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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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12 Squadron Crest
22/23.04.1944 No. 12 Squadron Lancaster III ND715 PH-R Fl/Sgt. James Harvey

Operation: Düsseldorf

Date: 22/23rd April 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)

Unit: No. 12 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ND715

Code: PH-R

Base: RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire

Location: Postel, Antwerp

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. James Harvey 1431604 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Robert Speedie Smith 1569867 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Frederick William Barnett 1431543 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Air/Bmr: P/O. Douglas Francis Malyon J/89865 RCAF Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Clifford Henry Thompson 1319740 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr(M.U.G): Sgt. William Harbour 1607419 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr(R/G): Fl/Sgt. Rex Valentine Donowa AUS/424827 RAAF Age 21. Killed

Update: 08th February 2017: Aircrew Remembered interviewed by ABC News, Sidney, Australia, also article written by Daily Telegraph Newspaper, Australia further details are now emerging regarding Fl/Sgt. Rex Donowa.

Update: 17th September 2017: Memorial now placed to the crew.


Took off at 22:56 hrs from RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire to join 595 aircraft to bomb Dusseldorf.

2,150 tons of bombs were dropped causing widespread destruction with over 1000 people on the ground killed and 56 very large industrial premises and over 2,000 homes destroyed.

Front row L-R: Sgt. Donowa, Fl/Sgt. Harvey, Sgt. Smith. Rear: Sgt. Malyon, Sgt. Thompson, Sgt. Harbour, Fl/Sgt. Barnett (courtesy Cat Richards)

Memorial to the crew (courtesy Wim Gowers - see credits/link below)

Nearly 600 heavy bombers went to Dusseldorf on the 22nd with crews returning to speak of extremely heavy night fighter activity.

Losses to the allied bombers on this raid were huge with 29 aircraft being shot down resulting in 133 aircrew killed and a further 68 being made PoW.

Above: Newspaper article courtesy of the Canterbury - Bankstown Express Tuesday September 16th 2008.

It is understood that ND715 was shot down at 01:07 hrs on the 23rd. Combat taking place at 6,000 mts. some 100 km. west of Düsseldorf, crashing in open country 4 km south of Postel, Antwerp. Wreckage was reported to have covered a large area which could mean that it exploded in the air.

The Luftwaffe pilot who is named as the "probable" attacker was Oblt. Peter Ehrhardt of 8./NJG5. With a total of 21 claims credited to him, he survived the war but we have no further details.

The following letter was written by Rex Donowa on his 21st birthday, April 18th, 1944. His last ever he ever wrote to his father - he died just four days later.

“ Dear Pop, It is early afternoon of a glorious English spring day - very much like home, blue skies, soft breezes etc. Probably this evening I shall be on my way to receive my birthday greetings from Hitler and his friends. Boy, I bet they love me!
It was my main reason for writing, to convey to you, Dad, my heartfelt appreciation for all the things that you have done for me as years have gone by. “All” doesn’t seem a big enough word to cover everything you’ve been to me - a father, a pal, a chief advisor and all the other things which, if I were to write down, would cover a newspaper and still have some left over. Thank you Dad, for everything - thats all I can say; thank you Dad, but heck! It covers a hell of a lot - everything I can’t say.
You’ve given me the best education a chap could have - an outlook on life in a sensible perspective.
I received the watch safely, thank you, Pop. It keeps absolute spot on time - perfection personalised.
We have a little crew vegetable garden round our hut, and have just put in some carrots, radish and onions; and are hoping for the best.
Trust you are in tip-top condition. I promise Dad, that the hard work you put in on me won’t be wasted.
Still your son, No.1.”

Above as described, but we have decided to crop the image and type the names in order that it becomes searchable (courtesy Melinda Meyer and Mr. David Roberts)

Standing L-R: D.M. Herbert, K.W. Vidler, D.A. McKee, G.A. Laws, J.J. Parker. L.N. Cram,

Sitting: B.W. Maundrell, J.H. Kennerson, R.M. Robson (Vice Captain) H. St. G-Ryder (Captain), J.G. Davis, J. Austin, G.E. Hunt.

