Family History






460 Squadron RAAF & 550 Squadron RAF


Andrew Cromie was born in Camberwell, Victoria, on 14 January 1923. He attended Mont Albert Central School and Scotch College, and then worked as a clerk for a file manufacturer before enlisting in the RAAF on 30 January 1942. He was posted to 1 ITS, Somers, before moving to 1 WAGS (Wireless Air Gunners School), Ballarat, on 30 April. He then proceeded to 3 BAGS (Bombing & Air Gunnery School) also at Ballarat. He was granted regular leave throughout his time here and was awarded his Air Gunners Badge on completion of the course in early November. He was then granted a further 9 days leave before embarking for the U.K on attachment to the RAF on 6 January 1943.

Upon arrival in the U.K he was posted to 27 OTU, Litchfield, training on Wellington bombers, and was promoted to F/Sgt on 12 May. Cromie then proceeded to 1656 Conversion Unit, Lindholme, Yorkshire, on 26 July for conversion to Lancaster heavy bombers. His first operational posting came on 31 August when he was assigned to 460 Squadron RAAF at Binbook as a wireless operator. He completed 12 of the 24 missions carried out by 460 Squadrons Lancasters over Europe during his posting. This included two trips to Berlin on his last two missions. All of these missions were flown with the crew of P/O Albert Collier RAAF. Collier and Cromie being the only Australians among the five other British crewmen.

In November 1943 the RAF formed 550 Squadron at Waltham, near Grimsby, as a Lancaster heavy bomber squadron of No. 1 Group. To facilitate this, crews were drawn from other squadrons of which John Cromie's crew was one. Operations began with the squadron around the time John arrived at Waltham on 25 November. The lead up to his first mission with 550 was a frustrating one. With the squadron offered up for operations on five consecutive days, only to be stood down each time for various reasons. It is not known if John was a superstitious man but it must have crossed his mind that his next mission would be his 13th. And when the crew finally got the all clear to go on 2 December, the target designated for the night's mission must have filled him with trepidation, Berlin!

Bomber Command put up 458 Lancasters, 18 Mosquitos and 15 Halifax's for the raid. 550 Squadron contributed 12 aircraft, with the Collier crew flying Lancaster BQ-V/LM301, taking off at 1653 hours. The formation made no major diversions and took a direct route across the North Sea and Holland on route to Berlin. The Germans identified Berlin as the target 19 minutes from the city and had many fighters waiting for the bombers. Around 120 miles out of Berlin, just north of Brunswick, John Cromie was standing in the astrodome and had just reported some route markers well astern of the aircraft to the navigator. Suddenly he was knocked down by a violent shaking of the aircraft. Apparently hit by a flak burst...





460 Squadron Lancaster W4967 "P" for Peter, Alias "Fooship II" flown by the Collier crew on seven missions. (AWM UK507)




 460 Squadron Lancaster ED664 "Aussie 2" flown by the Collier crew on a mission to Munich on 2 October 1943. (AWM UK0487)








24th Battalion AIF


Henry Eaton (alias George Fredericks) was born in Lal Lal, Victoria, on 12 December, 1889, to Ada Williamson, a 17 year old girl from Shefield, England. He was adopted out to Charles and Emily Eaton, but took on the name George Fredericks when Charles died and Emily remarried. He worked as a carpenter with the Victorian Railways and joined the militia. Serving with "G" Company, 7 Battalion, of the 6th Australian Infantry. Upon the outbreak of war he enlisted on 15 March 1915. He was assigned to "C" Company, 24th Battalion, AIF. George was promoted to Corporal on 8 May. the same day he boarded H.M.A.T Euripedes for overseas service. Arriving in Egypt his battalion undertook training before being shipped off to the Gallipoli beachead.

