[Oil on canvas
[Oil on canvas 33 x 30.4 cm. AWM ART22962]
'Lost at Sea'
Air War Europe 1939-1945: Bomber Command
I have not had any mail from you since I last wrote…Things are going rather well lately and am creeping the ops in one by one. I have twelve more to do now and then I have finished for six months. We were going to have a big party tonight to celebrate Australia Day but ops are on so that is scrubbed.
[Flight Sergeant J F Worley, letters, 3DRL/7166 AWM]
Flight Sergeant John Worley was 20 years old when he wrote to his parents in Murwillumbah, New South Wales on 26 January 1944. He had already flown eighteen operations in Lancaster bombers over Germany with 460 Squadron RAAF and that night he set off on his nineteenth 'op', another raid on Berlin. John was the rear gunner, an isolated position in the tail of the aircraft. Seated there, away from the rest of the crew, the tail gunner's task was to watch out for night fighters coming up from behind or beneath the Lancaster. John's aircraft failed to return after the raid that night and the aircraft was later discovered to have crashed with no survivors.
The RAAF lost 3486 men on operations with RAF Bomber Command during World War II: nearly 20 per cent of all Australian deaths in combat in that war. The worse moment for the crews of the heavy bombers of RAF Bomber Command – the Halifaxes, Lancasters, Stirlings and Wellingtons, was the bomb run over a blazing German city. Inside a heavy bomber, the crew members would have to cope with the long and tense outward trip to the target, the release of the bombs and the fear of being hit by flak or by shells from a night fighter.
If they were lucky enough to land safely, the crew would return to the operations room to be debriefed. There, or at breakfast, they would discover how many of their friends in the other aircrews had returned.
Flight Lieutenant Don Charlwood RAAF, who flew with 103 Squadron RAF Bomber Command, wrote of how it felt after an 'op':
It's all over now; we straggle through the ops room to go to breakfast. Further crews have come in – crews late because they had been lost, or been shot up by flak or fighters, or lost engines. Some faces have not yet appeared – probably will never appear.