12/13.08.1944 No. 467 Squadron (RAAF) Lancaster I PD230 PO-X F/O. Rodney J. Mellowship
Date: 12/13th August 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: 467 Squadron (RAAF)
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Location: Gouvy, Belgium
Pilot: F/O. Rodney James Mellowship AUS/417870 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Thomas Cromwell Berry 1391597 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Nav: W/O. Francis White AUS/425252 RAAF Evaded capture (1)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Albert Hankinson Baldwin 1579824 RAVR Age 24. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ronald Wentworth Hore AUS/419509 RAAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Charles Ernest Currie AUS/437402 RAAF Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Trevor Ian Ramsey AUS/428124 RAAF Evaded capture (1)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:30 hrs from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire - joining some 296 other aircraft flying deep into southern Germany to bomb the Opel works at Russelsheim (The factory was thought to be manufacturing the wings for the V1 flying bombs). The bomber stream encountered night fighters from Brussels all the way to the target and also on their homeward bound flights.
The allies lost some 20 aircraft in the onslaught.
The target was only slightly damaged, most of the bombs landed in open countryside. However the tyre and dispatch departments and powerhouse were hit - some 9 people killed on the ground with a further 31 injured.
Lancaster PD230 was attacked and shot down at 01:05 hrs over Gouvy by the night fighter ace and Gruppenkammander and Schwerterträger Hptm. Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer (2) of Stab IV./NJG1, his 91st abschüsse of the war.
Statements made by the 2 evaders later wrote (October 1944) that about 45 minutes after the aircraft had dropped its bomb load on the target an explosion on the aircraft occurred which caused the Lancaster to dive from 15,000 ft to approximately 13,000 ft. At that height the pilot managed to temporarily steady the aircraft, but then shortly afterwards the rear gunner reported fire within the fuselage. The pilot instructed the crew to bale out and all of the crew acknowledged his order.
When at about 12,000 ft the engineer and bomb aimer attempted to open the escape hatch but that they were experiencing considerable difficulty. The navigator struggled through an opening in the side of the aircraft and baled out at 10,000 ft. but he hit part of the aircraft and was rendered unconscious - he has no recollection of how his parachute opened, but he landed safely. The resistance advised him that they had found the pilot still at the controls and that 4 other bodies were recovered. They also that another crew member was being sheltered in France by the resistance.
Investigations by the No. 2 section, Missing Research and Enquiry Unit (MREU) on January 2nd 1946 state that the bodies of 4 of the crew were recovered by the Germans and initially buried at the Justine Cemetery in the village of Rosee. They thought that they had recovered all the crew and ordered 7 coffins - locals fooled the Germans by placing other items in two of the coffins - they were already aware that 2 were evading capture.
(1) W/O. Francis White was from 21A Peel Street, Mackay, North Queensland, Australia. Fl/Sgt. Trevor Ramsey from 95 High Street, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
(2) Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer - born on the 16th February 1922. Schnaufer was taken prisoner of war by British forces in May 1945.
After his release a year later, he returned to his home town and took over the family wine business. In July 1950, Schnaufer was on a wine buying visit to France. On the afternoon of the 13 July, he was heading south on the Route Nationale No. 10 in his Mercedes-Benz 170 convertible. Just south of Bordeaux, at about 18:30, he was involved in a collision with a Renault 22 truck.
Schnaufer never regained consciousness at Saint-André Hospital in Bordeaux. and succumbed to his injuries at the hospital two days later on 15th July 1950.
F/O. Rodney James Mellowship. Hotton War Cemetery. Joint Grave V11.E3-4. Son of Leslie James Mellowship and Agnes Mellowship, of 15 Paxton Street, Semaphore, South Australia. Grave inscription reads: ‘Our Only Laddie.’ Born on the 9th August 1923. Previous flying experience -Tiger Moth, Wirraway, Oxford, Wellington, Stirling and Lancaster.
Sgt. Thomas Cromwell Berry. Hotton War Cemetery Grave V11.E.2. No further details, are you able to assist?
Sgt. Albert Hankinson Baldwin. Hotton War Cemetery Grave V11.E.5. Son of Albert Edward and Alice Baldwin, of Arrow, Warwickshire, England. Husband of Elizabeth Mary Baldwin.
Fl/Sgt. Ronald Wentworth Hore. Hotton War Cemetery. Joint Grave V11.E3-4. Son of Arnold Wentworth Hore and Frances Mary Hore, of Little Billabong, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: ‘Honour And Everlasting Glory To One Who Always Did His Duty.'
Fl/Sgt. Charles Ernest Currie. Hotton War Cemetery Grave V11.E.1. Son of Nicholas Charles Ernest and Agnes Sarah Currie, of Haigh Road, Salisbury, South Australia. Grave inscription reads: ‘Loved Son Of Mr And Mrs N.C.E. Currie Of Salisbury. Sth Australia.’
Sources as quoted below but with special thanks to the Australian Archives for further information. Grave photographs courtesy Des Philippet. With many thanks to Didier Petit for pointing out the correct region - December 2017.