Wing Commander Richard John Wells DFC (39918) served with the Royal Air Force. He died in Ireland on 16th March 1942 in the Liberator AL577 crash.
Wells 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. On 4th March 1941, he was further promoted to Flight Lieutenant.
Wells with RAF 108 Squadron
In 1941, he 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. Royal Air Force 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.
Distinguished Flying Crosses
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 aircraft.
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.
Liberator AL577 Crash
On 16th March 1942, he piloted Liberator AL577 when it crashed in Co. Louth, Ireland. The plane was on a ferry flight carrying nineteen men of RAF 108 Squadron from Egypt to RAF Hurn in Dorset, England. Wing Commander Richard John Wells was an experienced combat pilot at 28 years old.
The crew had received warnings of bad weather on their flight to the UK. Reports were acknowledged but they did not return to Egypt as requested. Over the English channel, Wells and his crew first experienced difficulties.
The bomber drifted off course over Ireland’s east coast. They believed city lights below to be Dublin and headed in the direction of RAF Greencastle in Co. Down. By this time, the plane was in terrible weather conditions and running low on fuel.
Around 1410hrs, Wells’ Liberator AL577 crashed on Slieve na Glogh on the Cooley Peninsula in Co. Louth. Thirteen others including further officers of 108 Squadron lost their lives in the crash.
Remembering Richard John Wells
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.
Wing Commander Wells was the son of Richard Alexander Wells and Ada Wells from Mere Street, Diss, Norfolk, England. His grave is in his hometown in Norfolk, United Kingdom.