211 Squadron Badge

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RAAF personnel

RAAF personnel of 211 Squadron

Many Australians served in 211 Squadron over the course of its existence from 1937 to 1946. From Grantham in 1937 and 1938, to the Middle East, the Western Desert and Greece from 1938 to 1941, resting as 72 Operational Training Unit in late 1941, in strength to the Far East in 1942 for the Sumatra and Java campaign, and finally in the 1943-1945 Burma campaign, at least 99 Australians were associated with 211 Squadron, 98 as trainee or as operational aircrew, with one non-flying Cypher Officer.

Most of them were RAAF personnel, but five were RAAF Point Cook graduates who joined the RAF under the pre-war RAAF/RAF Short Service Commission exchange scheme. Another man joined the RAF on a Short Service Commission directly, while one man was commissioned directly into the RAAF Administrative and Special Duties Branch. The remaining 92 were war-service aircrew volunteers, destined for the Empire Air Training Scheme and, for most, RAF squadron service. Three died in training with 72 OTU. Of the 48 Australian aircrew who took part in 211 Squadron operations from 1940 to 1945, 16 lost their lives in action in Sumatra and Java, and one in captivity as a PoW. In Burma, two more RAAF aircrew were lost, missing in action.

From Point Cook to the Middle East and beyond...
From the earliest World War II account of the Squadron, it was clear that an Australian connection existed, with the appearance in Wisdom’s Wings Over Olympus of the Australians Allan “Dinkum” Farrington and “Buckshot” Barnes, Squadron MT officer.

Research among the various official records uncovered enough for at least an outline for the service of 40980 F/O ART Barnes, sufficient to draft the beginnings of a narrative for him. His service number indicates that he entered the RAF directly, on a Short Service Commission.

It was soon after the 211 Squadron website first went on-line in 2001 that the Edwards family in New South Wales made me aware of the Australian origins of 40045 F/O WH Edwards DFC (later F/Lt of 107 Squadron, taken PoW 12 May 1940). The mementoes and other records gathered patiently by his family and kindly made available to me, made compiling a narrative for Bill Edwards possible.

In Farrington’s case, his late widow Alison Legge originally got in touch over some additional details for my little book 211 Squadron RAF: Greece 1940—1941. Since the 211 Squadron story went on-line, their son John Farrington has kindly gone to great lengths to provide much additional information and in turn, I have replied in kind as other fragments come to hand. All these led, in time, to an account of the RAF service of 40046 Flt Lt AL Farrington (later S/Ldr 582 Squadron, KIA 29 August 1944), which has turned out not only to parallel that of Edwards, but to intersect with it.

Edwards and Farrington both enlisted in the RAAF well before the war, qualifying as pilots at RAAF Point Cook from the July 1936 ‘A’ Cadet course entry. Having graduated as pilots, both were selected and commissioned in the RAF under the RAAF/RAF Short Service Commission exchange scheme in the July 1937 party (and one of the last to embark).

Between 1926 and 1938, the scheme resulted in at least 149 young RAAF cadet pilots transferring to the RAF, their Cadet year at Point Cook counting as the first of a five or six year RAF commission. 33 of these young officer pilots later died or were reported missing in RAF service. The men of the exchange scheme were properly Australian members of the RAF, and accorded service numbers of a particular RAF set. Their service records to this day are held at RAF Cranwell.

The Grantham Trio
It was noteworthy enough that 211 Squadron had been home to two members of this scheme. Later developments in this part of the Squadron story initially showed that at Grantham in early 1938, Bill Edwards and Allan Farrington had the company of at least one other Pilot Officer of Australian origin.

The Squadron was shortly to embark for the Middle East and Geoff Grierson's print of the formal Squadron photograph taken at Grantham, dated March 1938, was the key. Among the 15 officer pilots and four Sergeant pilots of the Squadron, three Pilot Officers of Australian origin were revealed, by their darker uniforms and RAAF eagle cuff badge.

    Grantham Trio, 211 Squadron 1938
    211 Squadron Grantham March 1938 (Grierson collection)

A comparison of Air Force List editions from October 1937 to January 1939 against London Gazette entries and against RAAF rolls of Point Cook cadets for the exchange scheme then revealed another surprise: not three but four 211 Squadron Pilot Officers were of RAAF officer-cadet origin. All four had been commissioned in the RAF under the scheme, as their service numbers show:

    39453 P/O DG Boehm (RAAF Pt Cook January 1936 Course)
    39455 P/O DA
    Cameron (RAAF Pt Cook January 1936 Course)
    40045 P/O WH
    Edwards (RAAF Pt Cook July 1936 A Course)
    40046 P/O AL
    Farrington (RAAF Pt Cook July 1936 A Course)

For a time it had seemed that Cameron had qualified as early as the 1930 Course, then came the final surprise in this little mystery. In the United Kingdom, Guy Black had unexpectedly found pages from a 1930s album of 211 Squadron photographs, taken by an unknown airman. Boehm, Cameron and Farrington were all shown, in RAAF blue and eagle cuff badge, all named by the photographer.

    211 Squadron, Aldergrove January 1938

    PO DG Boehm

    PO DA Cameron

    PO AL Farrington

    P/O DG Boehm

    P/O DA Cameron

    P/O AL Farrington

    Source: Guy Black collection

Further searching with the assistance of the RAAF Museum Point Cook uncovered the RAAF Cadet Course group photographs for January and July 1936, with personnel identified by surname. The RAAF Pt Cook January 1936 course photo showed Boehm and Cameron together. Here, enlargements from the original scans show the four cadets destined for RAF commissions and posting to No. 211 (Bomber) Squadron as it reformed.

    RAAF Pt Cook January 1936

    RAAF Pt Cook July 1936

    Cadet DG Boehm
    Cadet DA Cameron

    Cadet WH Edwards

    Cadet Al Farrington

    Cadet DG Boehm

    Cadet DA Cameron

    Cadet WH Edwards

    Cadet AL Farrington

    Source: RAAF Museum Pt Cook

    The Grantham Trio: 211 Squadron Grantham 1938
    The Grantham Trio: 211 Squadron Grantham March 1938 (Grierson collection)
    Farrington (left), Boehm (centre) and Edwards (right): three Pilot Officers of Australian origin, now confidently identified. Cameron is absent. The same shot appears on
    Edwards’ page. A number of people gave a hand in solving this puzzle: Adrian Fryatt, Guy Black, Mike Grierson, Errol Martyn, Dean Norman and Terry in particular, with assistance from RAAF Historical Pt Cook, and from John Partington.

Boehm and Cameron were in fact the first two Australian Pilot Officers posted to the re-forming Squadron, on 24 June 1937 according to the October 1937 Air Force List. While the July 1937 list showed S/Ldr RJA Ford as the sole member at Mildenhall joining on 5 July, the Squadron diary records Boehm as senior officer in command as of his arrival, on 24 June!

Cameron and Boehm both appeared in each Air Force List roll for the Squadron thereafter to January 1938. Farrington was posted in on 27 November 1937, and Edwards on 8 January 1938. By the April 1938 Air Force List, Cameron had been posted to 226 Squadron. Boehm, Edwards and Farrington continued to appear in the 211 Squadron roll of each edition up to and including January 1939 (the last with Squadron rolls).

P/O DG Boehm 39453
Don Boehm was the first to be promoted in 211 Squadron, to Flying Officer (January 1939 Air Force List). He was later posted to 84 Squadron (perhaps before September 1940) and also served in Greece, but died in the accidental crash of Blenheim IV T2382 with his crew (Sgt KG Lee and LAC H Jackson) at Kiphissia on 1 April 1941. Aged 28, Boehm was by then senior 84 Squadron flight commander.

    Boehm DG To Marion June 37 113mod
    To Marion, with all my love, Donovan. June 1937 (Aistrope family collection)
    P/O Boehm in RAF blue. This looks to be a self-portrait in quarters, apparently on posting to 211 Squadron at Grantham by the date. Don Boehm sent a number of photographs back to Marion at home, typically with chatty descriptions on the rear. Although he later decided to remain in the RAF, the two remained friends until his death in Greece on active service with 84 Squadron in 1941.

    Boehm DG Colonials Wittering March 37
    Taken at Wittering March 1937 (Aistrope family collection)
    From “port to starboard”: P/O Boehm (left, in RAAF blue), APO Eddison (Australian, in RAF blue), APO Branson (Canadian, likewise), APO Darling (Canadian, also), P/O Cameron (Australian, RAAF blue) with an English airman (Sergeant) pilot, far right in Sidcot. That’s snow on the ground behind Boehm.

    He remarked several times on the varied origins of those he met in the late 1930s RAF. This group just happened to be there on the day: “nearly 50% of the RAF officers are Colonials” he remarked.

    The aircraft here are Hart Trainers of 11 Flying Training School, Wittering, K4981 to the rear being on charge there from late 1935 until as late as May 1939.

    BoehmDG  Aggie c1938 115mod
    P/O DG Boehm with “Aggie” c1937 (Aistrope family collection)
    “I’’ll have something much better in 1942” he noted on the back, probably thinking of the end of his Short Service Commission. Sadly, not to be. Boehm is in RAF blue and wears a small moustache. Undated, but perhaps some time before the next photogpraph.

    BoehmDG Williams Miranda Grantham 19 Dec 37 114mod
    Off Church Parade Grantham, 19 December 1937 (Aistrope family collection)
    Don Boehm, left, still with moustache, John “Red” Williams the Welsh pilot, right, with “Miranda”. All spick and span: “hence the proud father look” remarked Boehm. They had just returned from Church Parade. A nicer looking, perhaps more recent vehicle. Both sport the same grille badge: not an AA membership, apparently.

    BoehmDG Wheres the Fire Aldergrove Jan 38 112mod copy
    Where’s the fire? Aldergrove, January 1938 (Aistrope family collection)
    A bit of off-duty horseplay on a dull chill day. Don Boehm rings the fire-bell madly as the “driver” looks on. The fire-truck is serious kit on an RAF station, of course. This vehicle wears dismountable half-tracks on the rear driving wheels, and the bonnet is covered against the cold. The state of the field that Winter left them dealing with the minor drama of
    nose-overs but no fire, fortunately.

    BoehmDG Mess Aldergrove Jan 38  110 v2
    Our “active service” mess, Aldergrove, Nth Ireland Jan 1938 (Aistrope family collection)
    Left to right: Boehm, Cameron,
    Farrington, Williams (a Welshman) Magill (of NZ) and Couchman (England). There is one other face obscured in the shadows of this bold “available light” shot, unidentified behind Couchman. If they all look a bit stiff, they are holding the pose for a very long exposure.

    Boehm DG Hind 117mod grayscale 72
    P/O DG Boehm, Ramleh, Palestine, Sep 1938 (Aistrope family collection)
    In the cockpit of an anonymous Hind while active against the
    Arab Revolt.

    Boehm DG Helwan Oct 1938 116mod
    Helwan, October 1938 (Aistrope family collection)
    Back from Palestine, a confident look in a shady (and
    popular?) spot for a snap to send home to friends.

