Unfortunately, there is only one known photograph of Ernie and his air-crew, with 3 air-crew members absent from

the collage above.   The RAF serviceman on the left is a ground crew member and his name is unknown.

The full air-crew compliment is listed below, however the name of the air-crew member on the right is not known.

Ernie is in the centre with Flight Engineer, Sgt CT Baker to his right, and Flight Sergeant BP Bennett

to his left. It is believed that the air-crew member on the extreme right, with the officer's cap,

is almost certainly the aircraft's navigator, Flying Officer F. Chappell.

It is worthy of note that all Ernie's combat missions were carried out at night.


Flying Officer EA Fayle, RAAF

Flight Engineer:

Sergeant CT Baker, RAF


Flying Officer F Chappell, RAF

  Bomb Aimer: Sergeant LK Topham, RAF
Wireless Operator: Sergeant RJ Farrell, RAF
MU Gunner: Sergeant ALN Vickery, RAF
Rear Gunner:

Flight Sergeant BP Bennett, RAAF

Most of the operational information contained in this biography has been obtained from the Internet with the main source being the “467 - 463 Squadrons” Website created by Peter Johnson of Caboolture, Qld. (http://www.467463raafsquadrons.com/). I am especially indebted to Peter and congratulate him on his magnificent achievement in archiving this priceless RAAF history. Peter has travelled to England on more than one occasion to gather information and, as just part of this work, he has personally photographed every one of the 1,866 pages of the RAF Operations Record Books relevant to RAAF 467 and RAAF 463 Squadrons.

Acknowledgment is also given for the work undertaken by the late H.M. [Nobby] Blundell in gathering and archiving information about RAAF No.467 and No.463 Squadrons.

The transcribed ‘de-briefing’ notes in this biography may be validated by reference to the accompanying photographs from the official RAF ‘Operations Record Books’. Cross referencing has enabled validation of other material and the source of such material accompanies each article.

The following two extracts refer to the fateful raid on Leipzig on the night of the 19th February 1944. These items are contributions to the BBC’s online archive[1] and were made in recent years by former aircrew of Bomber Command Lancasters although it is believed that neither were members of 467 or 463 RAAF Squadrons.

The first item was contributed by Sgt Alan Morgan (Flight Engineer, Lancaster JB 421):

“.... .... .... .... If the previous raid had been relatively quiet for the squadron then the Leipzig trip proved to be quite the opposite. Again Bomber Command put up over 800 aircraft, but this time, as they crossed the Dutch coast, the German night-fighters were waiting, and a running battle ensued all the way to the target. Erroneous wind forecasts had many aircraft reaching the target area too early: W/C Adams (J8466) had to orbit three times and Lt. Stevens (ND 474) twice. S/L Miller (JB 314) returned early in Q-Queenie with generator problems but on landing gave the following report: “Sky above the North Sea was filled with a/c flying in all directions -- some wiser ones with navigation lights on, most without -- three a/c seen to explode in air, probably due to collision.”

(It was obvious to this observer that “see and be seen” was the preferred option.)

The second item was contributed by Brian Soper:

“On 19/02/44 we were routed to Leipzig. On this raid we took an additional pilot, a ‘2nd Dicky’ trip, a first raid for a new pilot. This was supposed to be unlucky — but we made it. I believe this was also a diversion raid: we were meant to distract the night fighters to Leipzig while the main force went to Berlin. There was 10/10s full cloud which was very thin, but both ground and sky markers were visible. The duration of this trip was about 7 ¾ hours. The following night it was Stuttgart, quite a standard raid with ground markers.”

