466 Squadron Halifax III HX337 F/O. William Noel Thomsett Russell DFC
Date: 22/23rd April 1944 (Saturday/Sunday)
Unit: No. 466 Squadron (motto: 'Brave and true'). 4 Group
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire
Location: Basses Arches. Belgium
Pilot: F/O. William Noel Thomsett Russell DFC. Aus/410122 RAAF Age 30, Killed
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Gordon Percival Holder 185105 RAFVR PoW No: 3586 Camp: Dulag Wetzlar
Nav: W/O. David Purcell Aus/410379 RAAF PoW No: 3676 Camp: Slalag Kopernikus
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. George Bridges Hall 21111 RAAF Safe - evaded
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. Roy Sigmont Aus/410820 RAAF Safe - evaded
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Carson Richard Draper R/6943 RCAF PoW No: 3571 Camp: Stalag Luft Heydekrug
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William Michael Cashman DFM. Aus/410869 RAAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
From the Squadron ORB:
15 Aircraft from the squadron were ordered and became airborne. One returned early with engine trouble and jettisoned bomba In ses. Fourteen attacked the target and returned safely.
Bombs dropped on primary target: - 105 x 1000 Lb. M.C. plus 90 x 500 1b. M.G. plus 6 x 500 1b. G.P.
Photographic Results:11 Aircraft obtained ground detail, 2 obtained Fire Tracks, and one aircraft with slow operating shuttar obtained bomb bursts and fires.
Weather.- cloudy over the enemy coast but clear over the target with a light ground haze. 10/10 S.G. tops
6,000 feet over sea dispersed inland. No cloud in the target area with good visibility. Ground haze at the target prevented observation of resulta but F.F.E. were concentrated, all aircraft bombing the Red ground markers.
The master bomber directions were heard by all crews who report a terrific concentration of bombs on the markers. Early arrivals reported a little light and heavy flak but this was apparently overwhelmed. Fighter activity was negligible, a very quiet trip.
HX337 took off at 22:16 hrs and was listed as missing.
Three versions of how their aircraft came down exist. According to a statement by F/O. Roy Sigmont made later the aircraft had been in a collision with another aircraft, severing the tailplane at 04:00 hrs. The crew were ordered by the pilot to bale out. He evaded capture with the assistance of various locals at Châtelineau together with Fl/Sgt. George Hall. They remained there until they were liberated.
Fl/Sgt. Holden in his statement wrote: Flak hit us and then a night fighter shot us down.
The other version (which we feel is correct) is that they were shot down by Lt. Klaus Helm of 3,/NJG4 at 00:52hrs. Lt. Klaus Helm of 3,/NJG4 intercepted at 5,400 metres 10 kilometres south-south-east of Namur. Halifax HX337 crashed in a wooded area at Basses Arches in Belgium. This was his second claim of 4 before he was killed on the 03/04 of May 1944. (see Kracker Archive for further details)
Above: the usual crew of HX377: Rear L-R: Fl/Sgt. Gordon Holder, W/O. David Purcell, F/O. Willia Russell, Fl/Sgt. George Hall, Fl/Sgt. Douglas Quarti. Front: F/O. Roy Sigmont and Fl/Sgt. William Cashman.
Keith James Russell (brother of the pilot) - Born on the 19th of October 1919. Enlisted on the 27th of February 1942. Lived at 24 Point Nepean Road, Seaford, Victoria, Australia.
Fl/Sgt. George Bridges Hall. Born on the 23rd of July 1915 at Newcastle, New South Wales. Enlisted on the 13th of May 1949. Lived at 7 Off Union Street Cooks Hill. Left the service 22nd of August 1945.
F/O. (promoted during captivity) David Purcell Was born on the 31st of July 1920 in Yarraville, Victoria, Australia. A clerk prior to service with P.M.G Engineers in Melbourne. Enlisted on the 06th of December 1941. Lived at 58 Powers Street, Yarraville. Left the service on the 10th of October 1945.
Fl/Lt. Roy Andrew Sigmont - born on the 26th of February 1907 in Carlton, Victoria, Australia. Son of Walter Sigmont (died 26th November 1970) and Elva Beatrice (née Dowsett - died 12th June 1966 age 80). Lived at Pt. Nepean Road, Sleaford. Husband of Rosina Veronica Sigmont (née Sullivan - died 13th July 1992, age 87). Left the service on the 16th of April 1946. Married in 1949, Charlotte Lauraine Beyer, at the Holy Trinity Church, Kew, Australia. Roy died on the 26th of November 1970.
F/O. William Noel Thomsett Russell DFC. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 2.E.7. Born on the 16th of December 1913 in Skipton, Victoria, Australia. Enlisted at Melbourne on the 08th November 1941. Son of William (died 20th April 1950 and Emmeline Florence Russell (died 14th February 1962, age 79) of 11 Drummond Street, South Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Also remembered on family grave at Ballarat Old Cemetery. The DFC was presented to his brother Keith James Russell as his father was disabled. Epitaph: 'Peace, My Son: Eternal Honour To Your Name'.
Fl/Sgt. William Michael Cashman DFM. Heverlee War Cemetery. Grave 2.R.6. Born on the 27th of October 1922 in Mordialloc Victoria. Enlisted on the 27th of March 1942. Son of William and Marie Fernande Cashman, of Malvern, Victoria, Australia. Epitaph: 'Here Lies A Fearless Knight'.
Fl/Sgt. Douglas Edward Cameron Quarti Aus/415825 RAAF was the usual mid-upper gunner of this crew. It is thought that he was replaced as he was injured by shrapnel on Halifax HX345 during the first of three attacks by enemy aircraft over Stuttgart 15/16th of March 1944. The aircraft received a large hole in the port flap and over a hundred others in the fuselage. Despite this, the pilot continued to the target and released its bomb load. The pilot landed the aircraft safely at Enstone in Oxfordshire at 03:39hrs. Finished his service as a P/O. serving as an instructor with No. 7 Operational Training Unit on the 08th of November 1945. Died 05th November 1989 at age 68 in Karrakatta, Westen Australia - Karrakatta Cemetery and Crematorium. Husband of Charlotte Lauraine Sigmont (Née Beyer - died 15th June 1991, age 77)
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to AIR-27-1926-7/8, Air 27-1926-5/6 National Archives, Theo Boiten 'Nachtjagd Combat Archive', Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Paradie Canadian Archives, National Archives of Australia.
Other sources as quoted below: