Hi people,

Sorry in advance about this being a long post….

I am looking for information about my great uncle who was a member of raf 101 squadron during WWII. His name was Frederick Desmond McGonigle (Flying Officer Frederick Desmond McGonigle, 179064). He was the pilot of Avro Lancaster Mk.III LM472 SR-V2, which was shot down during an operation to bomb the synthetic oil plant near Brux, in Western Czechoslovakia on 16/17 January 1945. He may have joined the raf in April 1941 but information is a bit unclear at the moment and he may have transferred to the raf in 1943…He was a pilot officer by/in 1944 and a flight officer by 3rd January 1945. I am looking for official information, but additionally, if their happens to be anyone who knew him/or any other members of the crew during his/their time in the raf I would be interested in hearing from them.

I am aware that the brother of one of the other crew members (F/Sgt Laurence Collins)is researching this crew and has made contact with the families of all the crew members (most recently my own) except (to date) Beckett and Conroy.

The crew of LM472 SR-V2 consisted of

F/O Frederick McGonigle RAFVR Pilot Glasgow, Scotland 25

Sgt John McDowell RAFVR Flight Engineer Co. Down, N. Ireland 23

F/Sgt John Knight - POW RAAF Navigator Penshurst,New South Wales, Australia 21

F/Sgt Warren Hart RAAF Bomb Aimer Mackay, Queensland 20

F/Sgt Laurence Collins RAAF W/Op/AG Ballarat, Victoria, Australia 20

Sgt Robert Beckett RAFVR Air Gunner - -

Sgt Daniel Conroy RAFVR Air Gunner - -

P/O Jack Armour RCAF Special Equipment Operator Hamilton, Ontario, Canada 27

The details as of the crash as I am currently aware (as on collins.htm) are as follows: At 1748 hours on 16 January 1945, Lancaster MkIII serial LM472 Code SR-V2 from RAF 101 Squadron, with a crew of eight, took off from Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire, Great Britain, on a bombing operation to attack a synthetic oil plant near Brux, West Czechoslovakia. It was due to return to base, 0247 hours 17 January 1945. The aircraft was part of a total of 231 Lancaster (7 Lancasters from 101 Squadron-equipped with ABC equipment) and 6 Mosquito’s (total 237 aircraft), from RAF Bomber Command Nos. 1 and 5 Groups, and, although the raid was considered a complete success, as only one of the 237 aircraft (LM472 code SR-V2) did not return. The aircraft and crew were posted as missing, and subsequently confirmed as being shot down, with one survivor, over enemy territory. At approximately 2204 hours, 16 January 1945, the burning plane flew very low over the village of Geilsdorf, to such an extent that the villagers, within the village, were in fear of the aircraft crashing into their homes. Apparently the pilot’s (F.D. McGonigle) intention seemed to be to land in some snow covered fields, but unfortunately, the aircraft clipped some high tension light wires on the edge of the field, about 30 metres from the road between Ruderitz and Geilsdorf, causing the bomb laden plane to explode. Eye witnesses of the incident stated that there was a large whitish explosion seen at 5026N, 1200E, clearly visible in the night sky. This was confirmed by another report, received from the crew of an aircraft from 619 squadron, reporting an explosion at 2209 hours, at the same location-this position corresponds with the place between the villages of Hof and Plauen, where the plane crashed.

Having had a look at the online digital versions of the casualty reports for two of the RAAF members of the crew (Collins and Hart) it would seem that the in the aftermath of the plane not returning that the raf believed that the plane may have been shot down by flak. There was also a report by a crew of possibly seeing a parachute close to brux…but I think this was a red herring. When John Knight was rescued from the pow camp he stated in his official report that the plane had received fire from an enemy plane (and not flak) and one of the left engines caught fire…and to cut the story short…that the plane blew up just after the captain advised everyone to bail out at c.10, 000 ft having wrestled to keep the plane flying for about two mins. This obviously contradicts the eyewitness accounts but I think the fact that knight’s head had been split open means that his recollections of the crash may not have been entirely accurate. However, it does raise the question as to whether the plane was shot down by flak or an enemy fighter?
Having looked at the raf raid report http://www.na237.net/raid_report.html for the 16/17th January 1945 it would appear that enemy fighters were encountered/ engaged on the brux run as a Lancaster shot one german plane down en route, which was also when LM472 went down. But this does not answer the question…

Does anyone know if there are german documents or reports relating to this incident which would confirm how the plane was shot down? The casualty reports state that german documents containing information about the fate of the aircrew were obtained by the british in the months following the incident but the information quoted is minimal…

The information in the casualty reports also state that there was no radio contact between LM472 and either the base or other planes following take off…would this have been standard procedure or unusual for this to have happened?

I also have some further related questions but before I list them I will just like to clarify that I am aware of how to obtain the service records through the RAF Disclosures Section (this will be done in the not too distant future) and I am awaiting a reply from the raf museum as to whether they hold any relevant documentation (it should be in the next week or so).

So with that in mind I am also wondering if anyone would have information about Des’ service record (I am pretty sure he did his training in Perth, Doncaster and Salisbury S. Rhodesia) or any information about which sorties Des flew on? One thing I (think I) do know is that he was on leave when D-Day happened and (apparently) he couldn’t believe it happened without him.
Some other information I have, which is quite possibly/probably inaccurate states that Des volunteered to fly the brux mission having completed his tour of service as one plane needed a pilot. However, the crew of LM472 were Des’ usual crew, so this again is contradictory…Did the whole crew in fact volunteer to do one extra flight?

Also would LM472 have been the crews usual plane? I am having trouble establishing on the internet if crews generally flew just one plane or whether it depended on the mission or whether a plane was fit to fly….some of the service records I have seen on the net state that particular crews did their flying in just one or two aircraft, but others seem to have flown in different planes almost every mission….

And finally does anyone know what the nickname of LM472 was and/or what nose art did it have?

I hope some of you out there can help me out!!

Edited by thorthemighty (28/10/09 02:06 AM)