The first all-Australian crew in Bomber Command
The first all-Australian crew in Bomber Command to complete a tour of operations, with No 466 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, stand in front of their Vickers Wellington bomber at RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire, in 1943.
Pictured here (left to right) are Flight Sergeant James Patrick Hetherington (409049, bomb aimer), Pilot Officer Aubrey Churchill Winston (402605, rear gunner), Pilot Officer Jack Harben Cameron (411284; captain), Flight Sergeant Jack Samuels (412845; W/O – air gunner), and Pilot Officer James Jeffrey Allen (411723, navigator).
James Allen, who had been posted to 466 Squadron on 23 March 1943, and Jack Cameron, who had only arrived at 466 RAAF 24 hours earlier, were among 12 Australian servicemen awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in November 1943. Both men’s citations explain that the honour was awarded due to their ‘skill & fortitude in operations against the enemy’.
Both Aubrey Winston and Jack Samuels would also receive DFCs later in the war for their service, Winston for his ‘enthusiasm & courage on two operational tours’.
Flight Sergeant Jack Samuels, originally from Dubbo in regional New South Wales, received his DFC in 1945 for his ‘courage & devotion to duty on numerous operations’.
In November 1945, almost six months after the cessation of hostilities in Europe, Samuels was one of a group of 31 veteran Australian airmen from 643 Squadron (flying Lancaster bombers) who visited Berlin ‘to inspect the damage their bombs had caused’ in the final stages of the conflict. To his colleagues, he was known as ‘Ruhr-basher’ Samuels.
Sitting in the officers’ mess of what had become RAF Gatow in Berlin, where once Luftwaffe officers would dine, the group of Australians were being served champagne by young German women as Samuels took in the comfortable surroundings. ‘Maybe we joined the wrong air force’, he mused to the group, before taking a sip of the champagne – and shuddering. ‘No – maybe we didn’t!’
Four of the five depicted here survived the war. James Allen however died of injuries on 15 June 1945, two days after Dakota KN468 of 96 Squadron RAF crashed while on a daytime transport flight. A fire broke out and the port engine ceased to function, causing the aircraft to crash east of Dinawa railways station near Patna, in India. All but one of the seven crew and passengers on board were killed.
Royal Air Force official photographer
Image courtesy of the Imperial War Museum London