Twenty-one -year old married man Pilot Officer Donald Robert Rich was born on January 10th 1922 in Richmond, Australia.
I have not been able to determine the date and conversion unit the crew were posted from. The crew joined “A” Flight under the command of Squadron Leader Geoff Rothwell DFC.
On the 18th Sgt Rich accompanied Flight Lieutenant K Becroft and crew on a mining sortie in Stirling BK705 HA-K, it was his first operational sortie on the squadron. Sergeant Rich and crews first operation was April 20th 1943 when they attacked the Heinkel Works at Rostock, this must have been some baptism of fire to the inexperienced crew. There followed an abortive raid on Duisburg on the 26th, starboard inner engine failure forced a early return. There followed a further nine operations, two of which were early returns due to defective engines (Dortmund 23.05.43 & Dusseldorf 25.05.43).
The crews last operation was on June 21st 1943, they were aloft from RAF Downham Market in Short Stirling BK722 HA-G at 00:15hrs, the target was Krefeld. Operating under control of the JLO Lt. Strube in Raum 6B in Eastern Belgium, Hptm. von Bonin, St.Kpt. of 6./NJG1 destroyed a 218 Squadron Stirling at Sterksel for his 16th victory, but the left-hand engine of his Bf110 G-4 G9+BP was shot out in strong return fire from both the mid-upper and rear gunner of his quarry and von Bonin subsequently completely wrecked his aircraft in a belly-landing at Achel at 02.15 hrs. He and his Bordfunker Ofw. Friedrich Johrden spent the next few weeks in hospital. (Incidentally, the Stirling was also claimed destroyed by Flak of 3. and 4./Flak 591, but Hptm. von Bonin was officially credited with the kill by the OKL/RLM on 20 December 1944). (with thanks Dr Theo Boiton)
Three of the crew were killed including the pilot, four survived the encounter, sadly however Sergeant McDonald RCAF died while in captivity in March 1945.
The memorial at Maarheeze was unveiled on 5 May 2000. The monument is made of a granite altar originally from the Church of the nearby Lewes.