Airframe Ice Accretion presented a serious problem to Bomber Command as it was a common operational requirement to fly in low and mid-level cloud, an environment where ice accretion can occur. The cruising altitudes of modern aircraft are generally above these levels and consequently the potential is far less prevalent to-day. Also, aircraft are now better equipped should the problem be encountered at lower levels. Ice Accretion can affect aircraft in two ways - (i) Air Frame & Propeller Icing and (ii) Carburettor Icing. Piston engines have either a fuel induction system based on the carburettor or use a form of direct fuel injection. Aircraft piston engines fitted with carburettors are prone to ice accretion in the venturi (air intake) and if this does occur it causes a substantial reduction in power with the risk of complete engine failure if the problem is not properly addressed. The Rolls Royce Merlin engines fitted to Lancasters had carburetted fuel induction systems up till 1943 when fuel injection systems were introduced. Prior to this change, carburettor icing presented a real hazard despite measures to address the problem being available (‘carby heat’). Air-frame icing occurs when sub-zero temperature water droplets freeze on impact with airframe and propeller components - (‘super-cooled’ droplets at altitude remain in liquid form at temps below zero and solidify on impact). Ice can build rapidly and has the potential to distort the aerodynamic design and efficiency to such an extent that the safety of the aircraft can be seriously jeopardised. Many bombers had to jettison their bomb load if encountering severe icing conditions because of an inability to maintain height. Glycol mixtures were used to combat ice accretion on the windscreen and bomb aimer’s dome. Airframe icing occurs only when flying in cloud but Carburettor ice may form at any time.



1.  WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswarClick here to return to place in text.


The reference to No.3 Lancaster Squadron on the cemetery headstone presents a dilemma. RAAF No.3 Squadron was formed in 1916 at Point Cook, Vic and shortly after the unit moved to England to form the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in WW1.

After the outbreak of WW2, No.3 RAAF Squadron, Point Cook, was relocated to Egypt to join allied forces and the squadron saw considerable action in the Mediterranean throughout the whole period. However, it seems that RAAF No.3 squadron was never deployed in England during WW2. RAF Bomber Command included “3 Group” but No.467 and No.463 Squadrons were part of 5 Group so the reference to No.3 Squadron remains a mystery.

Ernie’s official service record  indicates that a period of 2 months elapsed between embarking in Sydney and disembarking in the UK. This supports the anecdotal evidence that Ernie may not have proceeded to Canada from Australia, as was the custom, but completed his advanced training in the UK as his service record indicates extensive periods of advanced flying training in the UK prior to the commencement of combat flying. There is also firm evidence that he was, at some time between October 1942 and August 1943, in the USA for a short period.

There is very little information available concerning Ernie’s life prior to his enlistment in 1941. However, I have been able to glean just a few items of interest. As a student at the Hay War Memorial High School, Ernie proved to be somewhat of a scholar as well as an outstanding sportsman, being the recipient of several awards. His rather quiet personality belied his adventurous spirit as evidenced from the following.

Some short time after leaving school and commencing work he was suddenly hospitalised where he underwent an appendix operation. Following the operation he discharged himself from hospital prematurely despite protests from the nursing staff. Ernie took this action in order to fill his place in a scheduled tennis tournament under way at the local courts. Further examples of his enthusiasm for life and adventure were demonstrated on the occasions that he chose to ride his push bike to work rather than avail himself of a supplied vehicle. To appreciate this situation it should be realised that at this time Ernie was working as a draftsman with the Public Works Department in Hay and that the ‘place of work’ was located at the Maude Weir construction site 34 miles (55 Km) west of Hay, along a rough dirt road. It is known that he chose this option on more than one occasion.

Ernie’s love of sport caught up with him on one occasion. He missed his scheduled embarkation from Sydney in 1942 because of a football injury suffered whilst in Sydney waiting to embark for England. However, he was on his way to England a short time later.

It was known to the family some time prior to the commencement of World War 2 that Ernie’s ambition was to become a commercial pilot. It is somehow fitting that he followed his dream and experienced the thrill and responsibility of command flying albeit in such difficult and dangerous circumstances.


Compiled by Bruce Wall, February 2007

Online presentation, April, 2009.




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