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5th June 1945

Avro Lancaster Mk I (NN799)
Mission of 5th June, 1945
Body thrown back by the sea at Plévenon (22) on 25th July, 1945

(contributor : Jean-Michel Martin)

Avro lancaster np 460 squadron raaf
Avro Lancaster Mk I no 460 Squadron RAAF

© with courtesy

Crew (460 Squadron RAAF):

- Pilot Officer (Pilot) Saxe Eric COVERDALE (434498)

- Flight Sergeant (Flight Engineer - pilot) A. MADDOCKS (1684275)

- Flight Sergeant (Bomb Aimer) 
Leonard Harris DUNCAN (436729)

- Flying Officer (Navigator) Pauric Denis LANE (436506)

- Flight Sergeant (2nd Navigator) Robert Georges BATTY (430587)

- Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator - Air Gunner) George Richard CRUTE (436695)

- Flight Sergeant (Mid-upper Gunner) Keith Henry McLEAN (430977)

- Flight Sergeant (Rear Gunner) John Bullfinch THOMAS, 28 years old (16696)
Plévenon communal cemetery  (22, Brittany)


The story of Flight Sergeant John Bullfinch THOMAS is strange. Born in Perth, Australia, on October 26, 1917, he was the son of Robert and Johanna THOMAS. On Tuesday June 5, 1945, World War II ended a month ago. From Brinkook, England, the Lancaster Mk 1 NN 799 took off for a training flight over France. Everything was going normally. The pilot, Saxe Eric COVERDALE, was piloting this aircraft. Flight Sergeant THOMAS occupied the rear turret of the bomber. In the middle of the day, the four-engine aircraft flew over the Saint-Malo region at an altitude of 12,000 feet when suddenly, the autopilot broke down, leading the aircraft into a dizzying descent. Arrived at 700 feet, COVERDALE finally succeeded in taking back the controls of the Lancaster. A few minutes later, the aircraft was stabilized and under control and headed the return route. Suddenly, a crew member noticed that John Bullfinch THOMAS was no longer on board. He warned everyone. They discovered that his parachute tangled in the controls of the turret he occupied. Did he think the aircraft was about to crash ? Probably yes. He hadn't told anyone of his decision to bail out. Everything must have happened very quickly. The rest of the crew returned safely to the base.

He therefore fell into the sea. His body was found on July 25, 1945, on the beach of "Les Grèves d´en Bas in Plévenon", Côtes d´Armor, west of Cap Fréhel, Brittany. He was 28 years old.

Lancaster NN799 served with 460 Squadron from 02/14/45 to 04/18/45. He carried out 13 missions and was struck off on May 7, 1947.


Grave john bullfinch thomas
The grave of John Bullfinch THOMAS at the communal cemetery of Plévenon (22)

Jean-Michel MARTIN (ABSA 39-45)

Sources : 
Air Historical Branch (RAF) - Letter of 05/12/2007.
ADF-serials :
Forum Royal Air Force Commands

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