Richard John Wells DFC

Wing Commander Richard John Wells was a respected and experienced leader of RAF 108 Squadron when he crashed in Liberator AL577 in Co. Louth, Ireland.

Wing Commander Richard John Wells DFC (39918) served in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. He was the son of Richard Alexander Wells and Ada Wells of Mere Street, Diss, Norfolk.

He was commissioned as an RAF officer in 1937 and posted to the Middle East. The RAF promoted him to Flying Officer on 10th December 1939 only three months after the outbreak of war. By 4th March 1941, he was further promoted to Flight Lieutenant.

Wing Commander Richard John Wells DFC

Imperial War Museum Photo: CM 2380 (Part of the Air Ministry Second World War Official Collection). Wing Commander Richard John Wells, Commanding Officer of RAF 108 Squadron, addresses a Vickers Wellington crew in Fayid, Egypt. Copyright Royal Air Force Official Photographer.

Distinguished Flying Cross

In 1941, Wells received the Distinguished Flying Cross twice with both 148 Squadron and 108 Squadron. He was a well-liked leader with an enthusiasm for combat operations. RAF 108 Squadron built up a worthy reputation under his leadership. He was instrumental in the decision to re-equip the squadron with Liberator planes. With this in mind, he undertook the journey from the Middle East to the United Kingdom.

On 10th June 1941, Wells received his first DFC in recognition of an aerial attack on an aerodrome at Maleme the previous month. In difficult weather, he carried out a dive bomb attack, dropping stick bombs on buildings and planes.

Flight Lieutenant Wells has been engaged on operational flying over a long period during which he has always displayed great determination and enthusiasm, combined with a high standard of technical and navigational ability.

Distinguished Flying Cross Citation – June 1941.

On 24th September 1941, as Acting Squadron Leader, Richard John Wells was mentioned in despatches. On 17th October 1941, he was awarded his second Distinguished Flying Cross. With 108 Squadron, he had led a unit in Tripoli sinking six enemy ships and damaging many others. In Messina, crews took out railway sidings, trucks, and power supplies.

Throughout the short period of less than a month, Wing Commander Wells organised and directed all the sorties which were carried out by his unit and participated in 15 of them himself. He has at all times displayed outstanding leadership, courage, and determination.

Distinguished Flying Cross Citation – October 1941.

RAF 108 Squadron in Egypt

Imperial War Museum Photo: CM 3386 (Part of the Air Ministry Second World War Official Collection). Consolidated Liberator Mark II, AL574 'O', one of the handful of Liberators operated by No. 108 Squadron RAF in the Middle East at this time, parked on a dispersal pan at Fayid, Egypt, with its crew standing in front. Copyright Official RAF Photographer.

Liberator AL577 Crash

Flight Lieutenant Wells died on 16th March 1942 aged 28 years old. He was the pilot of the ill-fated Consolidated Liberator AL577 that came down at Jenkinstown, Co. Louth, Ireland.

It is with deep regret that this Squadron records that the Liberator captained by Wing Commander Wells DFC, carrying crews home for the Liberator Ferry Flight, crashed in Ireland – this was a great blow indeed for the Squadron.

RAF 108 Squadron Operations Record Book – 17th March 1942.

Richard John Wells’ grave is in Section H, Grave 44 of Diss Cemetery, Norfolk, United Kingdom.