39455 P/O DA Cameron
The first to be posted out, Cameron went on to serve with 226 Squadron in France. Aged 25, he was shot down with his crew in Fairey Battle K9183 on operations SW of Luxembourg 10 May 1940, dying of his wounds on 12 May. Cameron lies in Diekirch Communal Cemetery. His Observer and Gunner, WOs CS Hart 580370 and JG Ward 542939 survived the war as PoWs. F/O RW
Bungey, later W/Cdr DFC, another graduate of the Point Cook July 1936 ‘A’ Course, was a 226 Squadron comrade of Cameron and also a friend of Allan Farrington.

40045 P/O WH Edwards
Edwards, in England on Blenheim Delivery Flight duty, found himself retained there on the outbreak of war and promoted F/Lt to serve with Embry's 107 Squadron. Shot down over Maastricht 12 May 1940, he survived captivity and returned to Australia post-war, if in poor health, dying in 1955.

40046 P/O AL Farrington
Farrington remained with 211 Squadron the longest, rising to F/Lt and surviving Greece. Returning to England in 1941, tour expired, after a period of instructing he joined 582 (Pathfinder) Squadron flying Lancasters out of RAF Little Staughton. He was killed in action with his crew over Denmark on 29 August 1944 .

An Australian in command
Recently it has emerged that Squadron Leader JWB
Judge 32217, commanding officer of the squadron from late February 1939 to late July 1940 in Egypt, was also an Australian. As OC 211 Squadron, Judge oversaw the Greyhounds conversion to the Blenheim I, their long Desert sojourn, and their first weeks of active War.

211 Squadron and 72 OTU
The formation and operations of 72 OTU are discussed in some detail in the Air Historical Branch
Narrative of the Middle East campaigns for the period to January 1942. In June 1941, 211 Squadron is noted as a “reserve squadron” tasked with forming 72 OTU in the Sudan and eventually including on strength 18 Blenheim Is and latterly at least 20 Mark IVs.

The official record of 72 OTU, the Operations Record Book (TNA AIR 29/686) begins with a summary of the period September 1941 to December 1941, covering the formation of Middle East OTUs, the work of 211 Squadron in training and as an OTU nucleus, and the ultimate formation of 72 OTU with a strength of the order of 1,000 airmen.

On withdrawal from Aquir in Palestine that June, the Squadron had proceeded under the command of S/L Blomfield via Heliopolis, Ismailia and Wadi Halfa to take post at Wadi Gazouza in the Red Sea Hills of The Sudan.

From June to mid November 1941 the Squadron operated there as a reserve training squadron and ultimately to provide a nucleus for No 72 OTU, mainly for the final training of RAAF aircrew. Photographs of this period are among those of my father Sgt CFR Clark, his crewmate Sgt Bill Baird and of Allan Conrad.

By late July, Blomfield had been replaced by W/Cdr Macdonald. In signing the Log Books of the RAF aircrew instructors (Baird and Clark, eg) and of the RAAF personnel under training (like RM Barclay, Bill Burnside, Lindsay “Charger” Cameron, Les “Perce” Payne and Jim Vernon) the various commanders continued using their 211 Squadron designations until about 11 November: the 13 crews of No 1 Blenheim Operations Course passed out the following day.

No. 72 OTU was formally established at Wadi Gazouza on 18 November 1941. Sadly, three Australian aircrew died in the course of training there.

Aircrew and groundcrew of 211 Squadron remained attached to the rapidly expanding OTU until briskly extracted, en masse, on 20 December 1941. On that date 211 Squadron set out from Wadi Gazouza to re-establish itself at Helwan, pending departure to the Far East equipped with 24 Blenheim Mark IV aircraft.

The size of the 211 Squadron aircrew party remains uncertain on re-forming but came to number 90 or more (42 of them RAAF men) by late January 1942. The initial groundcrew strength can more be readily counted, as the loss of some 300 men at short notice was noted dourly in the 72 OTU Operations Record Book. The 211 Squadron movement order and nominal roll of the 292 airmen of the ground party to depart by train for Helwan (under the now practised command of F/Lt Dundas DFC) was also appended to the ORB. There are many names in the roll familiar from Greece and from the Far East PoW rolls. The majority of these men set out as the Squadron’s Sea Party, many of them ultimately falling captive in Java in March 1942. In all, the Squadron set off for the Far East in January 1942 with a total strength of about 500 men.

RAAF personnel: 211 Squadron and 72 OTU, Middle East 1941
A partial roll of RAAF men posted to 211 Squadron or 72 OTU at
Wadi Gazouza from May to October 1941, from various personal accounts and other records.

A number (Cameron, Fraser, Furmage, McLellan, Prentice, Tonkin and Thornton, for example) were posted to 211 Squadron in Palestine as early as May 1941 without the benefit of an OTU course. At the time, the Squadron was operational with ‘A’ Flight, with ‘B’ Flight undertaking aircrew training. The RAAF men remained, to pass the Blenheim Operations course at Wadi Gazouza.

Les Payne and and several other Queenslanders had stuck together and were in a similar fix: already with 11 Squadron in Palestine when it was discovered that none of them had passed an OTU course. So off to Wadi Gazouza they went, and thus they find their place in the 211 Squadron story.

Some, like Charlie Pailthorpe, were posted to 211 Squadron in early June 1941 at Heliopolis, as the Squadron was stood down to reserve status for training duties, the first Blenheim operations course requiring some 50 flying hours and of nominally six weeks duration, weather and serviceability permitting. In the event. the 13 crews of No 1 Course only passed out on 12 November 1941.

Like Longmore, Nourse and Thomson, Mervyn Scope was apparently with one of the later courses. No 2 Blenheim Operations Course began at Wadi Gazouza in October 1941 to be carried out largely under 72 OTU control: seven crews passing out on 3 January 1942. Thereafter, No 3 Course completed on 18 January again with seven crews passing out, followed by No 4 Course on 31 January 1942 with 10 crews.

There are now 45 RAAF personnel identified here, from course photographs (of Burnside, Baird, Barclay, Keeping and Payne); an Australian course menu; Australian War Memorial, CWGC and Australian Archives records; the recall of surviving Australians Barclay, Payne, Frith, and Gaston, and the histories of 45 Squadron and 84 Squadron. Although service identities for some have proved elusive to date, there is no reason to doubt their Australian origin.

Sixteen of these men did not survive the war, three of them (Sgts Skinner, Dunstone, and Thomson) lost in an accident while training at Wadi Gazouza.

    211 Squadron and 72 OTU June—December 1941
    RM “Bob”
    Barclay DFC 400168 (Tas) (later of 45 Squadron RAF)
    Bell T 402184 (NSW) (113 Squadron KIA 9 September 1942)
    Barrett David CH 405993 (11 Squadron RAF, later of 25 Squadron RAAF)
    NA
    Bruce 400668 WOp/AG 211 Squadron Jan 1942 Air Party, en route att 45 Squadron, Burma. Later of 84 Squadron
    MK “Bill”
    Burnside 400188 (UK, Vic)
    Lindsay Douglas “Charger”
    Cameron 408006 (Tas) (11 Squadron RAF)
    Roy “Prairie” Flower 400170 (Vic)
    Arch Fraser (Astor Archibald Fraser 400131 (Vic))
    GG
    Furmage 408009 (Tas, later of 45 Squadron)
    Ron Gabrielson 407150 (SA)
    Bill Godby
    GW Hartnell 404097 (11 Squadron RAF)
    Peter Haynes 406039 (WA)
    D Jennings
    Kirby (possibly John Albert Kirby DFM 405246 (460 Squadron KIA 30 Mar 1944)
    AC
    Longmore 407680 AFC (84 Squadron 1942, 34 Squadron RAAF AFC 1944)
    McLellan WS 402246 DFC (11 Squadron, 45 Squadron)
    MacLennan, Hugh Alexander 404107 (11 Squadron RAF KIA 9 April 1942)
    RP
    McMillan 406220 WOp/AG (to 223 Squadron, later 55 Squadron and awarded DFC)
    JC
    McNamara 406459 Pilot 211 Squadron Jan 1942 Air Party. Att 45 Squadron killed on ground 25 Feb Mingaladon
    AS
    Middleton 406028 P/O Observer 211 Squadron June 1941, 223 Squadron RAF July 1941 KOAS 17 July 1941
    Jack Nankervis 407034 (later of 45 Squadron)
    FGJ “Jack” Nell 400120 (Vic) (11 Squadron RAF KIA 9 April 1942)
    AGM
    Nourse 407180 (84 Squadron 1942, 113 Squadron 1943 MIA 25 May 1943)
    CD “Charlie”
    Pailthorpe 406091 DFC (WA, later of 45 Squadron, 3PRU, 681 Squadron)
    PL
    Payne 404114 (11 Squadron and later, 38 Squadron)
    DW
    Penn 407274 Observer 211 Squadron Air Party: en route att 45 Squadron, Burma.
    CH
    Pierson 407590 Observer (to 223 Squadron, MIA 1 September 1942, Malta)
    SJ Prentice 402135 (11 Squadron, 146 Squadron)
    J Quirk 400124 (NZ, Vic)
    TG “Theo” Richards 402006 (NSW) (KIA Malta 2 November 1942)
    Mervyn
    Scope 404121 (Qld) (later of 223 Squadron)
    SC
    Thomson 400671 (84 Squadron 1942. FEpoW survivor)
    DC “Doug” Thornton 400129 (Vic) (45 Squadron)
    Al Thomas (possibly AW Thomas 402095 (NSW))
    KV Tonkin 407187 (11 Squadron)
    Travers AR 408017 (Tas) (11 Squadron KIA 9 April 1942)
    Sgt HEM “Ted” Tyzack 404128 (pilot, remustered as ground staff Corporal to serve with 10 Squadron RAAF)
    Vernon, James Reginald 407143 (SA)
    Watt, Noel Alexander Sgt 404223 (Qld) (11 Squadron RAF, KAO 15 March 1942)
    White, Sydney Walter “Wally” Sgt 404191 (11 Squadron KAO 15 March 1942)
    Bill Wicke (SA) Possibly Donald William Wickes 407476 (SA, KIA 114 Squadron 15 April 1944. Prior ME postings not recorded)

    Losses July—December 1941
    Sgt Pilot John
    Skinner 407673 KAO Wadi Gazouza 25 November 1941 Z9612
    Sgt Observer Colin Dunstone 407226 KAO Wadi Gazouza 25 November 1941 Z9612
    Sgt WOp/AG James Thomson 400682 KAO Wadi Gazouza 25 November 1941 Z9612

In the nature of things, many of these RAAF men went on to other RAF or RAAF Squadrons on completion of their courses. Among them, many went to either 11 Squadron RAF or 45 Squadron RAF, while others served with 84 Squadron or 113 Squadron: Blenheim boys together. Some examples follow. Others still are discussed in the Far East context, below.

RM “Bob” Barclay
Originally a Launceston boy, Bob Barclay enlisted in Melbourne in June 1940. After initial RAAF training in Australia, he was posted to the Middle East and thence to 211 Squadron at Wadi Gazouza for his Blenheim Ops course as a WOp/AG from June 1941 to early November 1941.

