Flight Lieutenant William John DONNER DFM

Service No: 403026
Born: Clapton, England, 13 March 1918
Enlisted in the RAAF: 7 December 1940 (at Sydney NSW)
Unit: No. 156 Squadron (RAF), RAF Station Warboys
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM), 23 May 1943
Died: Air Operations: (No. 156 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ND358), Germany, 20 February 1944, Aged 25 Years
Buried: Hanover War Cemetery, Niedersachsen, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William Arthur and Cora Donner; husband of Phyllis Donner, of Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Sydney NSW
Remembered: Panel 121, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

DFM Citation (service with No. 50 Squadron (RAF)): “This NCO was an Air Gunner in Flying Officer Southgate’s crew which carried out a very successful tour. He took part in more than the average number of sorties and at all times showed a marked enthusiasm to fly against the enemy. Most of his sorties were against Germany’s heavily fortified areas and on 24 October 1942, he took part in a successful daylight raid on Milan. For his enthusiasm and devotion to duty, he is recommended for the non-immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Medal. 23 May 1943.”

At 2351 hours on the night of 19 February 1944 Lancaster ND358 took off from Warboys detailed to bomb Leipzig, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base. A later report by a Missing Research and Enquiry team stated “the aircraft crashed at 0300 hours on 20 February 1944, approximately half a mile south of Zasenbeck on the road to Plastau.
The aircraft exploded on impact and all the crew members were killed.”

The crew members of ND358 were:

Flight Lieutenant William John Donner DFM (403026) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Warrant Officer John Webster Gibb DFC (632040) (RAF) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Cedric Dennis Gough DFC (129664) (RAFVR) (Second Navigator)
Flying Officer Ralph Leonard Reeves (146103) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner)
Squadron Leader Anthony Douglas Saunders DFC (111991) (RAFVR) (Pilot)
Flight Lieutenant William Meredith Sterns DFC (J/5306) (RCAF) (Navigator)
Pilot Officer John Wilkinson Taylor (54339) (RAF) (Flight Engineer/Bomb Aimer)


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, 166/10/185

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