More on Donald Bennett,
air bomber of RAF ME647
In December 2020 Mr Murray Abbott - a nephew Donald Bennett - mailed to me. His mother was a sister of Donald Bennett.
Mr Abbott: ‘On 11 November 2018 (our Remembrance Day) I realized hoe little I knew about my uncle Donald who died on that fateful flight. Since that time I have been trying to create a biography of Donald and in trying to get some history of Donald's formative years while growing up in Stony Mountain…’ His story:
Donald was the youngest of four siblings Winifred Marion, Dorthy Florence and Gwen Estelle. He lived in Stonewall MB with family and his father operated a butcher shop in Stonewall until 1923. They moved to Stony Mountain when his father became employed as a guard at the Stony Mountain prison.
Donald grew up in Stony Mountain and started to attend elementary school in 1927 at the age of seven. In 1935, he went into Matriculation (high school). His marks were not great but with persistence he graduated High School in 1939.
During his school years Donald participated in all kinds of sporting activities, especially hockey. He played for numerous Stony Mountain hockey teams. With the close proximity of Lake Winnipeg, many summer days were spent at Winnipeg Beach with friends and family.
Donald enlisted into an Aircraft Rigging Course (Air Frame Mechanics) with the RCAF on May 3 1940.
He was posted to various stations around Canada:
Toronto Pool, 6 May to 17 May 1940,
St Thomas TTS, 17 May to 2 Oct 1940
CFS Trenton, 2 Oct to 21 Nov 1940,
No. 1 CNS Rivers 21 Nov to 1 Dec. 1942.
On 5 December 1942, Donald started his pilot training.
No. 2 ITS Regina 1 Dec to 6 Mar 1943,
No. 15 EFTS Regina 6 Mar to 1 May 1943,
No. 11 SFTS Yorkton 1 May to 1 June 1943
No. 2 M Depot Brandon 31 May to 16 June 1943 and
No. 7 B7G Paulson 16 June to 17 Sept 1943.
He graduated 29 October 1943 and was granted a commission.
His flight training started in Regina with the Links trainer and Tiger Moths as second seat with several flights as pilot. On the 29 May 1943 training flight log ends.
Donald’s training continued in the fall of 1943 and his training as an air bomber in Paulson and was certified on 24 Oct 1943. On January 3rd of 1944 Donald received a letter from King George the 6th congratulating him on achieving his Pilot Officer ranking.
Donald was shipped overseas to Kirmington, Lincolnshire. He was attached to the Bomber Command and posted to No.8 AFU MONA Anglesey. Flight training started in April 1944 with Ansons and then moving up to Wellingtons in July, Halifax bombers in September 1944 and then to Lancasters in September 1944.
On 18 Dec 1944 Donald wrote a letter to his sister Marion and in the letter he stated. “Well sis twenty-two trips in now so your finger crossing must be helping us. Only eight more and that isn’t very long to keep em crossed is it? Keep em crossed.”
Donald flew many missions over the Ruhr and Essen that it soon became as familiar as the main street of Stony Mountain. He flew with J for Johnny, 166 RAF Bomber command.
Twenty five trips were made with his crew. On the 26th trip his whole crew of seven was lost on the 31 December 1944.
The aircraft, Lancaster I -ME.647, was one of 14 detailed from this unit to attack Osterfield Germany on the night of 31st December 1944. Enemy opposition from ground defenses was only slight and no enemy fighters were sighted. Nothing was heard of the missing aircraft after taking off from base.
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