AIR Force’s Number 29 Squadron in Tasmania has commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the death of Tasmanian Pilot Officer (PLTOFF) Jack Mitchell during a service in the small town of Apsley.
This year marked the 75th anniversary of the loss of 467SQN Lancaster, ED803 and crew on return from a bombing run over Germany during the Second World War.
The City of Hobart Squadron participated in the memorial service on 22 Jan 19 in the small town of Apsley, an hour’s drive north of Hobart in the picturesque Jordan River valley, where the memorial stands prominent on Sugarloaf Hill.
Sugarloaf Hill is the site where Mitchell climbed to many times during his childhood, and left a small pile of stones with a stick before leaving for combat in Europe.
Commanding Officer of 29 Squadron, Wing Commander Ben Cullen paid tribute to Jack and his crew.
“This is an important and altogether too common thread in the fabric of Air Force history,” he said.
The Bothwell Historical Society and 29SQN lead a memorial service at Sugarloaf each year with the local community, followed by a picnic.
“It’s a peaceful way to commemorate the sacrifice of these seven airmen, and a reminder of how important community is to Air Force.
“I’m glad my Squadron and I can be part of this each year.”
“At this service, at this cross, Jack’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of his crew come home to us and land in the dust at our feet.
“It’s a truly moving commemoration in a beautiful setting.”
On January 22 1944, PLTOFF Mitchell’s 467SQN Lancaster, ED803, was shot down over Eichendorf on its way back from a bombing mission to Magdeburg. It was the only aircraft out of 15 not to return.
PLTOFF Mitchell’s father replaced the small pile of stones and stick with a wooden cross, which was replaced with a steel cross, and has since been turned into a memorial for the entire crew.
All the crew were aged between 20 and 25 at the time of their death, they were:
408312 Pilot Officer J. Mitchell RAAF Tasmania - Pilot
970210 Flight Sergeant J.A. Atkinson RAF New South Wales – Flight Engineer
422482 Flying Officer K.W.P Francis RAAF New South Wales – Navigator
423648 Flight Sergeant R.R. Corcoran RAAF New South Wales – Bomb Aimer
1373631 Sergeant W. Summers RAF Scotland – Wireless Operator
406550 Flying Officer W. Pearse RAAF Western Australia – Air Gunner
427459 Flight Sergeant R.D. Gallagher RAAF Western Australia – Air Gunner