Bob went on to 45 Squadron with his pilot P/O GG Furmage RAAF and Observer P/O C Pailthorpe RAAF in late November 1941. He stayed on with the Flying Camels until 1945, in Blenheims in the Middle East, and Vultee Vengeance and Mosquito operations in the Far East, with Geoff Furmage as his pilot: they had been mates at school and so remained until Geoff’s death in 2001. When Bob marched out of the RAAF in November 1945 a Flight Lieutenant W/Op with DFC, he had no less than 114 operations in his log book.

In the course of a cheerful correspondence with me, Bob added a number of names to the RAAF story: he and Bill Baird shared several matching Wadi Gazouza photos in their collections. The Australian War Memorial also holds a number of official photographs of 45 Squadron RAF in India, including several of Bob and his mates at ease. Unsurprisingly, he never mentioned the award of his DFC in August 1945 for 45 Squadron service. I had to find out about that myself.

From Bob’s collection of treasures came a delightful memento from a happy August 1945 “picnic race day” at Bhopal Embarkation Depot, shortly before repatriation to Australia. The Royal Drongo Turf Club race guide devised by depot personnel gives the flavour of the meet. Race 2 The Indian Steaks was for 12 yr olds...obviously a tough event! Among the runners (donkeys, all) rated with a chance: Deficiency (by Airmen out of Kit). Good one, Bob!

    For non-Australian readers, a “drongo” is generally a person who’s a bit of a dill and quite possibly a mug punter—a no-hoper, in short. In the 1940s an RAAF recruit was also, with heavy irony, a “drongo”. The colt Drongo first ran, well fancied, at Flemington in the 1920s but never placed higher than second in 37 starts, retiring in 1925 the archetypal “drongo” who couldn’t win a trick. In contrast, the Spangled Drongo, Dicrurus bracteatus, is a starling-like bird of the eastern and northern Australian rainforests, glossy black and wholly proficient, in both insect hunting and in aggressive defence of young nestlings.

Robert Montrose Barclay DFC died at the age of 96 on 28 May 2013, in the small western Victorian town that had long been his home. Farewell, old friend.

Bell T 402184 Sgt KIA 9/9/42
With 211 Squadron from 7 June 1941 to 10 December 1941. Shown in Glory in Chaos or Bloody Shambles as present in 211 or on the ferry flight to the Far East, but according to RAAF records left 211 Squadron before the FE campaign, in which he served with 113 Squadron until his death. Like Travers, apparently associated with 211 Squadron operating as 72 OTU.

Sgt Maurice Kennedy (Bill) Burnside
Of English birth, he joined the RAAF in Australia. Posted to 211 Squadron on 6 July 1941, he started his OTU Navigator/Bomb-aimer course on 15 July 1941. His papers in the Australian War Memorial (PR00491) include his Log Book, personal diary, navigation course notes, a photograph album and a large quantity of loose photographs. Five of Burnside’s photographs are in the AWM on-line Picture collection (P02127.009 to P021127.013), including the aftermath of the great storm at Wadi Gazouza.

    Wadi Gazouza, Sudan. cJuly1941
    Wadi Gazouza, Sudan. cJuly1941 (AWM image P02127.010)
    “Jim Vernon looking through the sight of a gun while 400188 Sgt Observer Maurice Kennedy "Bill" Burnside RAAF, steadies it. These men are attached to No. 211 Squadron RAF. Original photograph album housed in the AWM Private Records Collection at P00491, donor J. Burnside”.
     

Sgt Burnside’s Log book for the period August to October is signed by F/L CW Thomas as OC ‘B’ Flight 211 Squadron, F/Lt KC Dundas DFC as OC Night Flying 211 Squadron, and W/Cdr Macdonald as CO 211 Squadron. Sgt Burnside, crewed with Les “Perce” Payne and “Charger” Cameron, completed his course on 11 November. On that date, W/Cdr Macdonald signed his Log Book entry as CI, 72 OTU. With crewmates Les and “Charger”, Burnside was later a member of 11 Squadron—he died in December 1978.

    Wadi Gazouza, Sudan. cJuly 1941
    Wadi Gazouza, Sudan. cJuly 1941 (AWM image P02127.012)
    Left to right: Les “Perce”
    Payne: Jack Nankerviss and "Charger" Cameron (Original photograph album housed in the AWM Private Records Collection at P00491, donor J Burnside).

Among the Blenheim Is in which Sgt Burnside flew were L1520, L6655, L1533, L6663, L8539, L1492, L1482 and L8517, including a ferry flight from Khartoum to Wadi Gazouza 30 August 1941 as Navigator to Sgt Jock Marshall DFM in L6655.

Lindsay Douglas “Charger” Cameron 408006
From Tasmania, Cameron had joined the RAAF in April 1940. Selected for aircrew, he passed quickly through 1 WAGS and 1 BAGS to gain his WOp/AG badge and Sergeants stripes, embarking for overseas service in December 1940. In the Middle East, he was attached to the RAF from February 1941. Escaping from the heel-kicking at ME Pool in early May, he was posted to 211 Squadron in Palestine, while they were still trying to bring themselves to
order. Among the old hands from Greece was Bill Baird, the young Scot WOP/AG.

Within a couple of weeks, the two-Flight set-up at Aquir enabled the start of some Blenheim training, however, it was a scrappy time and in early June the Squadron was withdrawn to Heliopolis. There orders were received for the big move to Wadi Gzouza to operate as a reserve training Squadron. In November, the Squadron provided the nucleus for the larger training effort of 72 OTU but by then Flt Sgt Cameron had completed his Blenheim ops course.

From Wadi Gazouza, “Charger” was posted to 11 Squadron in the Western Desert, along with Les Payne and others. By March 1942 the Japanese thrust across Asia and the Pacific had made for a very grim prospect, in India and in Australia: 11 Squadron moved to Ceylon with their Blenheims, to immediately face the dangers and losses of the Battle Of Ceylon against Japanese naval forces. After a brief post-Java visit to Australia in early 1942, RAF WOp/AG Bill Baird also found himself posted to Ceylon and 11 Squadron: the two remained in touch until Charger’s death in 1982 at the age of 65.

Meanwhile, Cameron and Payne pressed on with XI Squadron after the Battle, Charger being made Warrant Officer in September 1942, leaving them only in October 1943 on their conversion to Hurricane IIcs for close support. Along the way, he had spent time at both Ranchi and Feni, where 211 Squadron were later to operate. Successive 221 and 231 Group HQ postings followed, with his commission as Pilot Officer in between in January 1944.

    Cameron 72 P1000386
    F/O LD Cameron 408006 July 1944, Australia (NAA Series 9300 file)
    Back in Australia and newly promoted in July 1944, F/O Cameron has his RAAF paybook photograph taken. One look says it all. This is not the blank thousand-mile stare of the tour-expired veteran having endured many operations and much being faffed about. Something else has sharpened his gaze here, to a degree that still grips 70 years later.

In late July 1944 he was posted home to Australia. An Ops Room course and posting followed, apparently to 84 Squadron RAAF, which took him to the end of the war, demob, and return to pretty Deloraine in Tasmania. Something of a risk-taker pre-war, in post-war civil life Charger was not averse to taking on mindless authority, so successfully defending a fishing rights charge with a mate in the late 1940s to be mentioned in the Press.

Fraser AA 400131
Reportedly of 72 OTU, in fact Aston Archibald (Arch) Fraser, of St Kilda in Victoria, had been slated for 211 Squadron as early as 27 March 1941 but was another of those to reach the Squadron in Palestine, posted in on 4 May while they sorted themselves out after taking such a battering in Greece. For a time they operated two Flights, ‘A’ as operational, ’B’ purely as a
Training Flight, for the brief period before being stood down to head for Wadi Gazouza in June 1941. It appears from his record that he remained with them there until November 1941.

By some clerical quirk, an earlier entry, apparently in error, records him as posted to 71 OTU (at Gordon’s Tree, near Khartoum) in October 1941: they were responsible for pilot training (both fighter and Army co-operation) but Arch Fraser was a WOp/AG who’d earned his sparks badge at 1 BAGS Evans Head. It was in this role that he was posted to 45 Squadron in early December 1941, as his record and the 45 Squadron history note. Fraser would certainly have known Bob Barclay and other Australians who’d been at Wadi Gazouza.

Commissioned in 1942, after completing his tour with 45 Squadron Fraser returned to the UK and went on to fly with 463 Squadron RAAF. By war’s end he had completed a second tour, for a grand total of 31 sorties in all. F/Lt Fraser left the RAAF in May 1945 “at his own request” in the formal words of the time. In a transcription quirk on the Australian World War II Nominal Roll, Arch becomes “Astor” instead of Aston.

Furmage GG 408009
Referred to in Glory in Chaos as a 211 Squadron member of the 1942 Far East period, in fact by then he was with 45 Squadron, the Flying Camels, in India.

Geoff Furmage had also just missed joining 211 Squadron in Greece, only to be posted to 211 Squadron’s training Flight at Ramleh and then Aquir in mid-May 1941. His initial Blenheim flying training log was signed off by the OC ‘A’ Flight, F/Lt KC Dundas DFC at Wadi Gazouza in late July. Following the move, it was early September before the serious flying exercises of No 1 Course began for Furmage (with Charlie Pailethorpe and Bob Barclay as his regular crew). On completing the Blenheim Ops course in early November 1941, his ability as a Pilot was assessed by W/Cdr Macdonald as above average, a pleasing result.

On 22 November the three were posted as a crew to 45 Squadron in the Western Desert, then on to the Far East for the first Burma campaign from February 1942. He survived, to fly Douglas Dakotas with 37 Squadron RAAF. Leaving the RAAF as a Squadron Leader in July 1945, Geoffrey Greer Furmage returned to civilian life and marriage in his native Tasmania, where he died in March 2002.

Alfred Charles Longmore, AGM Nourse and SC “Scotty” Thomson
Posted to 211 Squadron in October 1941 for a Blenheim Operations Course, on 29 November 1941 Sgts AC Longmore 407680, AGM Nourse 407180 and SC “Scotty” Thomson 400671 had to forced-land in Blenheim IV
Z9539. Compass difficulties saw them bushed and out of fuel before they could get a fix, though fortunately in radio contact with the ground. Longmore put the aircraft down in the scrub in the Red Sea Hills. The three were safely picked up the next day and went on to join 84 Squadron in early January 1942. They flew out from Heliopolis with their new Squadron on 16 January 1942, in No 3 Flight of six Mark IV Blenheims en route for the Far East and Sumatra.

Longmore escaped at the fall of Java with 84 Squadron CO Jeudwine on the Scorpion open boat voyage to Australia in March 1942 and went on to serve with 34 Squadron RAAF. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1944, “for examplary courage and resoucefulness whilst flying”. Nourse had been evacuated from Batavia with some other 84 Squadron men aboard HMT Yoma, sailing in convoy SJ5 to Colombo on 20 February 1942. He went on to serve with 113 Squadron but was posted missing on 25 May 1943 when his crew failed to return from an operation over Burma. He is commemorated on the CWGC Singapore Memorial. Thomson was taken captive by the Japanese on Java in March 1942 but survived.

