3 hours after the crash and took him to the closest German Navy establishment at Flushing, Holland
"Extremely low we were - I can remember sandbanks and dinghies whipping in and out of view. Then things changed abruptly from the visual to the audio mode, with a crashing, rending noise as we hit the water. To my knowledge I don't think we were shot down. The navigator had just given the pilot the course for home, and as the pilot set the verge ring on the compass, which was positioned at a very low height, he must have pushed the stick forward. I can remember rolling over and over in the turret, tangled up with oxygen hoses and intercom wires. Also, my feet were tangled up in the wreckage. It looked like curtains, until I was able to force my feet out of my flyings boots. The next thing I remembered was swimming upwards with lungs bursting. Apparently the turret must have broken away from the main fuselage."
Three of the crews bodies were washed up on the shore at Wissenkerke on the 03rd June and buried on the 05th, the same month. The fourth crew member, Sgt. Biglands was never recovered and is thought that either he went down with the aircraft or is buried as unknown.
(note: some of the crew were posthumously promoted which is why some details show difference ranks. Douglas Butterworth passed away in 2010)
F/O. John Walter Keene. Flushing Northern Cemetery (Vlissingen). Row B. Grave 31. Born on the 25th October 1916 in Sydney, the son of William Henry and Ada Millicent Keene, of 133 Darley Road, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia.
Fl/Sgt. Ronald Frederick Waldon. Flushing Northern Cemetery (Vlissingen). Row B. Grave 30. Born on the 16th September 1918 in Beechworth, Victoria the son of Albert David and Rosina Sydney Waldon, of Korford Road, Beechworth, Victoria, Australia.
Sgt. William Kendall. Flushing Northern Cemetery (Vlissingen). Row B. Grave 28. Son of William and Rose Kendall, of Birmingham and husband of Mavis Kendall, of Rubery, Birmingham, England.
Fl/Sgt. Reginald John Biglands. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 111. Born on the 23rd May 1914 in Adelaide, the son of Percy and Pearl Martha Biglands and husband of Olive May Biglands, of Kilburn, South Australia.
For further details our thanks to Wayne Butterworth, grandson of Sgt. Butterworth who contacted us in March 2017. Also thanks to the following sources: