Don, as he was known to his friends, was born on the 1st February 1922 in Hobart, Tasmania, and enlisted in the RAAF on the 23rd June 1940 in Melbourne, Victoria.
Don was posted to 452 Squadron in about May 1941, which means that he was probably a founding member of the Squadron as it was only formed that month. At that time, it was the first fighter squadron in which the flying personnel, with the exception of the two Flight Commanders, was entirely Australian. The Squadron was also the first Australian squadron to form in Britain during the Second World War in accordance with Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Initially based at Kirton-in-Lindsey and flying Supermarine Spitfires, the Squadron operated from a series of airfields in south-eastern Britain. The focus of its operations were the skies above occupied France and Belgium, where it escorted bombing raids and conducted sweeps to engage enemy aircraft. The Squadron was also employed to conduct defensive patrols over Britain and the English Channel. During its first year of operations 452 Squadron established itself as one of the most successful squadrons in Fighter Command, destroying 62 enemy aircraft and damaging another 17.
Unfortunately, on the 22st January 1942, Don was accidentally killed over the English Channel. Reports indicate that he had taken off at 1355 hrs to lead three other Spitfires for an escort of mine-sweepers and to join another section led by Flight Lieutenant Thorald-Smith. During the course of this operation, Don called up on the R/T saying, “I am going in sea”, giving his position at the same time. One of the other pilots, Sergeant Harper noticed an oil leak on his windscreen. A search was carried out on the course, and Don was soon found lying on his back in the water, his parachute alongside. It was believed that he was unconscious when sighted. Flight Lieutenant Thorald-Smith ordered his section to stand-by while he climbed to 3,000 to give fixes, but his section mistook his instructions and followed him up. After transmitting long and slow messages, they came down to 100 feet again, but could find no trace of him and after orbiting for 40 minutes, the section returned.
The photo is of the pilots of 452 Squadron RAAF at RAF Station Kirton-in-Lindsey. From left to right: 287473 Sergeant Paul St John Makin; 400141 Flying Officer Keith Kipling Cox (accidentally killed in the UK, 23 January 1944); possibly Archie Stuart; Flight Lieutenant Brendan Eamonn Fergus “Paddy” Finucane RAF, DSO, DFC & Two Bars (killed during operations over Etaples, France, on 15 July 1942, aged 21 years); 407078 Ian Arthur Lace Milne; 402120 Sergeant James Neate Hanigan (killed on active service at Carlisle, England, on 7 September 1941, aged 24 years); 402129 Frederick Revis McCann; 402144 Squadron Leader Raymond Edward Thorold-Smith (killed during operations over the Timor Sea on 15 March 1943, aged 24 years); 257414 Squadron Leader Robert Wilton Bungey DFC (killed in a ground accident in South Australia on 10 June 1943, aged 28 years); 400166 Flying Officer William Douglas Willis (killed during operations near Rouen, France, on 18 September 1941, aged 24 years); possibly 402007 Flight Lieutenant Alex Roberts; 400148 Flying Officer Donald Edwin Lewis (accidentally killed over the English Channel on 21 January 1942, aged 19 years); possibly Flight Lieutenant Dougas; 404086 Sergeant Andrew Gordon Costello (killed during operations over the UK on 5 July 1941, aged 23 years); 400213 Squadron Leader Keith William “Bluey” Truscott DFC & bar (killed in an accident near Exmouth Gulf, WA, on 28 March 1943); 402115 Sergeant Richard George Gazzard (killed during operations over Belgium on 19 August 1941, aged 21 years). Absent: 404087 Pilot Officer Raife James Cowan, 408022 Justin O’Byrne (later POW); 402232 Pilot Officer William Davies Eccleton (killed in action in France on 19 August 1941, aged 25 years); and Pilot Officer R.T. Holt.
Flying Officer Donald Edwin Lewis is remembered at Runneymede Memorial. (Web master: The Air Forces Memorial, or Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, England, is a memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from air forces of the British Empire who were lost in air and other operations during World War II. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen is engraved into the stone walls of the memorial, according to country and squadron. Thanks to Wikipedia.)
Paul Carter and Phil Listemann
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association