John (Jack) McNamara, Bill Penn and Norm Bruce
Sgt Pilot John Charles McNamara 406459 RAAF is shown on the AWM roll as a member of 211 Squadron lost on 25 February 1942 in ground battle in Burma. He rests in Rangoon War Cemetery, his unit unrecorded by the CWGC.

The initial recording of McNamara’s loss was quite confused, the date of death amended three times before the final clarification on his personal file: killed on active service by enemy action 25 February 1942. On his AWM commemoration card, the details remained 17 March at Rangoon. Commonly, RAAF casualty files were created for personnel lost in air action: lost in ground action, only McNamara’s service record can be found.

McNamara was posted to 211 Squadron in its OTU role on 1 October 1941, as were Sgt DW Penn 407274 RAAF and Sgt NA Bruce 400668 RAAF. Together as a crew they passed their Blenheim Ops course, then were posted through ME Pool back to 211 Squadron for the Far East move wef 17 January 1942. The correct date and place of McNamara’s loss long remained confusing (some sources recording him incorrectly as an 84 Squadron man attached to 45 Squadron).

While the first 211 Squadron flight left Helwan on 25 January to reach Mingaladon airfield on the outskirts of Rangoon in Burma on Sunday 1 February, the fourth and last 211 Squadron flight from Helwan on 28 January had reached there on 3 February 1942. By that date, the airfield had already come under attack. On the way, there were a number of 211 Squadron stragglers, due to servicing difficulties for aircraft becoming unserviceable en route. It turned out that Jack McNamara and his RAAF crewmates Sgt Penn and Sgt Bruce left Helwan in the third flight of six, on 27 January 1942, and were held up in just this way as recounted in the notes on Blenheim IV Z7892.

McNamara and his crew are recorded in Jefford’s wonderful work The Flying Camels: The History of No 45 Squadron RAF as one of several “guest” crews of 84 and 211 Squadron who, delayed en route, reached Burma to be “taken in” by 45 Squadron as they strove to resume operations around 16 Feb 1942. Attached to 45 Squadron on arrival in Mingaladon on 15 February, McNamara was lost on the ground there in the IJAAF attack of 25 February which destroyed 5 of 45 Squadron’s Blenheims:

    “The second Japanese attack, at about 1615hrs, caught the Blenheims on the ground on their way back to Magwe and there were two casualties, both Australians. Sgt Jack McNamara was killed by flying shrapnel and his observer, Sgt Bill Penn, was wounded; their WOp/AG Sgt Norm Bruce made his way to Highland Queen...”
    Source: p207, op cit.

Detached from 211 Squadron before the date of his unfortunate death, poor McNamara falls between two stools—neither a survivor, nor at his death a part of the Squadron—nevertheless, a 211 member he was, for a time, as were his crew. Bruce and Penn both survived the war.

Charles Douglas (Charlie) Pailthorpe
Born in England in 1909, Charlie Pailethorpe had been farming for 14 years in Western Australia when he went to enrol in the RAAF Reserve at 4 Recruiting Centre, Perth, in April 1940. The selection panel must have liked the cut of his jib among the thousands looking to join up: it was only three months before they sent for him again, this time to be formally attested on enlistment in the RAAF as trainee aircrew.

    Pailthorpe
    S/Ldr 406091 CD Pailthorpe DFC c1944 (NAA Series 9300 file)
    A late RAAF paybook photograph of Charlie after his return to Australia in 1944, from the 35mm contact print in his RAAF A9300 personnel file in the National Archives of Australia. He wears the later winged ‘N’ of the Navigator, his DFC ribbon and a campaign ribbon, apparently what was then the 1939—1943 Star (later 1939—1945 Star).

By late July 1940 AC2 CD Pailthorpe 406091 was at No 2 ITS Bradfield park in Sydney. From there he was posted to No 1 Air Observer’s School, out at Cootamundra in the South West Slopes region of New South Wales. Passing the Observer’s course he went on to 1 BAGS to learn more of bombing and gunnery in Fairey Battles over the Evans Head ranges, then on to 1 ANS Parkes for advanced navigation training, passing out with his Air Observer’s winged ‘O’ badge on 9 February 1941.

Commissioned a Pilot Officer in mid-March, he embarked for overseas service on 17 April 1941. By 5 May he was in Egypt and posted to 211 Squadron, then briefly at Heliopolis to regather itself for the move South to the Sudan as an OTU. From 20 June onwards he was flying as Observer, navigating the Blenheims initially with the experienced old hands like F/Lt Dundas and Sgt Pilot Watkins.

Soon enough he was flying frequently with his regular crew, Geoff Furmage as Pilot and Bob Barclay hunched in the turret. By early November, their Blenheim Ops course was done, in some 75 hours flying, five of that in the desert night. W/Cdr Macdonald signed him off with that infrequent and pleasing rating of proficiency as Observer “Above average”. From their 211 Squadron training, Furmage, Pailthorpe and Barclay went on to operational service with 45 Squadron.

Charlie Pailthorpe later served in a number of Photo Reconnaissance Units over Burma, lastly for nine months with 681 Squadron in B25s where his “great skill on flying operations” brought the award of a DFC in June 1943. Stood down from ops at last in November 1943, he spent some time in staff postings in India before being repatriated to Australia in November 1944. Charlie returned to farming in the South-West of WA after the war and it was there that he died in 1979, after a tractor accident, survived by his widow Alison.

Les “Perce” Payne
Born in 1917 in Sydney, Percy Leslie Payne 404114 joined the RAAF in Brisbane in May 1940, in the midst of the rush that arose when the RAAF was at last able to accept recruits in the numbers that had been attempting to volunteer.

Les found himself at Middle East Pool with Ted Tyzack and others in 1941, and then posted to 11 Squadron in Palestine. When it was realised that the Australians had not passed through an OTU, the whole group were sent for a Blenheim Operations course with 211 Squadron at Wadi Gazouza. A Sergeant pilot, Payne and his mates Charger and the rest rejoined 11 Squadron in the Western Desert and on to Ceylon, where Bill Baird caught up with them. Les went on to serve with 62 Squadron operating Dakotas in the Arakan. Repatriated to Australia, he joined 38 Squadron RAAF and ultimately marched out of the RAAF a Flt Lieutenant in August 1945.

Les, enjoying the quiet life of advanced years in Brisbane, took an active interest in matters Blenheim, and kindly contributed a number of photographs for use here, freely dipping into the well of memory to talk of his mates, both lucky and unlucky.

     
    RAF Middle East Pool 1941
    RAF Middle East Pool 1941 (PL Payne)
    Left to right: Mick Woodham, Hugh MacLennan, Jeff Hiller, Noel Stevenson, PL Payne, T Tyzack. Half of this group of Australians survived the war. 407075 Sgt GA Hiller died on 2 December 1941 over Libya and lies in the Knightsbridge cemetery at Acroma. 404107 Sgt HA MacLennan went missing in action, presumed killed, during the 11 Squadron attack on the IJN ships of Nagumo Force off Ceylon on 9 April. On the same operation, W/O 407083 NL Stevenson was KIA with his crew in Blenheim IV Z7803. Six of the nine attacking Blenheims were lost and the Japanese also sank the RN carrier HMS Hermes. The lost crews of 11 Squadron are commemorated on the CWGC Singapore memorial.

    Wadi Gazouza 1941
    Wadi Gazouza 1941 (PL Payne)
    Straight after a visit to the barber’s shop, nine Australian Sergeant pilots.
    Left to right, rear: Prentice, DCH Barrett, SW “Wally” White, Tonkin, McLellan, PL Payne
    Front, left to right: HEM “Ted” Tyzack, GW Hartnell, HA MacLennan.
    Wally White returned to 11 Squadron after his OTU course, but was killed in air operations from Colombo on 15 March 1942. With bomb-doors off to accommodate the depth-charge loaded for a sea patrol, Wally, “Torchy” Stairs and Noel Watt suffered engine failure on take-off. Stairs, the Navigator, survived. White and Watt were buried the next day with Les Payne and the 11 Squadron boys in attendance. They lie in Colombo (Kanatte) General Cemetery, commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

    11 Squadron Colombo 1942
    11 Squadron Colombo 1942 (PL Payne)
    Left to right: McCann, “Charger” Cameron, Les “Perce” Payne, with a RN fitter. The boys are all pretty sweaty in the humidity of Ceylon. Just back from anti-submarine patrol. The aircraft is Blenheim IV Z7771, issued from new to 11 Squadron and struck off charge as late as 20 April 1944.

    Though the Battle of Ceylon was a bad result for the Squadron and for the Navy (with heavy loss yet little damage to the Japanese taskforce), Nagumo now withdrew from the Indian Ocean, never to return. The difficulties of the New Guinea campaign and the Battle of the Coral Sea were still to come, but the Japanese thrust had met its first reverse.

Mervyn Scope, Pierson and McMillan
Mervyn Walter Scope 404121 saw his first aircraft in 1920 at Gympie in country Queensland. A pilot when he put his hand up at the outbreak of war, in the way of things, it was May 1940 before his call-up to the RAAF and another year of training before he made it to Middle East Pool, that “desolate fly-ridden place”. After stints with 69 Squadron in Malta and 108 Maintenance Unit, in October 1941 Merv was posted to 211 Squadron at Wadi Gazouza for the ops course that he’d so far survived without!

You could say that he too was one of the lucky ones. Early in the morning of 17 January 1942, Mervyn Scope and his crew (Observer Sgt Cedric Howie Pierson 407590 RAAF and WOp/AG Sgt Robert Peter McMillan 406220 RAAF) got away with a mid-air collision and subsequent fire upon forced landing their Blenheim IV Z7695.

Completing their Blenheim course towards the end of January 1942, Scope, Pierson and McMillan found themselves posted not with 211 to the Far East, but to 223 Squadron flying Martin Baltimores around the vast ME theatre. Mervyn Scope’s vivid recall of Wadi Gazouza and other adventures is well recorded in As Luck Would Have It, self-published in 1992.

McMillan later served with 55 Squadron RAF and was awarded the DFC. He survived the war and in 2003 he recorded an extended interview with Imperial War Museum staff. While his views on the politics of the day were as dyspeptic as his views of RAF discipline and training, his interview makes interesting listening.

John Skinner, Colin Dunstone and James Thomson
On the afternoon of 25 November 1941, Sgt pilot John Skinner 407673, his observer Sgt Colin Dunstone 407226 and WOp/AG Sgt James Thomson 400682 failed to return from a low level bombing exercise in Blenheim IV
Z9612. It was New Year’s Eve before the burnt-out wreckage was found, not far away near Erkowit. There were no survivors. Initially buried at Gebeit, in the uncertain conditions of modern Sudan these men were among those later reinterred at Khartoum.

