AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
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.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

57 Squadron Crest
03/04.11.1943 No. 57 Squadron Lancaster I W4822 DX-P Ist. Lt. Donald R. West DFC

Operation: Düsseldorf

Date: 3/4th November 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 57 Squadron

Type: Lancaster MkI

Serial: W4822

Code: DX-P

Base: RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire

Location: Hechtel, Belgium

Pilot: 1Lt. Donald R. West (DFC Posth.) USAAF Age 25. Killed

2nd Pilot: Fl/Lt. Robert Sinclair Clements RCAF Evaded capture

Fl/Eng: Sgt. William Frederick Neill 53166 RAFVR Age 25. Killed

Nav: P/O. Norman F. Buggy 147138 RAFVR PoW No. 3348 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (L3)

Air/Bmr: F/O. James McPhail Elliot RAFVR Age 22. Evaded capture

W/Op: Sgt. Harry Francis McKernin 1079134 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt.Francis Patrick Heaton 1699714 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Edmunds 1392733 RAFVR Age ? Killed


Taking off from RAF East Kirkby at 17.22 hrs to attack Düsseldorf. 589 aircraft taking part. Bombing commenced at 19.42 - 20.11 hrs causing extensive damage to housing and industrial premises.

The allies lost some 18 aircraft - all to the Luftwaffe night fighters, a further 13 returned with damage. Lancaster W4822 was intercepted and shot down at 19.36 hrs by Oblt. Werner Baake of 3./NJG1, his 20th abschüsse of the war. The aircraft eventually crashing at Hechtel, Belgium.

Left to right: Fl/Lt. Robert S. Clements, F/O. James McP. Elliot (courtesy Gordon Lodge)

F/O. Robert Clements (RCAF) said in his Evasion Report:

‘I was second out of the aircraft and I landed in a field near Exel - I hid my parachute, Mae West and helmet and made straight for the shelter of some woods, where I took out my maps and tried to ascertain my position. I thought I was in N.E. Belgium. I started walking South West by my compass, but found out later that it had been affected by the zip fastener on my gloves and also the fly-button compass which I had sewn on to my shirt cuffs, so that I was actually walking due West. About midnight I came out of some woods and saw an aircraft burning on the ground nearby. A German patrol was coming up the road towards it, so I waited until they had passed and then made my way as quickly as possible through the fields in the direction they had come from.’

After he returned to England, but with the war still in progress, Don’s friend and air bomber, Jim Elliott wrote to Don’s parents:
"Even on that terrible night, when we were under the maximum of strain with both gunners dead and Don at the controls of a burning plane, there was no panic because the skipper was calm. In his quiet tone he told two of the crew to go back with extinguishers and try to control the fire. Without hesitation or question they did so, and worked heroically amid the smoke and exploding ammunition, but all in vain, using all of the extinguishers without controlling it. Then came the order from Don to abandon the aircraft. As bombardier and nearest the bomb hatch, I went first, so from then on my information ceased… Don had his parachute on, Mr. and Mrs. West, but knowing him as I did, I’m certain he would wait until everyone had left before moving. It grieves me to say it, but I’m afraid Don, your son, and my pal, made the supreme sacrifice, for our united cause that night. In a vain attempt to save the remainder of the crew (one other member was left) he hadn’t left himself enough time to get out before the crash came."

Jim Elliot and Maybelle West continued to correspond after the war, and Maybelle West visited Elliott in Scotland in September of 1953. For his actions that evening, Donald West was posthumously awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross, and the California Air Medal...

57 Squadron Lancasters

Although Maybelle West wanted her son to have a proper burial, she understood that the recovery of Don’s remains was impossible. She at least knew that her that her son was a hero. The navigator, Norman Buggey, who had safely parachuted from the plane but had been captured by the Germans, wrote this after the war:
"The complete calm and self possession of Don West, the pilot, and his refusal to leave the controls while there was still remote possibility of saving some of the crew, was superb. I am afraid his action cost him his life."

(1) Hptm. Werner Baake survived the war with a total of 41 abschüsse, became a flight captain with Lufthansa. He was killed in an car accident at Heilsbronn on the 15th July 1964.

Crew graves (courtesy Michel Beckers)

Burial details:

The crew were initially buried at the Brusthem Airfield cemetery, then reburied at Heverlee after the war.

1Lt. Donald R. West (DFC Posth). Son of Floyd and Maybelle West, of Fresno, California, USA. Further information: Joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on 27th August 1941. An experienced pilot with 560 hours of flying time. 7th September 1943, Don transferred to the US Army Air Force (USAAF.) Since he was a trained pilot with experience in flying Lancaster bombers, the USAAF simply left him at his post at East Kirkby when he changed services. The USAAF listed him as being on "Detached Service” with the 57 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.

Sgt. William Frederick Neill. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 7.D.1-4. Son of William Frederick and Margaret Neill, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, husband of Mary Elizabeth McCombe Neill.

Sgt. Harry Francis McKernin. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 7.D.1-4. Son of H. and Minnie McKernin, of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Sgt.Francis Patrick Heaton. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 7.D.1-4. Son of John Francis and Ellen Heaton, of Wigan, Lancashire, England.

Sgt. John Edmunds. Heverlee War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 7.D.1-4. Next of kin details unavailable - are you able to assist?

Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered, November 2014. With thanks to Gordon Lodge of 57 Squadron for photos of Fl/Lt. Clements and Fl/Lt. Elliot.

The beautiful Memorial to 57 and 630 Squadron crews at East Kirkby

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2023
Last Modified: 28 November 2015, 09:38

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor