Warrant Officer Laurence Collins  -  101 Squadron  
   

Warrant Officer Laurence Collins - RAAF

 

 Warrant Officer Laurence Collins was serving as Wireless Operator/Air Gunner on board Lancaster Mk.III LM472 coded SR-V2  during an operation to bomb the synthetic oil plant near Brux, in Western Czechoslovakia on January 16, 1945.

 The aircraft left Ludford Magna at 1748hrs and failed to return. Seven of the eight man crew were killed, including W/O Laurence Collins.

The crew consisted of:

Name

Service

Trade

Hometown

Age

F/O Frederick McGonigle

RAFVR

Pilot

Glasgow, Scotland

-

Sgt John McDowell

RAFVR

Flight Engineer

County Down, N. Ireland

23

F/Sgt John Knight - POW

RAAF

Navigator

-

-

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

27

 

 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 normal crew of Lancaster bomber is seven, but several bombers belonging to 101 squadron were fitted with special equipment, named "Airborne Cigars", known by the shortened name of ABC.

 This 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.

 The pilot’s 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. It is interesting to note, that nothing grew in this field until 5 years after WW2.

 Only one crewmember, Jack Knight- RAAF, somehow escaped from the crashed plane, although injured, was able to walk away from the site, under German Soldier escort, to a nearby village. Any remaining parts of the plane were taken to the railway station in Celsnitz for scrap iron

 One bomb, the biggest, the 4000 pound Cookie, was found unexploded among the wreckage, some pieces of the wrecked plane are preserved in a local museum.

 The surviving crew member, John Knight, was taken by German soldiers to a hospital in Plauen, where his face and hands were dressed and his head stitched, and approximately 1700 hours, 17 January 1945, was taken by stretcher to Revere for further treatment. From then up to his release on 29 April 1945, he was transferred to various hospitals/camps for treatment and internment.

 The bodies of the seven members of the crew that were killed in the crash were taken to Geilsdorf for identification procedures and burial. They were interred in the Geilsdorf Cemetery,. This cemetery is approximately 6 miles SW of Plauen, Germany. On 20 December 1945, the bodies of the seven deceased members of SR-V2 were transferred, for the final time, to the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.

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Laurence and Crew

 

 

Laurence Collins

 W/O Laurence Collins RAAF ,known as Laurie, was the third eldest of seven children (6 boys and 1 girl) of John Thomas and Catherine Collins of 206 Cooke Street, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. He was born on 13 August 1924. 

 Before joining the RAAF in August 1942, he worked as a real estate agent in Ballarat. He was a member of the College Cadets (Army) but joined the Air Training Corps in 1940. After leaving college in 1940 he obtained a training position with B.E.Hayden & Co, Estate Agents of Ballarat and also studied part-time for an Accounting degree at C.Baker, Ballarat from 10th April 1941. 

 He applied to join the RAAF, taking his Oath of Affirmation on 20th August 1942,one week after his eighteenth birthday, enlisting on 9th October 1942 for the duration of the war plus 12 months at No 1 Recruiting Centre, 104 Russell Street, Melbourne and commenced his initial training as an LAC for the RAAF. After initial training at Port Pirie, Parkes and  Nhill he embarked by boat from Melbourne on 27th September 1943, arriving in San Francisco on 16th October 1943. He did additional training in Canada and arrived in the U.K. on 9th November 1943. He passed his Wireless Air Gunner Course on 24th June 1943, and attended No 2 Advanced Wireless Training Course at 2 ANS from 1st July 1944 to 1st September 1944 before being posted to 101 squadron on 10th September 1944 where he commenced operational flights over Europe. He had completed 28 out of his required 30 sorties and was nearing the end of his tour when he was shot down aged just twenty years old.

 

Photos and information courtesy of Ray Collins, research by Linda Ibrom