Travers AR 408017 Sgt KIA 9/4/42
Then with 11 Squadron: with 211 from 21/6/41 to 11/11/41
Shown in Glory in Chaos or Bloody Shambles as present in 211 Squadron or on their ferry flight to the Far East, but according to RAAF records left 211 Squadron before the FE campaign. Like Bell, apparently associated with 211 Squadron operating as 72 OTU.

The Far East
By the time of the Squadron’s departure to the
Far East in late January 1942, the RAAF presence in 211 had changed considerably. Sent in strength to the Far East with 24 aircraft, the total aircrew component will certainly have been greater than the 72 required to fly them. In 84 Squadron, with the same number of aircraft, 33 complete crews or 99 aircrew in all went to the Far East. As part of the British response to Australian keenness to see RAAF personnel “concentrated” in operational squadrons, at least 45 Australian aircrew were members of 211 Squadron at this period. In all, 17 of these men were lost: 16 missing or killed in action, and one at sea as a PoW in a torpedoed Japanese vessel.

For the later Burma campaign, the India and Burma narrative records that the Squadron retained a complement of Canadian and Australian aircrew from its SEAC re-formation in 1943 to 1945, and that “6 Dominion pilots” were released in July 1945. The Squadron Operations Record Book at this period endeavoured to separately identify personnel of RAAF origin, and records 406372 S/Ldr Stacey DFC and 428875 F/O RM Reichstein, posted from the Squadron together on 12 August 1945 pending repatriation. These sources also record the loss two other Australians: 404741 F/O K Fuller in March 1944, and 401785 P/O JW Goddard at the end of May 1944. Four Australians in all: two lost in action.

Between them, these sources also record 19 RCAF personnel and one South African, again readily identifiable in the ORB by their service numbers. It may be that these 24 men are the whole complement of 211 Squadron’s “Dominion pilots” in Burma.

Odgers’ Air War Against Japan records that in the Burma-India theatre, RAAF strength peaked at 1,091 in July 1944, falling to 923 by January 1945 (of whom 872 were aircrew). Odgers records just one RAAF aircrew member of 211 Squadron at January 1945: this was certainly Stacey, as Reichstein was not posted in until April. Evidently, efforts to post RAAF personnel together had been less successful in this period than was the case earlier. Still, as they completed their tours, RAAF aircrew were at last repatriated.

The following two RAAF personnel lists, not without caveats, represent a partial nominal roll of RAAF aircrew members of 211 Squadron in the first and second Far East campaigns. The first shows known survivors, while the second lists those lost.

Assembled from the various sources noted, and partly reconciled with RAAF records, there are 45 personnel named on these lists who can with reasonable confidence be recorded as 211 Squadron members: 26 of the 28 on the RAAF survivors list and the 19 men of the RAAF personnel losses Honour roll.

RAAF survivors, Far East
Starting with Bloody Shambles, Glory in Chaos, and So Long Singapore, followed up with a variety of official and personal records like the 5 Embarkation Depot record of their Fremantle arrival per
Tung Song, other RAAF records including survivors reports of the loss of fellow Squadron members, Log Books, personal files and the Burma period Operations Record Book, this list of RAAF aircrew survivors of 211 Squadron has emerged.

The 28 men with RAAF service numbers are thus confirmed from sound sources as 211 Squadron personnel survivors of the Far East period: 26 in the Sumatra/Java period and two in India and Burma. Of the remaining two, mentioned in secondary sources and without service numbers, “A Devonshire” was most probably Anthony Devenish, an Englishman. T Williams remains untraced.

403770 Foreman WCW, a P/O Observer previously shown in the list, turned out to have been an RNZAF member of English birth—his career is summarised in the New Zealand section of the Personnel Rolls.

Name

RAAF no

Rank etc

211 Dates

Remarks

Arnold RED

404164

Sgt (Observer)

27 Dec 41 - 28 Mar 42

 

Brown RF

407357

P/O

24 Dec 41 - Mar 42

“Embarked Middle East on repatriation to Australia for duty 28 /3/42” per Stirling Castle (from Colombo, ex Kota Gede, presumably)

Campbell RA

406237

Sgt (Pilot)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

Tung Song evacuee

Carter HL

406140

Sgt

Jan 42 - Mar 42

5ED signal, Ritchie file

Corney PM

408082

WOp/AG

6 Oct 42 - 21 Feb 1942

To 84 Squadron, to Scorpion party

Cuttiford WR

404561

F/O Pilot

8 Jan 42 - 28 Mar 42

Returned Aus

Dean, Alan Arthur

404328

F/Sgt (Observer)

3 Jan 42 - Mar 42

Later 2 Squadron RAAF KIA

Devonshire A

 

Pilot

 

Probably ADE Devenish

Ellis, John

407497

P/O Wop/AG

24 Dec 41 - Mar 42

Kota Gede evacuee

Foxwell CM

407148

Sgt WOp/AG

Jan 1942 - 21 Feb 42

Penry’s report. FEPoW survivor

Fuller BK

402794

Sgt (Pilot)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

Tung Song evacuee

Hodges GS

407429

Pilot

24 Dec 41 - Mar 42

Stirling Castle from Colombo to 1 ED Melbourne, presumably ex Kota Gede

Hubbard BJ

401037

Sgt (Observer)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

Tung Song evacuee

Jeanes NR

406107

Sgt (Observer)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

FEPoW, survived

Kendrick AH

402201

Sgt (WOp/AG)

Dec 41 - Mar 42

Returned Aus, May 1942

Kendrick GM

402202

F/Sgt (W/Op/AG

Dec 41 - Mar 42

Returned Aus, May 1942

Limb MA

406147

Sgt

 

5ED signal, Ritchie file

Lovegrove JA

406361

Sgt

6 Oct 41 - 18 Feb 42

To 84 Squadron, to Scorpion party

Maitland WA

407797

P/O (Pilot)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

Tung Song evacuee

Martin RJ

400326

P/O (Observer)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

Tung Song evacuee

Manton WG

402665

Pilot

Jan 42 - Mar 42

to Ceylon Mar 1942

Matheson CK

283378*

Cypher Officer, Admin & Special Duties Branch

Jan 42 - Mar 42

FEPoW, survived.
*A small number of RAAF men were commissioned directly into A&SD Branch with service numbers in this form.

O’Brien B

401015

Sgt (Observer)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

to Ceylon Mar 1942

Paterson CAH

404514

Sgt (Pilot)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

To Ceylon Mar 1942

Penry JO

400542

Sgt (Observer)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

Apparently Kota Gede evacuee to Ceylon, returning to 1 ED on 28 March per Stirling Castle. Later P/O

Reichstein RM

428875

F/O (Pilot)

16 Apr 45 - 12 Aug 1945

Burma campaign

Stacey P DFC

406372

S/Ldr

Dec 44 - Jan 46

Burma campaign

West BL

407264

P/O

28 Dec 41 - Mar 42

Tung Song evacuee

Williams T

 

Sgt (WOp/AG)

 

no other information

Williamson LH

402688 [sic]

P/O (Pilot)

Jan 42 - Mar 42

Tung Song evacuee
war-time service no misrecorded in on-line archives as 402668
Post-war service no O21972
ADB
biography.

Brown RF 407357
Robert Foster Brown, from the rural railway town of Quorn in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, enlisted in the RAAF on 14 September 1940. He was 27 years old on being sent to 1 ITS at Somers in Victoria where he was assessed as Air Crew (Observer) . Training at 1 Air Observers School at Cootamundra from November, in February it was time to head off to the Evans Head bombing ranges of 1 BAGS. Completing a final four week polishing at 1 Air Navigation School, Parkes, he was commissioned. Ready to embark for overseas service, P/O Brown returned to South Australia and 4 Embarkation Depot (then at Keswick near Adelaide).

Setting off for the Middle East on 27 June, by 31 July he was at Middle East Pool before proceeding via Mombasa.to 70 OTU at Nakuru in early September 1941. There he crewed up with P/O GS Hodges 407429 (Pilot) and P/O John Ellis 407497 (WOp/AG) for their Blenheim Operations Course. On a daylight cross-country exercise a few days after beginning their course, their Blenheim IV V6297 crashed into Lake Victoria.

All three were hospitalised for a period at Entebbe, in Uganda, Brown with a severe ankle sprain. Recovered, they were able to return to Nakuru and complete their training. Brown was promoted to Flying Officer in early November. On Christmas Eve, the three were posted to 211 Squadron at Helwan. Posting with the Squadron to the Far East followed on 17 January 1942, apparently flying with Hodges and Ellis in one of the several unidentified Blenheim IVs of the Air Party departing Helwan in four Flights of six from 25 to 28 January.

All three survived the period of intense operations on Sumatra and then Java and, once their Squadron’s aircraft had been fought to a standstill (and absorbed by 84 Squadron), withdrawal to Tjilatjap on the South coast. Brown’s RAAF record notes “28 Mar 42 Embarked ME on repat Aus per Stirling Castle”, the vessel at least confirmed in the record of his later report. The dates however have become jumbled and in fact record his arrival at 1 Embarkation Depot, Melbourne: Stirling Castle having reached port in the early morning of 27 March having departed Colombo on 14 March. As Kota Gede had arrived in Colombo on 6 March from Java, it seems that Brown, Ellis and Hodges were together among the RAF crowd aboard her.

In addition to his brief account of the 13 February 1942 sweep reported once back in Australia, being a particular friend of Neville Oddie’s, Ginge Brown also wrote to the Oddie family about his loss.

Once sorted out, Brown was posted to 6 Squadron RAAF from April to December 1942 to carry out a further 40 operations on Hudsons over New Guinea . After a stint with 67 Sqn and 1 OTU in 1943, he was posted to No 2 Squadron RAAF in September 1943, completing a third tour of 29 ops in June 1944 with an assessment of Above average and promoted to Squadron Leader. A long stint at No 7 OTU followed until well beyond the war’s end. Although a very experienced airman and a good bombing leader, his final report was not encouraging. In January 1946, he left the RAF, having seen and learned much. Bob Brown died aged 94 at Mount Gambier in South Australia on 10 January 2008.

Devenish ADE 45422
Identified erroneously as RAAF by Shores, Cull & Izawa in Bloody Shambles Vol II. Devenish is listed among the 5 Embarkation Depot Personnel Occurrence Reports that showed the 211 Squadron personnel disembarking at Fremantle from Tung Song. His Service no from that roll is certainly correct and indicates RAF origin, as opposed to the 40nnnn sequence of RAAF personnel.

Initially confirmed by the Log Book of the Swiss WOp/AG Fred Joerin: Devenish was his Pilot up to the time they both joined 211 Squadron. Further, the London Gazette (No 35127 of 4 April 1941) records that Anthony Donald English Devenish and GA Mockridge 45431 were both ex-Royal Artillery 2nd Lts commissioned into the RAF as Pilot Officers in April 1941 (note the proximity of their Service numbers). Both men became Blenheim pilots and went on to serve with 107 Squadron at Malta in late 1941, with 211 Squadron in early 1942 in Sumatra and Java, to be evacuated from Java aboard Tung Song.

