19/20.02.1944 No. 78 Squadron Halifax LK763 EY-K Sgt. John Smith
Date: 19/20th February 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: 78 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire
Location: Not known - target area?
Pilot: Sgt. John Smith 1323064 RAFVR Age 22. Missing - believed killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. George Beal 1803550 RAFVR Age ? Missing - believed killed
Nav: W/O. II. Everett Malcolm Coulter R/156195 RCAF Age ? Missing - believed killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. Ian Richard Montague Douglas-Pulleyne 138075 RAFVR Age 23. Missing - believed killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Frederick Reynolds 1415061 RAFVR Age 22. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Lawrence Ernest Mears 1607727 RAFVR Age 20. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Richard Glasson O’Neill AUS/415949 RAAF Age 20. Missing - believed killed (1)
REASON FOR LOSS:
The pre-briefing was called for 11:00 hours, but when the pilots and navigators had gathered for it to begin, a call was received by the squadron commander telling him the Briefing had been put back to 17:00 hours.
At midnight the bombers began taking off to rendezvous with the rest of the force for there raid on Leipzig.
Took off at 00:11 hrs from RAF Breighton to attack the city of Leipzig together with 822 other aircraft (561 Lancasters, 255 Halifaxes. 7 Mosquitoes)
A very sad day for Bomber Command - they had thought that the German controllers would send their night-fighter to the diversionary raid on Kiel Bay, but when this bomber stream crossed the Dutch coast they were met by a larger force of the night fighters (some that had left for the Kiel diversionary raid returned) They were then under attack all the way to the target.
The winds had not been as forecasted and a number of the bombers had to circle the target waiting for the pathfinders during this period they lost 4 aircraft in collisions and a further 20 from the heavy flak.
The target was cloud covered and the pathfinders had to use the sky-marking technique. No details regarding the effect of the bombing were available.
The Halifax III LK763 is described as missing with no report on location. No fighter claims for this loss reported and it is thought that they were possibly brought down by flak although many claims by the night fighters were not provided with a positive identification.
Also lost on this operation from 78 Squadron:
Halifax III LW367 EY-L - Flown by 20 year old Thomas Henry Smith 159075 RAF from Rainham, Essex, England killed with all 6 other crew.
Halifax III LV816 EY-N - Flown by 21 year old Fl/Lt. Brian Denman killed with 5 other crew, 2 taken PoW.
(1) The O’Neill family lost two other sons during the war. Captain John Hugh O’Neill WX231 Australian Infantry A.I.F. 2/16 Battalion - Died of wounds received on the 04th December 1942. Awaiting details on other.
Sgt. John Smith. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 238. Son of Robert Gordon Smith and Lily Smith, of Selsdon, Surrey, England.
Sgt. George Beal. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 224. Son of Edward Beal, and of Gertrude Beal, of Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, England.
W/O. II. Everett Malcolm Coulter. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 254. Son of Joseph and Williamina Bessie Coulter, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
F/O. Ian Richard Montague Douglas-Pulleyne. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 205. Son of Geoffrey Bernard Douglas-Pulleyne and Helen Elizabeth (née Douglas) no details of area - are you able to assist?
Sgt. George Frederick Reynolds. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 236. Foster-son of Frederick Thomas Walton and Ellean Agnes Walton, of Finsbury Park, Middlesex, England.
Sgt. Lawrence Ernest Mears. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 234. Son of William James Mears, and of Josephine Ida Mears, of Mosman Park, Western Australia.
Fl/Sgt. Richard Glasson O’Neill. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 261. Born on the 10th August 1923 the son of Major John Patrick O'Neill (a decorated officer receiving the MC seeing in both World Wars), and of Nira Marcella O'Neill, of Subiaco, Western Australia. Fl/Sgt. Richard Glasson O’Neill previously served with the 25th Light Horse Regiment for two years.
Researched for Ron G - relative of Fl/Sgt. O’Neill, who contacted us in May 2016. Other sources as quoted below.