On route his transport H.M.T Southland was struck by a torpedo from a German U boat. Several men died in the resulting explosion and  evacuation. When lowering lifeboats into the water several men, including William Bowen, Henrys friend and future wifes second cousin, were tipped into the water. The boat then fell on the men. William was not seen again and is believed to have drowned. The ship was grounded at Lemnos and Henry eventually arrived at Anzac Cove in early September as part of the Suvla Bay offensive. His battalion, along with the 23rd Battalion, manned the defences at Lone Pine only weeks after the battle of the same name. With thousands of dead littering the area after the battle, disease rates soared. Within 6 weeks Henry had taken ill and was evacuated to the hospital ship Delta. Here he was diagnosed with typhoid and was sent to Port Said, Egypt, for recouperation. 6 weeks later he was sent home to Australia, becoming a reruiting Sergeant but later being disharged as medically unfit.


 Left: Henry in 6th Australian Infantry Militia Uniform.     Right: Henry (second from left) plays the tourist in Egypt.








181 Squadron RAF


Doug Guest was born in Geelong, Victoria, on new years day 1922. He was studying to be an architectural draughtsman before he enlisted in the RAAF reserve on 5 August 1941. Two days before the attack on Pearl Harbour he enlisted in the regular air force and was posted to 1 I.T.S at Somers, Victoria. He completed his elementary flight training at 11 E.F.T.S, Benella, before embarking for Canada on 19 August 1942. He completed his Canadian training At 14 S.F.T.S, Ontario, and was awarded his flying badge on 20 January 1943. He was promoted to Pilot Officer the next day, and Flight Officer in July. Embarking at Halifax on 30 March 1944, he arrived in the U.K on 8 April, and was posted to 53 OTU flying Hurricanes. Finally he was posted to 3TEU for conversion to Hawker Typhoons. Doug arrived in Coulombs, France on 20 August, and began his frontline service with 181 Squadron RAF. Just in time to participate in the dying throws of the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, in which Typhoons of the 2nd Tactical Air Force played a major role in the destruction of German armor attempting to escape the Allies encirclement. The battle was a crushing defeat for the Germans and resulted in their rapid retreat from France. So fast was the Allied advance that 181 Squadron moved bases 3 times (Creton, Amiens, and Brussels) before arriving at Einehoven, Holland on 22 September 1944. By this time supply lines were critically stretched and German resistance had stiffened. It would be February before he arrived at his last base at Helmond, Holland, as a Flight Lieutenant.

 181 Squadron pilots in front of their first residence in Holland. Front row, from left to right: L.P. Boucher, R.D.W.McKenzie (KIA 13.10.1944), A.E.S.Vincent, R.K.Appleby, D.W.D. Guest (KIA 13.2.1945), R.Hurrell, K.Goddard, R.E.Gardiner, H.K.Lyle (KIA 8.12.1944), R.F.Galbraith (KIA 5.4.1945). Back row: D.Fox, Rat (the Squadron batman), G.Clubley, J.Rendall and K.C.Hanna.



 Left: Lou Boucher DFC, Dutch Flying Cross   Right: Sgt Robert Gardiner

The squadron had a heavy work load, and had lost many pilots killed or taken prisoner. Fellow Aussie and 181 Squadron pilot Bob Gardiner allowed me to view his log book over this period, in which he listed the destruction of locomotives, and Tiger tanks, among many other targets. Bob was shot down three times, and walked back through enemy lines twice. On one occasion when hit by flak his engine failed, and was forced to land in a wheat field. As he bounced along the field his Typhoon began to smoke heavily, and he jumped from the still rapidly moving plane moments before it blew up. A wrenched knee his only injury.  Bob was lucky but others were less so. On the 13 February while on a Ranger mission West of Meschede, Germany, Doug was flying with B flight Commander Lou Boucher DFC, Dutch Flying Cross. As he commenced a low level attack on a target Doug struck a high voltage cable, unseen by Boucher. He ploughed into the ground and was killed instantlty. Doug was 23. Bob Gardiner spoke of 'Dougie' with affection, describing him as a likable fellow who was extremely shy with the ladies, and described him as a very keen and capable operational pilot. Although mastering one of the most potent ground attack aircraft of its time, Bob also revealed that amazingly Doug never learned to drive a car. One time his keenness to be involved got him into trouble, as Lou Boucher explained in 124 Wings history.