Devenish, it appears, survived the war. There being no matching record of RAAF service under the names A Devenish or A Devonshire, it seems probable that Bon Hall’s Glory in Chaos reference to this latter man, and as an RAAF pilot, is another misrecording for Anthony Devenish.

Ellis J 407497
John Ellis was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner who completed his training at 70 OTU Nakuru, having endured the crash of Blenheim IV V6297 into Lake Victoria on 24 October 1941, resulting in 8 days at Entebbe Hospital and a further six weeks convalescence in Nairobi. His crewmates, pilot P/O
Hodges and Observer P/O Brown were also injured. All apparently recovered, to complete their course as a crew.

Originally of English birth, Ellis had married in South Australia. At the age of 29, he joined the RAAF through 5 Recruiting Centre, Adelaide, in October 1940. Commissioned a Pilot Officer in June 1941, he he was posted to the RAF Middle East and by September 1941 to 70 OTU, where he crewed up with Hodges and Brown. Promoted to Flying Officer in December 1941, he was then posted to 211 Squadron with his crewmates Hodges and Brown on Christmas Eve, where he was made Gunnery leader. Flying with the Air Party to Palembang in Sumatra in late January 1942, presumably with Hodges and Brown, he was one of those fortunate to be evacuated from Java to Ceylon in March 1942, aboard the Kota Gede from Tjilatjap.

Returned to Australia in June 1942, he was posted as Gunnery Instructor to No 1 OTU based at Bairnsdale (and later East Sale) but all was not well. Apart from the injuries suffered in the Blenheim accident, it transpired that he had been afflicted with incurable tropical illness. Given a final Confidential Report from 1 OTU that can only be described as glowing, John Ellis was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in April 1943 but he was by then seriously ill. Discharged from RAAF Wing, Royal Adelaide Hospital, on medical grounds in July 1943, he died on 22 March 1944 and lies in the RAAF section of the Centennial Park Cemetery in Adelaide.

It was his son John who sponsored the modern painting of the 211 Squadron badge, created through the RAF Heraldry Trust some years ago.

Hodges GS 407429
Having applied to join the Civil Air Reserve as aircrew soon after was was declared in September 1939, it was some time before George Hodges was able to wangle an interview, travelling from his home in Berri SA to Adelaide for the occasion. Enrolment in the RAAF Reserve followed quickly in May 1940. It was October before he was finally enlisted in the RAAF, through 5 RC Adelaide. After passing out of 1 SFTS Point Cook with his pilot’s wings at the end of May 1941, Hodges was commissioned in early June and by the end of that month, posted to the RAF, Middle East.

By September 1941 Hodges had arrived at 70 OTU in Kenya, crewing up with P/O Brown and P/O Ellis for the Blenheim Operations Course during which he was injured in the crash of Blenheim IV V6297 in Lake Victoria on 24 October 1941, suffering concussion, severe shock and heatstroke and making him a member of the Goldfish Club, the badge of which he kept to the end of his days. Presumably Brown and Ellis were thus also Goldfish.

Following three weeks in hospital at Entebbe he was sufficiently recovered to rejoin the 70 OTU course and complete it with his crewmates, to be posted to 211 Squadron on 24 December and thus for movement to the Far East, to fly with the Air Party departing Helwan from 25 January, presumably with Brown and Ellis.

Surviving the difficulties of Sumatra and Java, according to his post-war service summary Hodges was “evacuated to Australia” on 15 March 1942 (a date well after the fall of Java). According to his record of service (Form PP24) he was at 1 Embarkation Depot (Melbourne Showgrounds) on 28 March 1942. If that latter date is correct, it is likely that he was with Brown and Ellis, apparently evacuated from Java aboard Kota Gede to Colombo, making port there only on 6 March, in time to embark on Stirling Castle departing 14 March to arrive in Melbourne before dawn on 27 March.

In any event, after a longish period of non-operational postings, Hodges was promoted to F/Lt in 1943 and by July 1944 was also with 2 Squadron at Hughes in the Northern Territory, flying Bristol Beauforts and later North American Mitchells. He completed his second tour (211 Squadron being his first) of 38 sorties for which he was awarded the DFC as an “outstanding operational captain and leader”. A Squadron Leader by the end of 1944, Hodges remained with the RAAF until the end of the war, instructing at Point Cook.

In 1950, when the Korean War broke out, the RAAF advertised for trained pilots and George Hodges stepped forward once more. His application was accepted and after a refresher course he was back flying, a F/Lt with 34 Squadron RAAF. He was finally discharged in 1953: “a good type of pilot and officer who the Service can ill-afford to lose”. George Stacey Hodges died in South Australia age 93 on 22 October 2004.

Maitland WA 407997, Hubbard BJ 401037 and Lewis HV 406146
Having arrived in
Sumatra by sea, P/O Bill Maitland the pilot and Sgt Observer Bernard J Hubbard were evacuated from Tjilatjap on Java in March, aboard Tung Song.

    Sgt Hubbard, P/O Bill Maitland, Sgt HV Lewis 1942
    Sgt Hubbard, P/O Bill Maitland, Sgt HV Lewis 1942 (W Maitland via D Vincent)

Back in Australia, Maitland had a stint as Flying Instructor on Ansons then late in the war was posted back to operations with No. 87 Squadron RAAF flying PR Mosquitoes. One of his claims to fame was that he flew the Squadron's last war-time operation. Of the three, he alone survived the war, returning to his native South Australia. There, in correspondence with David Vincent, he produced a couple of the rare photographs of Oosthaven in 1942. William Alexander (Bill) Maitland died in March 2010.

“Lew” Lewis, the Sgt WOp/AG from Western Australia, fell captive in Java. He died in the sinking of the Tamahoko Maru in June 1944, torpedoed off Nagasaki with 772 PoWs aboard. She sank quickly. Although 212 of the PoWs were saved by the Japanese, sadly Lewis was not among them. Two other vessels in the convoy were sunk in the same action. Lewis’ casualty file includes a slip here, mistakenly noting the vessel as Rakuyuo Maru: she was torpedoed later, in September 1944, again with great loss. Lewis is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.

Promoted to Flight Sergeant, Hubbard the Victorian also remained in Australia and was posted to 32 Squadron RAAF, equipped with Lockheed Hudsons. On 4 November 1942, Hudson A16-173 suffered instrument failure while searching in bad weather and gathering dark for a reported submarine. Despite an attempt to offer beacon assistance by the Mt Brown searchlight battery, at about 2110hrs the aircraft hit the Illawarra Escarpment near West Dapto, killing the crew of four: the pilot Clark, the gunners, Iredell and Rich, and Hubbard, navigator. He was laid to rest in Cheltenham New Cemetery, Victoria.

Manton WG 402665 and O’Brien B 401015
Thanks to Jack Woodward (ex 27 Squadron) and his wonderful Three Times Lucky, two more RAAF Sergeant Observers turned up. Jack was lucky to escape Java aboard the
Kota Gede. Arriving in Ceylon in early March, he found Greg Manton and Brian O’Brien (who he’d last seen at Tjilatjap) already there.

    Sgt WG Manton (l), Sgt BP O’Brien (r), Galle Face Ceylon, March 1942
    Sgt WG Manton (l), Sgt BP O’Brien (r), Galle Face Ceylon, March 1942 (Woodward)

Martin RJ "Dicky" 400326
400326 RJ "Dicky" Martin of South Australia was in the right place at the right time to be included in a photo of
Cutifford's taken at 70 OTU Nakuru. An Observer with 211 Squadron in the first Far East jaunt, he had previously seen service in the RAF with 55 Sqn. Repatriated to Aus ex-Java aboard Tung Song in March 1942, he went on to serve with 22 Sqn RAAF, 6 Sqn RAAF and 82 Wing RAAF. After the war he went on to a career with the civil trans-Pacific airline, BCPA.

He was crewing with F/Lt K McDonald in a 22 Sqn RAAF Boston over Sydney Harbour in June 1942, doing low level sweeps after the Japanese submarine shelling of Bondi the night before. Unsuccessful in attempting to persuade McDonald (a pre-war aerobatic pilot) to perform a loop over the Harbour Bridge, he had to be satisfied with a low pass beneath the bridge (reputedly one of the first aircraft to do so).

Matheson, Colin Kenneth 283378
Born at Kent Town in South Australia on 28 August 1902, Matheson’s parents, originally from Scotland, were pastoralists at historic Nilpena Station, a large sheep grazing property lying between Lake Torrens and Wilpena Pound in the Northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia. George Matheson was manager and later owner of Nilpena.

In the manner of the time, the Mathesons later took residence in suburban Adelaide and sent their sons to be educated at St Peter’s College. Matheson senior died in 1913 on a voyage to the United Kingdom. After work as a jackeroo in country New South Wales, young Colin Matheson later returned to South Australia to work on the old family property. In March 1926 he married Jean Hill, of Yalumba, near Angaston in the Barossa Valley. They had four children, three sons and a daughter. By 1940, Matheson had been working Nilpena Station for a number of years, as Overseer for eight years and later as Manager.

    Matheson c1940 P1000243 2
    CK Matheson, Adelaide, about 1941 (NAA Series 9300 Matheson CK)
    This nice studio shot, by Rembrandt of Adelaide, shows a confident well-set Matheson around the time of enlisting in the RAAF. The Rembrandt studio was well-known for
    exhibitions and portraits of major figures of the day, at their King William Street establishment from the early 1920s into the 1970s.

Well used to being in charge of men and too old to enlist for pilot training, Matheson took a different approach, applying for an RAAF commission in May 1941. Entering RAAF service through 5 Recruiting Centre Adelaide on 23 October 1941, he was immediately appointed a Pilot Officer in the Admin and Special Duties Branch (reflected by his less-usual Service number) and slated for overseas service attached to the RAF. To fly a desk, if you like, but men of this non-flying branch of the Service did much valuable work in a range of duties.

Leaving Jean and the children safely with family at Yalumba, by 2 November Matheson was at 1 Embarkation Depot in Sydney, promptly embarking for the Middle East on posting to 206 Group RAF. Straight into cypher work, by 14 December 1941 he was at the Middle East Code and Cypher School attending a course, while attached to SHQ Heliopolis. By then, the entry of Japan into hostilities had rather altered the needs of the RAF.

On 5 January 1942, Pilot Officer CK Matheson 283378 was posted as Cypher Officer to No 211 (Bomber) Squadron RAF for active service, as they prepared to depart for the Dutch East Indies and their first bitter struggle against the Japanese. His 17 January posting date for Far East service suggests that he may have been one of the Sea Party to board HMT Yoma, departing Port Tewfik on 17 January 1942.

When Java was overrun by the Japanese in early March 1942, Colin Matheson was the one RAAF non-aircrew member of the many 211 Squadron men to be taken prisoner of war. A somewhat spirited pastoralist in civil life, his sensitive role as Squadron Cypher Officer meant real personal danger as a FEPoW, had the Kempetai any inkling of his actual duties. Nevertheless, Matheson survived the three years of captivity, first on Java and later on the Thai-Burma Railway, at Moulmein Camp (Burma) and at Thai Camp (Thailand) where he was reported safe sometime in 1943, and finally in Singapore at some date in 1945.

