William Frederick Neill

Sergeant William Frederick Neill was a Flight Engineer in RAF 57 Squadron, part of Bomber Command. His father went on to be Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1946.


William Frederick Neill


Sergeant William Frederick Neill is buried in Belgium but his name is remembered on his mother's headstone in Belfast City Cemetery.

Sergeant William Frederick Neill (531666) served in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. He flew in Bomber Command with RAF 57 Squadron.

Born in June 1918, he was the son of William Frederick Neil and Margaret Neill (née Marshall) of Belfast, Co. Antrim. William Frederick Senior was Lord Mayor of Belfast from 1946-1948.

William had an older brother John Marshall Neill born in December 1913 and an older sister Muriel Neill born on 7th June 1916. A younger sister, Margaret Joan Neill was born in January 1927 and died on 23rd April 1933 when William was 8 years old. At this time, the family lived at 2 The Links, Portrush Road, Portstewart, Co. Londonderry. William Frederick Neill later married Mary Elizabeth McCombe.

Avro Lancaster of RAF 57 Squadron

Imperial War Museum Photo: CH 18371 (Part of the Air Ministry Second World War Official Collection). An Avro Lancaster of RAF 57 Squadron loads with what the RAF called the "Usual" bomb load of 4,000 impact-fused HC 'cookie' bombs, 12 small bomb containers, each containing 236 4lb incendiary sticks. Copyright Pilot Officer Clarke - Royal Air Force Official Photographer.

Crash of Lancaster W4822

Sergeant Neill died on Wednesday 3rd November 1943 aged 25 years old. He was a Flight Engineer on board Avro Lancaster W4822 DX-P.

The Mark I bomber took off at 1722hrs from RAF East Kirkby, Lincolnshire on a bombing raid to Dusseldorf, Germany. It came down over Hechtel, Belgium. 589 planes took part in the raid.

The bombing of the target began between 1942hrs and 2011hrs causing damage to housing and industrial factories. Luftwaffe night fighters shot down 18 Allied planes. A further 13 returned to base with damage.

Oberleutnant Werner Baake of 3/NJG1 shot down Neill’s Avro Lancaster W4822. It was the 20th plane shot down by the German captain. As the plane descended, the crew battled with extinguishers to control the fire before the Captain issued the order to abandon the plane. Pilot Donald R West heroically remained on board making sure the remaining crew reached safety.

Remembering the Lancaster Crew

Last NameFirst Name(s)RankRoleInformation
WestDonald R1st LieutenantPilotUSAAF. Killed aged 25 years old. Posthumously awarded Distinguished Flying Cross.
ClementsRobert SinclairFlight Lieutenant2nd PilotRCAF. Survived and evaded capture.
BuggyNorman FPilot OfficerNavigatorRAFVR 147138. Became prisoner of war no. 3348 at Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria.
ElliottJames McPhailFlying OfficerAir BomberRAFVR. Survived and evaded capture aged 22 years old.
McKerninHarry FrancisSergeantWireless OperatorRAFVR 1079134. Killed aged 23 years old. From Belfast, Co. Antrim.
HeatonFrancis PatrickSergeantAir GunnerRAFVR 1699714. Killed aged 20 years old.
EdmundsJohnSergeantAir GunnerRAFVR 1392733. Killed.
NeillWilliam FrederickSergeantFlight EngineerRAFVR 531666. Killed aged 25 years old. From Belfast, Co. Antrim.

William Frederick Neill’s grave is in Section 7, Row D, Grave 1-4 of Heverlee War Cemetery, Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium. Members of the Lancaster crew were first buried at Brusthem Airfield Cemetery. He lies next to fellow Belfast man Harry Francis McKernin.

His headstone bears the inscription:

A son of Belfast, Northern Ireland, who fought for freedom.

His name is on the headstone of his mother, Margaret Lady Mayoress of Belfast’s grave at J-455 in Belfast City Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Antrim.