Date: 10/11 March 1942 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. No.405 RCAF Squadron (Vancouver)
Type: Wellington II
Base: RAF Pocklington, Yorkshire
Location: North Sea - exact location unknown
Pilot: F/O. Robert Keep Durbridge AUS/404453 RAAF Age 26. Missing
Pilot 2: Fl/Sgt. Robert Neville Lonergan AUS/404550 RAAF Age 22. Missing
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Francis Campbell Garnett R/78261 RCAF Age 21. Missing
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James Morley Broddy R/64409 RCAF Age 25. Missing (1)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Wright 1164158 RAFVR Age 22. Missing
Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Albert Tilley 1378541 RAFVR Age ? Missing
REASON FOR LOSS:
Captain Durbridge and crew took off at 19.44 hours as part of a mixed force of 126 aircraft consisting of Wellingtons, Stirlings, Hampdens, Manchesters and two Lancasters for a raid on Essen. The city of Essen, home to the giant Krupp steel and armament factories and the centre of the heavily industrialised Ruhr River valley, was the target for a second successive night.
The raid on the previous night had found the city to be covered in a thick haze of smoke. Consequently, the bombing was inaccurate with little damage being done. Weather reports for the next night indicated clearer skies but when the attacking force arrived over the target they found it to be cloud covered.
Although 62 crews claimed to have dropped their bombs on Essen, German sources reported only minor industrial disruption due to damaged rail road tracks near the Krupps works. In a residential area, one house was destroyed and another damaged. Five German citizens were killed and a further 12 injured. One Polish worker was killed by a Flak shell that fell to earth and exploded.
Interestingly, the participation in this raid by the two Lancasters was the first by this type on a German target.
Nothing further was heard from Z8428 until, at 23.25 hours, an SOS message was received. The Air Sea Rescue Service was called out immediately but no trace could be found of the downed aircraft. As all the aircraft engaged on the mission were scheduled to return to base around 00.15 hours on the morning of March 11th it is assumed that Captain Durbridge was on the return leg somewhere over the North Sea when lost.
Fl/Sgt. Robert Lonergan and Sgt. George Tilley escaped injury earlier on 23rd December 1941 whilst returning from an operation to Wilhelmshaven. The Wellington W5560 crashed on approach to RAF Lindholme.
(1) Broddy Lake in northern Ontario is named after Fl/Sgt. Broddy.
Memorial to Fl/Sgt. Robert Neville Lonergan - incorrect unit inscribed (although he did train at 22 OTU No. 8 course, along with the pilot, F/O. Durbridge, Fl/Sgt. Garnett, Sgt. Wright and Sgt. Tilley).
F/O. Robert Keep Durbridge, Runnymede Memorial Panel 109. Son of Charles Thomas Durbridge and Lydia Keep Durbridge of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Further information:
Robert Durbridge joined the 14th. Australian Light Horse Regiment in January 1940 but resigned to enlist in the RAAF in August of that year.
Upon completion of his training in Australia with the rank of pilot officer, he landed in the UK on 31 July, 1941.
After spending the first few days at No.3 PRC in Bournemouth, he was posted to No.22 OTU and from there, in October 1941, to No.405 Squadron. Durbridge was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer on 6 November 1941 and had completed 10 operations against the enemy when lost.
Fl/Sgt. Robert Neville Lonergan, Runnymede Memorial Panel 111. Son of Frederic William and Gert Irene Lonergan of Eumandi, Queensland, Australia. Fl/Sgt. Francis Campbell Garnett, Runnymede Memorial Panel 104. Son of Arthur Campbell Garnett and Margaret Elsie Garnett of Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Further information:
Francis Garnett was born in Pu, Yunnan Province, China, to Australian parents. In 1928 the Garnett family emigrated to the USA and lived in Indianapolis where his father, Dr. Arthur Garnett, taught Philosophy at Butler University.
In 1937 the family moved to Madison, Wisconsin for a position on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin where he remained until his retirement. It was from Madison in 1940 that Francis Garnett travelled up to Canada and enlisted in the RCAF.
Fl/Sgt. James Morley Broddy, Runnymede Memorial Panel 102. Son of Dr. William Alexander and Rebbeca Barbara Broddy of St. George, Ontario, Canada, wife of Ruth (Keile) Broddy.
Sgt. William Wright, Runnymede Memorial Panel 97. Son of Edwin and Elizabeth May Wright of Bitterne, Hampshire, England. Sgt. George Albert Tilley, Runnymede Memorial Panel 95. Next of Kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. Photo and biography reproduced courtesy of Album of Honor for Brant County World War II 1939 – 1945. Published in 1946 by The Brantford Kinsmen Club, Ontario, Canada and kindly reproduced with their permission. With thanks also to the Sunshine Coast RSL District for memorial photo of Fl/Sgt. Lonergan.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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