    NWA0986 324
    RAAF Officer’s Mess Darwin 14 September 1946 (AWM image NWA0986)
    F/O Matheson, left, was fit enough to be repatriated to Australia in September 1945, aptly aboard SS Highland Chieftain, one of a large ex-FEPoW group arriving aboard her at Darwin on 14 September. There, again aptly (recalling pre-war adventures in South Australia), he was photographed enjoying a beer with fellow ex-FEPOWs in the RAAF Officer’s Mess. Demobbed in February 1946, Matheson took up his old calling as a pastoralist, once more managing Nilpena Station bordering the beautiful Flinders Ranges.

Colin Kenneth Matheson, pastoralist and survivor of the Thai-Burma Railway, died in 1967.

Paterson, Charles Andrew Hamilton 404514
Born in 1913, Paterson was a surveyor with the Main Roads Commission in Brisbane. A week before the fall of France In June 1940, he applied to join the RAAF Reserve, aged 27. He was selected for aircrew on the spot.

The application form, in his now-digitised RAAF file, showed that he was likely to offer Andrew as his first name, with numerous crossings out to correct the order to his proper name. The reason may have arisen from family custom: his father was one Charles Hamilton Paterson. However it may have been, it’s clear that Paterson preferred to use Andrew, calling himself Dru and signing his name ACH Paterson or Dru CH Paterson according to whim.

Dru Paterson was attested for service in the RAAF in September 1940, passing to 2 ITS Bradfield Park, back to 2 EFTS Archerfield and on to 3 SFTS Amberley, both pleasing for his Queensland family. By May 1941 he had achieved his Flying Badge as a Sergeant pilot. Selected for overseas service, in June he embarked for the Middle East on attachment to the RAF. Once in Egypt, a period of cooling his heels at Middle East Pool followed, before he got to 70 OTU Nakuru in October 1941 to pass out crewed up on 6 December 1941. It was early January 1942 when his first operational posting came through: 211 Squadron—and shortly after, the formal posting with them to the Far East.

Among his particular friends from 70 OTU was John Keeping, the gunner. It was Dru Paterson who wrote the final kindly letter entry in John’s diary after his loss on the night raid to Kluang with S/Ldr Dundas and Ritchie.

Paterson was one of those evacuated from Java to Ceylon, apparently per Kota Gede. Returned to Australia, he was commissioned at the end of September 1942. He went on to serve with 33 Squadron RAAF and later with 36 Squadron RAAF as F/Lt. Dru Paterson left the service in October 1945.

Stacey PN 406372 DFC
Of Claremont in Western Australia and a former school teacher at Northam High School, WA. While posted to 211 Squadron in Burma, 406372 Percival Neville Stacey DFC rose to Flight Lieutenant and Acting Squadron Leader. In October 1945, he was awarded the
DFC for his part in Squadron operations, with particular mention of his skill in flying his heavily damaged Beaufighter NE646 to a safe wheels-up landing at Chiringa on 31 January 1945.

    Chiringa, Arakan, Burma 7 December 1944
    Chiringa, Arakan, Burma 7 December 1944 (AWM image SEA0050)
    Stacey “acquired a log-book which reads like 'Who's Who', when he was a pilot in a communications squadron. His passengers included Field Marshal and Lady Wavell; General Sir Claude and Lady Auchinlech; the last Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow; Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Peirse, the Maharajah of Jaipur; the Governor of Bengal, the Honorable R. G. Casey, and Major General Wingate, among others”.

    Arming a 211 Squadron Beaufighter, Chiringa 7 December 1944
    Arming a 211 Squadron Beaufighter, Chiringa 7 December 1944 (AWM image SEA0049)
    F/O Perce Stacey RAAF of Claremont, WA (right), watches armourers at work loading a rocket onto the rails: LAC RG Stephens RAF of Evesham, Worcestershire (left, in hat), LAC H Radcliffe RAF of Newcastle-under-Lyne, Staffordshire (centre, hatless). The cord and plug dangling from the rocket’s rear is the electrical igniter for the cordite propellant.

    Images reproduced with the kind permission of the Australian War Memorial, where a number of 211 Squadron images are held in the Collection Database.

RAAF losses, Far East
211 Squadron RAAF personnel losses are recorded on the
AWM Honour Roll. There are some discrepancies with other recorded information and the immediately obvious ones are as footnoted. In all, 19 RAAF aircrew are shown as lost on service with 211 Squadron in the Far East: 16 in the Sumatra/Java campaign, another as PoW, and 2 in the Burma campaign. Where available, the individual casualty files have confirmed most of these cases. The casualty files also brought forth the summarised or original narrative reports of W/Cdr RN Bateson DFC and those of P/O Penry, P/O Brown and F/Sgt GM Kendrick (coincidentally confirming these men as RAAF members of 211 Squadron).

Name

RAAF no

Rank

To 211

Died

Place

Remarks

Bott, Allan Theodore

400823

Sgt

28/12/41

07/02/42*

Sumatra

Flying battle

Burrage, John Allan

400643

Sgt

29/12/41

21/02/42

Sumatra

Flying battle

Fuller, Kenneth

404741

F/O

 

06/03/44

Burma

Flying battle

Goddard, John William

401785

P/O

 

28/05/44

Burma

Flying battle

Gornall, George Herbert

402033

Sgt

1/1/42

07/02/42*

Sumatra

Flying battle

Keeping, John Blane

404295

Sgt

 

10/02/42

Malaya**

Flying battle

Lamond, Henry James

404212

Sgt

 

07/02/42*

Sumatra

Flying battle

Lewis, Harold Victor

406146

Sgt

 

24/06/44

Tamahoko Maru

PoW

Lynas, James Neville

406200

Sgt

20/12/41

07/02/42*

Sumatra

Flying battle

Mackay,Graham Gordon

404566

F/0

 

13/02/42

Sumatra***

Flying battle

McDonald, Malcolm Dalton

404298

Sgt

29/12/41

21/02/42

Sumatra

Flying battle

McInerney, Thomas Taylor

407273

F/O

28/12/41

13/02/42

Banka Island

Flying battle

Menzies, Stewart Keith

400417

Sgt

29/12/41

07/02/42*

Sumatra

Flying battle

Mohr, RD DFM

400019

Sgt

11/1/42

1/3/42

Java: Kalidjati

Missing

Oddie, Neville Hargreaves

400541

F/O

10/9/41

13/02/42

Sumatra area

Flying battle

Payne,Joseph Henry

406150

F/O

28/12/41

13/02/42

Sumatra

Flying battle

Ritchie, George

400543

F/O

 

10/02/42

Malaya**

Flying battle

Steele, Geoffrey Moore

407810

Sgt

1/1/42

07/02/42*

Sumatra area

Flying battle

Stewart, David McLellan

400545

F/Lt

28/12/41

21/02/42

Sumatra area

Flying battle

Sources: AWM148 Roll of Honour cards; DPS Casualty Section Narratives and individual casualty files.



* Shown as 6 February in some original sources, CWGC and other post-war references, the records of other participants on the day show the events as 7 February 1942.
** Lost with Sqn Ldr KCVD
Dundas DFC at Kluang.
*** Lost with
Oddie (Observer) and Payne (WOp/AG) in Sumatra.

Allan Bott, Nev Lynas, Hal Lamond
400823 Bott AT enlisted in the RAF at Melbourne in November 1940, aged 22. A country boy from Dingwall, near Kerang in rural Victoria, after brief initial training he was selected for aircrew as pilot under training. He embarked for overseas service, attached to the RAF, on 6 March 1941. Disembarked in South Africa, he was taken into the Rhodesian Air Training Group stream of the Empire Air Training Scheme at ITW Bulawayo and on to 26 EFTS Guinea Fowl near Gwelo (modern Gweru). At 21 SFTS Kumalo, near Bulawayo as Acting Sergeant (unpaid) from May 1941, Allan Bott was awarded his Flying Badge on 29 July 1941.

Promoted to Sergeant at the end of August, after a sojourn at Middle East Pool in Egypt he was posted down to Kenya and 70 OTU at Nakuru for his Blenheim Operations Course from 30 October 1941. At 70 OTU, Bott crewed up with Sgt James Neville (Nev) Lynas (Observer) and Sgt Henry (Hal) Lamond WOp/AG: their course completed on the day before Japan entered the war.

Among other NCO aircrew training at Nakuru around that time were Sgts Burrage, Keeping, Penry, AH Kendrick and GM Kendrick. Passing again through Middle East Pool, Allan Bott was posted to 211 Squadron on 28 December 1941 as they reformed at Helwan and on 17 January 1942, posted with the Squadron for Far East service.

By early February 1942, the three had reached Sumatra in their Blenheim IV, possibly Z9713. At Palembang P2, 211 Squadron was about to begin operations against Japanese forces. Sadly, 400823 Sgt AT Bott RAAF: 406200 Sgt JN Lynas RAAF and 404212 Sgt H Lamond RAAF lost their lives while flying in Z9713 as part of a “fighter escort” in daylight for a British convoy of Singapore evacuees in Banka Strait. While the date of the operation is recorded by most participants as 7 February 1942, some signals and records refer to 6 February 1942, and that is the date most commonly used on commemorative records. Two RAF Casualty Section letters to the family of Nev Lynas used either date.

Two Flights of three 211 Squadron aircraft undertook this escort task. According to a number of contemporary reports, all three aircraft of one Flight were attacked. In Z7586, Steele, Menzies and Gornall were also shot down over Banka Strait, all missing believed killed. The third aircraft, Z9659, crashed on return to P2. F/Lt Ken Linton the RAF pilot died the next day according to LAC Livesey’s diary (which may account for other reports that Linton was lost on the following day, returning from a reconnaissance sortie).

For the difficult period of operations in February 1942, there are quite some number of discrepancies, whether between accounts and Log Book records at the time, with and between slightly later signals and reports, and with and between later recall and reporting. Exact dates, and the number and identities of participating aircraft and crews are all subject to some uncertainty which may not be possible to resolve.

John Allan (Jack) Burrage 400643, David Stewart, Malcolm McDonald and Owen Penry
Jack Burrage, of Victoria, enlisted in the RAAF in October 1940 at 24 years of age. Among his childhood schoolfriends was one Owen Penry: JO Penry 400542, who had enlisted in mid September 1940 and later flew as Observer with Reg
Cuttiford.

Jack’s background in civilian life was as a radio engineer, at 3SR Shepparton. Soon after enlisting, he was selected for aircrew, as a pilot under training. Not long afterwards, he married Glenys, née Drummond. Qualifying for his pilot’s badge at RAF Point Cook about May 1941, he was promoted to Sergeant.

    Burrage Point Cook 1941
    No 7 Pilots Course at RAAF Point Cook 1941 (AWM Image P00956.015)
    JA Burrage is seated fourth from the right, in the front seated row. Ten of the 51 men in this image died in the course of their RAAF war service.

