Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Appeal from Down Under to help find family of RAF man

AN AUSTRALIAN had made an appeal to local people in a last ditch effort to find out about an RAF Sergeant from Hillsborough who died on the same flight as his older brother during the war.

Ray Collins, who is 74 and lives in Mebourne, is trying to locate family, friends, or acquaintances of Sergeant John Ritchie McDowell (Jimmy), attached to the 101 Squadron at Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire.

He was a member of the crew on a Lancaster Bomber which took off at just before 6pm on January 16, 1945 to attack a synthetic oil plant in Brux, West Czechoslovakia. The plane LM472 was the only aircraft not to return. It was shot down between the German towns of Hof and Pluen.

There were eight crew on the flight, 4 RAF, 3 RAAF and one Canadian. Only one RAAF member surviving.

"My brother W/O Laurence Collins (RAAF) was also member of this crew," explained Ray. "This is why I am interested."

The crew members were Flying Officer Frederick Desmond McGonigle RAF Pilot, Sergeant John

Richie McDowell RAF Flt. Engr, Flight Sergeant Rochester Warren Lee Hart RAAF Bomb Aim, Warrant Officer Laurence Collins RAAF W/Air Gnr, Pilot Officer Jack Karl Armour RCAF Navigator, Sergeant Robert John Becket RAF Air Gnr, Sergeant Daniel Conroy RAF Air Gnr and Flt Sergeant John Edward Knight RAAF Navigator. "I have been able to trace the families of the three Australians and the Canadian, but have been unable to connect with any relatives of the four RAF members," continued Ray.

"John Knight was the lone survivor, but passed away in Sydney on August 9, 1999. The remaining seven members were buried in the Berlin, 1939-1945 War Cemetery.

"John Ritchie McDowell (Jimmy to other crew members) was the son of John and Mary Ann McDowell of Hillsborough, Co Down, Northern Ireland. He was 23 years of age at the time of his death. These are the only details that I have been able to find out.

"My brother Laurie Collins was 20; I was only 11 at that time. There were seven children in our family; our mother passed away in 1944, before Laurie, and dad passed away in 1964. All my siblings have passed away, and I am the surviving member of the family (now 74) I have been married for over 50 years and have nine children and 19 grand-children."

Ray is determined to find out all he can about his brother and the rest of the crew who lost their lives during the war.

If anyone can help with information about John Ritchie McDowell (Jimmy), email Ray at

Ulster Star