10/11.05.1944 463 Squadron, RAAF, Lancaster I LL882 JO:J Sqn Ldr. Mervyn Powell DFC
Operation: Lille, France
Date: 10th/11th May 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 463 Squadron, RAAF
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Location: Dumoulin Brickworks 2 km west of Langemark
Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Mervyn Powell DFC. 402817 RAAF Age 29. Killed
Flt Eng: Sgt. Harry Law Moyyneux 1802369 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: Fg Off. Ronald Jacques 134697 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Bertram Fraser 1443752 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt Lt. William Neil Read 406700 RAAF Age 22. Killed
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Fg Off. Robert McKerlie Croft 407199 RAAF Age 27. Killed
Air Gnr (Rear): Fg Off. David Payne Croston 407821 RAAF Age 32. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire at 22:20 hrs to bomb railway yards - some 506 aircraft (291 Lancasters, 187 Halifaxes with 28 Mosquitoes) taking part to bomb various targets - Courtrai, Ghent, Dieppe, Lens and Lille. Reports on the Lille target state that they were successful although many bombs fell on civilian housing.
12 Lancasters were lost on the Lille raid.
LL882 was claimed by Lt. Hans Schmitz, his first Abschuss, from 4./NJG1 NW of Lillie at 3000 m at 00:15 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (16 March 1944 - 11 May 1944) Part 2 - Theo Boiten).
Lt. Hans J. Schmitz claimed one other aircraft before he was killed on the 25th/26th September 1944 at Rinkerode - his aircraft collided with high power cables in bad weather.
The aircraft exploded mid-air with the wreckage falling on the Dumoulin Brickworks at 00:15 hrs. The owner of the brickworks stated that he heard machine gun fire and he believed the aircraft was attacked by a night fighter. All four engines were found some distance from the fuselage and other parts of the aircraft were widely dispersed. The pilot's body was found still in the cockpit strapped to his seat, Fg Off. David Croston was also found in his position within the turret.
Also lost from the Squadron on this operation:
Lancaster I HK535 JO:N Flown by 22 year old, Flt Lt. Eric McLaren Scott 425226 RAAF of Queensland, Australia - killed with 4 other Australian crew and 2 from the RAFVR.
Lancaster I LL881 JO:E Flown by 24 year old, Fg Off. Dudley Francis Ward DFC 420413 of Roseville, NSW, Australia - killed with all other 6 Australian crew.
Above: The original grave markers for three of the crew
From reports, a memorial service was held by villagers on the 11th May with many of the locals placing flowers and cards to the crew. The wonderful teams of the MREU carried out exhumations to determine identity of the crew on the 07th May 1946. Sadly, before their work was far from complete the unit was disbanded due to cuts, despite many protests at the time. To appease some relative the Runnymede Memorial was erected - not an acceptable solution for many. For sure not to the USA who made a promise that any of their crews lost all efforts would be made to identify where their remains lay and if the relative requested they would be taken home - a promise that they fulfil till this day.
Sqn Ldr. Mervyn Powel DFC. Wevelgem Communal Cemetery. Grave E. 464. Grave inscription reads: "HE DIED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE". Born 22 June 1914 in Mackay, Queensland. Son of Thomas Alfred and Elizabeth May Powell, of Mackay, Queensland, Australia. (B.Sc. - Agriculture).
DFC was awarded to Acting Sqn Ldr. Powell whilst with 40 Sqn, London Gazette 23rd March 1943: Citation reads: "Squadron Leader Powell is a flight commander who has taken part in a large number of operational sorties. One night in December, 1942, he was detailed to attack the docks and shipping at Tunis. Despite poor visibility and bad weather, the bombs were seen to burst on the main quay and on ships alongside the quay. At least one ship appeared to disintegrate. This officer has at all times displayed conspicuous devotion to duty and it fe entirely due to his efforts that the results obtained by his squadron have been so successful. He has been a source of inspiration to the whole squadron".
Sgt. Harry Law Moyyneux. Wevelgem Communal Cemetery. Grave E. 467. Grave inscription reads: "IF GOD WE CHOOSE, WE SHALL BUT LOVE THEE BETTER AFTER DEATH". Son of John James Molyneux and Bessie L. Molyneux, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England.
Fg Off. Ronald Jacques. Wevelgem Communal Cemetery. Grave E. 468. Born in November the son of Jack and Mary Anne Jacques pf the Kings Arms, 18 West Street, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England. Also commemorated on the Chipping Norton Town Memorial.
Flt Sgt. Bertram Fraser. Wevelgem Communal Cemetery. Grave E. 466. Son of David and Rebecca Josephine Fraser, of Golders Green, Middlesex, England. His grave inscription reads: "If God We Choose, We Shall But Love Thee Better After Death."
Flt Lt. William Neil Read. Wevelgem Communal Cemetery. Grave E. 471. Born 18th November 1921 in Narrogin, Western Australia. Son of Albert Charles and Sophie Ethel Read, of West Perth, Western Australia.
Fg Off. Robert Mckerlie Croft. Wevelgem Communal Cemetery. Grave E. 469. Grave inscription reads: "HIS DUTY NOBLY DONE". Born 16th December 1916 in Adelaide South Australia. Son of William Henry and Margaret Croft, of 14 Belinda Street, Evandale, South Australia.
Fg Off. David Payne Croston. Wevelgem Communal Cemetery. Grave E. 465. Born 31st December 1911 in Sandwell, South Australia. Son of Roland John and Alice Maude Croston, husband of Kathleen Stalby Croston, of Kensington Park, South Australia.
Researched by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Frank Mahieu for visiting the cemetery and taking the grave photographs for Aircrew Remembered - November 2016. Any relative who would like a higher resolution photo of the grave please don’t hesitate to ask. Also thanks to the Chipping Norton Royal British Legion for information on Fg Off. Ronald Jacques (via Frank Mahieu). Addition of DFC citation for Sqn Ldr. Powell by Ralph Snape (Jan 2022).