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Bomber Command airmen collage

D-Day 80: Stories of the lost Bomber Command airmen



In Memory D-Day news RAF Family

As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, it is important to pay tribute to the brave airmen of RAF Bomber Command who lost their lives in the fight for freedom. We wanted to highlight a few of these stories shared with us and taken from the book D-Day Bomber Command Failed to Return*.

Maurice Bunnagar.jpg

Maurice Bunnagar (Pilot)

Maurice Bunnagar was just 20 years old when he lost his life piloting a 9 Squadron Lancaster. On the night of 11 - 12 May 1944, Maurice and his crew were sent to attack the enemy military camp at Bourg-Leopold, Belgium. As they approached the target they were attacked by a night fighter resulting in the death of Maurice and his entire crew. Maurice rests in Wilsele Churchyard, Belgium.

Jack Lott in uniform

Jack Lott (Navigator)

On the night of 6 – 7 June, Jack Lott was tasked with navigator duties on his 619 Lancaster – one of over one thousand aircraft tasked with bombing enemy lines of communication. Having bombed their target, the crew became aware of a suspicious aircraft approaching. Suddenly there was a terrific bang and the pilot threw the Lancaster in to a corkscrew. The enemy fighter attacked again and soon flames were streaking back from three of the engines of Jack’s aircraft. Jack and four of his crew mates lost their lives, and he now rests in Bayeux cemetery.

Roy Smith in uniform

Roy Smith (Wireless Operator) 

Canadian Roy Smith had joined 419 Squadron in March 1944. In the run up to D-Day, Roy and his crew were to take part in the ‘Transportation Plan’, attacking rail communications through which enemy re-enforcements would deploy to the battle area. On the night of 12 – 13 May, Roy’s Lancaster crashed and exploded with a total loss of life. He now rests in Coxyde Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Leonard Zingelmann in uniform

Leonard Zingelmann (Mid Upper Gunner)

Australian Leonard Zingelmann arrived at 103 Squadron with his crew in February 1944. In the run up to D-Day on the night of 6 - 7 June 1944, attacking bridges across the river Vire, Leonard’s aircraft was hit by an enemy nightfighter and caught fire. Steadily the Lancaster began to lose height, hitting the ground in a shallow angle that broke off the tail. The main section continued to speed along the ground, shedding burning wreckage, before finally coming to rest a few yards short of a remote farmhouse. There were no survivors from the crash and Leonard is buried in Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.

John Wilson in uniform

John Wilson (Rear Gunner)

In May 1941, John Wilson volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force and in April 1944, aged 21, he took part in essential D-Day preparation operations, as a rear gunner on Halifax’s with 431 Squadron.

In the early hours of 28th April 1944, homeward bound following the attack on the railyards at Montzen, John’s aircraft was shot from the sky by a German nightfighter. There were eight men on board John’s Halifax that night, and there were no survivors. John rests at Schoonselhof Cemetery, Belgium.

*We would like to thank the authors who have shared these stories with us, taken from their book ‘D-Day Bomber Command Failed to Return’ authored by Steve Darlow, Sean Feast, Marc Hall, Andrew MacDonald, Howard Sandall and Peter Cook.