"During the winter our ground crews had to work almost entirely in the open and performed miricles in keeping aircraft serviceable, but despite this we had reliability problems. Frequently after take-off a fault developed in the Typhoon, the pilot had to turn back and, since we operated in pairs, this meant that his partner had to turn back too. To offset this we took off with an extra aircraft and if all was well when we reached the 'bomb-line' the extra aircraft was sent back to base. On one occasion when we were well into Germany, there was a sudden call to 'break' and an aircraft reported slightly below and directly behind us. The formation scattered and when I spotted the offending machine, I found that it was our reserve Typhoon which, instead of returning to base as ordered, continued to follow us, being determined not to miss out on an operation. The pilot was an Australian, Doug Guest, who was a very good and keen operator. There was no alternative but to let him continue with us, once we had sorted ourselves out, but he had quite a wigging when we got back to base and did not try that one again".

See Also:

RAAF Casualty Database

181 Squadron as part or 124 Wing arrived B58, Melsbroek, one of the Brussels airfields, on 6 September 1944. The servicing echelon took up residence in one of the elaborately camouflaged buildings vacated by the Germans. In the foreground is a 181 Squadron Typhoon (EL-U JP672), which was a replacement for one of the 'Falaise Gap' losses, and the same aircraft in which Douglas Guest crashed to his death on 13 February 1945. (IWM CL3981)









Max Larkan was born in Stawell, Victoria, on 18 January 1910. He worked as a bank clerk before enlisting in the RAAF Reserve on 9 June 1941. He enlisted for aircrew training with the regular air force on 10 October, and was posted to 4 ITS Victor Harbour, South Australia, where he commenced training as a pilot with the rank of LAC 2. He was promoted to LAC on 31 January 1942, and in early February was posted 3 EFTS, Essendon, Victoria. He was awarded his flying badge on 2 July, and at 32 years old would have been considered quite old as newly qualified pilot. Larkan was promoted to Pilot Officer on 17 September and on the same day posted to 6 SFTS, Mahala, South Australia, where he trained on Avro Anson's. On 17 March 1943, he was promoted to Flying Officer and two weeks later was posted to 3 OTU, Rathmines, New South Wales. Here he began flying Consolidated Catalina flying boats and also completed a conversion course for Vought Sikorsky Kingfisher flying boats.

On 24 May, Catalina A24-39 piloted by instructor F/Lt Brian Hartley 'Tubby' Higgins was detailed by S/Ldr R O. Thurston to proceed to Port Stephens in order to make an inspection of the state of the water surface, and report on its suitability for rough water landing practice. Higgins was an experienced Catalina pilot who had distinguished himself undertaking numerous dangerous missions to Rabaul, Truk, and Gasmata with 11 Squadron RAAF, and had earned a DFC in the process. Max Larkan and F/Sgt A.F Craddock would act as second pilots, and a further six RAAF personnel would make up the crew. Departing Rathmines at 0815, the crew arrived at Port Stephens and attempted a landing opposite Wonderrabah Beach at 0915. However upon landing the aircraft crashed. Air gunner Sgt John Johnson emerged from the wreck seriously injured, and Armourer AC1 Kenneth Carlyle Stow escaped suffering from immersion and shock. The rest of the crew perished. The bodies of F/Lt Higgins and Fitter LAC Henry George Lovett were recovered from the crash site by naval ratings from a nearby naval establishment. Six days later the bodies of Max Larkan and Wireless Operator F/O Norman John Brown were found washed up on a beach at Port Stephens, as were the bodies of Fitter Cpl. Thomas Henry Poole, F/Sgt Alan Fullerton Craddock, and Fitter Cpl. Joffre David James in the following two days. All were buried at Sandgate Cemetery, Newcastle. Larkan left behind a wife and two children under five years old.

On 3 June 1943, Lt. Gen. George Kenney, commander of the US 5th Air Force, directed that Jacky Jacky Airfield at the northern tip of the Cape York Peninsula be renamed Higgins Field to honour F/Lt Brian Higgins DFC.

See Also:

Service Record

RAAF Casualty Database 



Group portrait of 4 Initial Flight Training School, Course No. 21, "C" Squadron, 12 Flight. Max Larkan is on the extreme left, middle row. Ten members of this group would be killed in action or killed in aircraft accidents.(AWM)