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
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,"
"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