Floor: R.C. Veness, R.V. Donowa.

Rex Donowa - rear row, 2nd from left (courtesy Mr. David Roberts - Newington College)

Burial details:

Initially buried at a temporary military cemetery at Borsbeck - reinterred after the end of the war.

Fl/Sgt. James Harvey. Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium. Grave IVa.C.2. Son of Thomas F. and Gertrude S. Harvey, also brother of Mrs. M. Hodgkiss of 34 Regent Drive, of Dudley, Worcestershire, England. Epitaph reads: ‘Jimmy, An Ordinary Boy Who Died That Folk Might Live.’

Sgt. Robert Speedie Smith. Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium. Grave IVa.D.48. Son of George and Jeanie Smith, of 73 North Street, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland. Epitaph reads: ‘In Memory Of Robert, Youngest Son Of George And Jeanie Smith Of Falkirk, Scotland.’

Fl/Sgt. Frederick William Barnett. Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium. Grave IVa.D.50. Son of Joseph Wilson Barnett and Annie Barnett, of 35 Highfield Range, Darfield, Nr. Barnsley, Yorkshire, England. Epitaph reads: ‘Years Are Swiftly Passing By Yet Thoughts And Memories Never Die.’

P/O. Douglas Francis Malyon. Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium. Grave IVa.C.1. Son of Roy Holdershaw Malyon and Mary Elizabeth Malyon, of 794 Coxwell Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Epitaph reads: ‘He Gave His All That Others May Be Free.’

Malyon Island in the Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Ontario was named after P/O. Malyon in 1958

Sgt. Clifford Henry Thompson. Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium. Grave IVa.D.47. Son of William Henry and Rose S. Thompson, of 141 Inverness Avenue, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, England. Epitaph reads: ‘Our Beloved Son Gave His Life That Others Might Live In Peace And Goodwill.’

Fareham War Memorial, Hampshire

Sgt. William Harbour. Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium. Grave IVa.D.46. Son of Leonard and Nora May Harbour, of 23 North Wallington, Fareham, Hampshire, England. Epitaph reads: ‘Gone But Not Forgotten, In The Sight Of The Unwise They Served To Die. RIP.’

Fl/Sgt. Rex Valentine Donowa. Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium. Grave IVa.D.49. Born in 1923 the son of Valentine Crawford Donowa (B.1890 in Lithgow) and Maisie Donowa (B. 1893), of Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia. Brother to Joy Lralee - born 1926, died 2002 at Cronulla, New South Wales. She had 3 children with her husband James Cadell. A younger brother, Ian born in 1929 passed away in 2002, who it seems never married. Epitaph reads: ‘Jesus Said: I Will Raise Him Up At The Last Day. St. John V1.40.’

The Archivist from Newington College, Mr. David Roberts has also contributed further information: Attended the school between 1935 - 1940. His results from the 1940 Leaving Certificate results show that he obtained the following results; English B, Mathematics B, Geography A, History A, Economics B. The ‘B’ results were a standard pass. The ‘A’ results show that he was an above average student, particularly since, at this period, most secondary school students didn’t stay on for the Leaving Certificate.

Researched by Julie Simpson - relative of Fl/Sgt. Rex Valentine Donowa who would like to appeal for other relatives of this crew to come forward as she has no photos of him during his service. We will also pass on details to the Belgian researcher, Wim Govaerts, who is writing a series on the air war over Belgium.

With many thanks to ABC News of Sidney Australia who conducted an interview with Aircrew Remembered in February 2017 in order to receive relatives of Fl/Sgt. Rex Donowa.

Following that we have had contacts from Melinda Meyer whose father was a close friend of Ian Donowa, the Newington College, Stanmore in Sydney Archivist, Mr. David Roberts, also to the Telegraph Australia who posted an article regarding trying to trace Rex Donowa relatives. Other sources as quoted below. For further details our thanks to Wim Govers and his work on the memorial and research on this crew.

KTY Map added 06.04.2016. KT Fareham War memorial added 09.09.2016 KTY Crew photo added 29.12.2016 CHB Canadian commemorative feature added 13.01.2017 KTY further details added 08.02.2017

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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