Warrant Officer Hilton Craig BELL

Service No: 413946
Born: Fairfield NSW, 6 July 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 10 October 1941
Unit: No. 106 Squadron (RAF), RAF Station Metheringham
Died: Air Operations (No. 106 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ME668), France, 8 July 1944, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Sidney and Violet Hilda Bell, of Fairfield, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Fairfield NSW
Remembered: Panel 259, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 118, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

On the night of 7 July 1944 Lancaster ME668 took off from Metheringham to part of a Squadron attack on the flying bomb dump at St Leu, D’Esserent, France. Fierce opposition was encountered by the formation and ME668 did not return to base after the raid. Following post war enquiries and investigations, it was established that the aircraft crashed and exploded at Les Gatines, D’Oulines, France, some 33 kms north of Dreux. Four crew members were killed and three became Prisoners of War.

The crew members of ME668 were:

Warrant Officer Hilton Craig Bell (413946) (Wireless Operator Air)
Sergeant William Bert Gladstone (1835119) (RAFVR) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Flying Officer William Gordon Hardcastle (151165) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Flying Officer A G Kinnis (J/26316) (RCAF) (Air Bomber) PoW
Flight Lieutenant Geoffrey Norman Marchant (421814) (Pilot) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 30 October 1945
Flying Officer Frank Gordon Paterson (J/28547) (RCAF) (Rear Gunner)
Sergeant F Wells (1852186) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer) PoW

Following post war enquiries and investigations, it was recorded that the remains of Warrant Officer Bell could not be located.

Flight Lieutenant Marchant reported that “they crossed the French coast at 12,000 feet in the vicinity of Dreux when the aircraft’s starboard inner engine was hit by flak and caught fire. He ordered the engineer to feather the airscrew and operate the extinguisher button, which was done. As the fire did not subside he ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Immediately afterwards it was hit from each quarter by two enemy fighters and Flight Lieutenant Marchant stated that Warrant Officer Bell and Sergeant Gladstone lost their lives in the air. The engineer and bomb aimer baled out at 12,000 feet. The aircraft was governable but had no lateral control and there was fire in all four engines, the bomb bay and most of the fuselage. The top of the cockpit was blown away and the aircraft went into a shallow spin. Flight Lieutenant Marchant baled out through the cockpit top at 500 feet and states that the aircraft crashed near the town of Dreux.”


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/5/603
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

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