Attached to the RAF for overseas service, Jack was aboard Queen Elizabeth when she departed Sydney once more for the Middle East on 26 June 1941. In Egypt there was the usual period of sun, sand and flies in the tentlines at Middle East Pool in Egypt before he was sent on to Kenya, posted on a Blenheim Operations course at 70 OTU in Kenya. There he crewed up with David Stewart 400545, Observer (another Victorian) and Malcolm McDonald 404298 of Charleville in Queensland, Wireless Op/Air Gunner: Penry and Stewart, at least, had also been with the RAAF contingent aboard Queen Elizabeth.

While he was overseas, Burrage wrote home often to wife and family, keeping a careful count of letters in and out against the vagaries of war-time delivery. He also kept a notionally “forbidden” diary: by the time he left 70 OTU in November 1941 he had just started in a new one. Back at the dullness of Middle East Pool, he managed a trip or two to Palestine. On 28 December he learnt that he and his crew were posted to 211 Squadron at Helwan, where they joined them on 29 December, accommodated in the Transit Camp rather than at the RAF Station proper.

The Squadron was re-fitting for the Far East, and Burrage was soon busy ferrying Blenheims in and out as they did so. These newer aircraft he liked, compared to the rather tired aircraft of 70 OTU. On 20 January he and several others, piloted by EP “Ginge” Coughlan 47209, flew up to Aboukir to collect some more Blenheims. After some muddle that gave them an over-night stop in the comparative luxury of Alexandria, they ferried their charges back to Helwan on 21 January. Burrage was pleased:

    “Had a lovely kite and v well equipped. Went like a scalded cat. Used the +9 [lbs] boost to get off the small drome but it was unneccessary. She leapt of the ground.”

The next day he was even more pleased to find that that aircraft, Blenheim IV Z7776, had been allotted to him and his crew. They spent several days working on the final fit-out and on the guns. On Wednesday 28 January 1942 they flew out, en route to the Far East as No 3 in S/Ldr Ken Dundas’ leading vic of three, with Mackay, Oddie and Payne at No 3. Close behind them, the second vic led by P/O Bev West RAAF, with Sgt. Harrison and Sgt. Paterson and their crews.

On 3 February, they reached Sumatra, finding Lho’nga drome near Koetaradja after some trouble, “very tired, irritable and hot after flying about 1,200 miles”. The next day they flew on to Pakenbaru and then on to Palembang where they stuggled to find the aerodrome in a tropical storm.

On 5, 6 and 7 February, Burrage was getting to know the area and working on the aircraft at P2.

    Sat Feb 7th
    ...211 Squadron did its first operational flight protecting a convoy of evacuees. Of Flights, one only returned. It was badly shot up and crashed on landing. Chance the chaps may have been picked up. Missing: Alan Bott, Chas Lynas, Hal Lamond, Keith Menzies, Geoff Steele and Bert Cornall [Gornall]. Pilot of crashed plane died in hospital (F/O Linton) [on the following day from Livesey’s diary].

There are several differing accounts of this operation. Bearing in mind the source is a typed transcript copy of a hand-written account, there may be some slight variation from the intended meaning. One Flight of three aircraft did in fact return safely, led by Bateson the CO. Burrage’s account is so close in time to the action, and in close agreement with several other reports that it certainly seems most likely the escort op was mounted on 7 February (not 6 February), and that all three aircraft of one Flight, including Linton’s, were lost that day.

Owen Penry was the last person to see Jack Burrage and his crew alive on 21 February 1941, as their formation of Blenheims flew into a heavy tropical storm en route over the Java Sea to attack the Japanese at Palembang in Sumatra. After the formation separated in the storm, Burrage and co, apparently in Blenheim Z9714, were never seen again.

Having survived the Sumatra and Java affairs, Penry was repatriated to Australia via Colombo per Kota Gede and Stirling Castle. He went on to serve with 6 Squadron RAAF at Richmond, NSW and made every effort to help the Burrage family understand the circumstances of Jack Burrage’s loss, not only writing but also returning Jack’s diary and letters to them. Later a navigation instructor at 2 AOS Mount Gambier and elsewhere, Penry was commissioned in 1944. In 1945, he joined Qantas as a Navigation Officer.

It is now some years since Gwen Mooney, Jack’s younger sister, kindly made copies of Jack Burrage’s second diary and letters home available to Adrian Fryatt, who passed a copy to me. Although it has taken so long to make use of this material, it has been of the greatest interest of itself and in compiling the narrative for CO Bob Bateson, with all the light (and fresh puzzles) they shed on the Squadron’s operations and losses in Sumatra and Java.

Fuller K 404741
Kenneth Fuller, born in October 1908 at Harrow in the UK, was quite old for aircrew at age 32 on enlistment in the RAAF at Townsville in April 1940. A bank clerk of Cairns, North Queensland, his family by then was resident in Adelaide.

Initially mustered as an airman Observer under training, he already held a civilian A Class pilot’s license, with 45 hours logged. In early 1941 he embarked at Sydney for aircrew training in Canada. There, he succeeded in re-mustering as a Pilot and qualified for his RAAF Pilot’s wings through 11 SFTS Yorkton in Saskatchewan towards the end of July 1941. By February 1943 he had been commissioned and was promoted Flying Officer in August 1943. Posted to India that November, by January 1944 he was flying on operations with 211 Squadron with 1396062 Sgt SC Cook as his Navigator.

Fuller and Cook failed to return from an early morning sortie from Bhatpara on 6 March 1944. Flying in Beaufighter X LZ227 ‘K’, they were one of six aircraft to attack airfields in the Zyatkwin-Hlegu-Hmawbi area and were last seen near Zayatkwin about 0900hrs. Attacking independently against opposition in the air and from the ground, none of the other crews were able to confirm the loss.

The search for missing servicemen began soon after the war in the Burma theatre, however, with the outbreak of civil war, their sad task was put aside for a number of years. In July 1954, the Far Eastern Graves Service was at last able to report, after enquiry among the local population, that the site of an aircraft crash from that time had been found about 10 miles from Zayatkwin at Kawa on the East bank of the Pegu River, not far from the last reported position of Fuller’s aircraft. The two crew had died in the crash and had been buried nearby, but the grave site had been washed away in later floods.

Goddard JW 401785
John William Goddard joined the RAAF at the age of 20 in late March 1941 through 1 RC Melbourne. After initial training in Australia, he embarked for further overseas training as a pilot towards the end of June 1941, to gain his wings in December 1941 in Rhodesia. After further training in South Africa and on Beaufighters in the UK, Sgt Goddard was posted to India in late 1942.

He reached 177 Squadron at Feni in June 1943, in that uncertain period of working up while lacking sufficient aircraft and equipment. Although rising to Flight Sergeant and then Warrant Officer, like other Beaufighter men of that time he found himself diverted to ferry duties for some time (at 21 Ferry Control Mauripur in his case).

Posted to 211 Squadron at Ranchi in late November 1943 while they themselves were in the final stages of working up with their Beaufighters, from January 1944 he was getting closer to action, with a two month stint training on rocketry at SLAIS, also at Ranchi. Joining the 211 Squadron operations roster on 7 March with F/Sgt EM Boon 1233069 as his Nav/W, the pair continued on operations to good effect, such that Boon was soon made Warrant Officer and the CO, S/Ldr Muller-Rowland, recommended Goddard for a commission.

Sadly, on 28 May 1944 Goddard and Boon did not return from a two-aircraft armed morning reconnaissance from Kalwin to Mawlu. Flying in Beaufighter X LZ153 (by coincidence, also ‘K’), they were set upon by fighters, which turned out to be American Mustangs. Shot down by friendly fire near Indaw, Goddard and Boon were posted missing. Despite searches in the post-war period, they were never found.

Mohr RD 400019
Applying for RAAF aircrew in January 1940, in April Reginald Daly Mohr left his job as a bank officer and enlisted. By Dec 1940 he had completed his basic training, gained his Observers badge and departed for the Middle East. In March 1941 he joined 39 Squadron, where his coolness and initiative in regaining control of their aircraft after the pilot had become incapacitated resulted in the immediate award of a DFM, gazetted on 8 Aug 1941. Posted to 211 Squadron on 11 Jan 1942 and to the Far East with them as Observer in GA
Mockridge’s crew, on 1 March 1942 Reg Mohr was posted as “missing - enemy occupation Java”, later amended to “missing, believed killed - air operations Java (Auth OCR 299/45)” (NAA A9301 A432/72). Certainly a member of the Squadron, Mohr’s personal file does not record the exact circumstances of his loss nor the reason for the amended assessment, despite the Casualty Report reference. Mohr was last seen alive on the ground at Kalidjati and is not mentioned in the Java narratives.

Steele GM 407810, Menzies and Gornall
Geoff Steele was an Adelaide boy, born on 30 November 1914. By 1940, he was an accountant in his father’s firm in Grenfell Street in the city. In June that year, just after the fall of France, he applied for selection as aircrew in the RAAF and enrolled in the Reserves. So many thousands of young Australian men were applying then that the RAAF struggled to cope with the influx—it was January 1941 before they sent for him.

    Steeleg407810
    Sgt Geoff Steele c 1941 (Steele family via A Fryatt)

Formally enlisted on 6 January at 5 Recruiting Centre Adelaide, they promptly put him on a train to Victor Harbor. It might at first blush have seemed like a bit of a lark, the little Encounter Bay port being a popular resort even then, but for AC2 407810 Steele it was the home of 4 ITS. There the system would kit him, drill him and give him the basics of Service discipline. Accepted for aircrew training, by March he was at 1 EFTS Parafield, North of Adelaide, to complete initial flying training and from there on to 1 SFTS at RAAF Point Cook in May. By late June, with his ITS course passed, LAC Steele was awarded his flying badge, the coveted pilot’s wings. Next came the advanced syllabus, which he passed in late August, with promotion to Sergeant on 22 August.

Back home in Adelaide for a week of embarkation leave, at the end of the month 4 ED Adelaide sent him on to 5 ED Perth to await passage for Egypt, leaving in mid-September for the dusty delights of Middle East Pool. At the end of October he was off to 70 OTU at Nakuru in Kenya, where he may well have met up with Sgt Alf Kendrick, and almost certainly with Observer Sgt Stewart Keith Menzies 400417 of Western Australia and WOp/AG Sgt George Herbert Gornall 402033 of New South Wales. By 8 December 1941 Geoff Steele had completed his Blenheim Operations course and returned to Egypt. There on New Year’s Day 1942 he was posted 211 Squadron at Helwan. Shortly his posting record carried the added note “211 Squadron (Far East) 17.1.42”.

Flying Blenheim IV Z7586 with his crewmates Menzies and Gornall, Sgt Steele set out late in January 1942 with the Air Party bound for Sumatra in the East Indies, where they arrived at Palembang P2 to take part in operations against the Japanese. On 7 February, the misfortune of war overtook them. Tasked to escort the last British convoy bound for Singapore via Banka Straits and Berhala Straits, the Squadron’s second formation of three aircraft was attacked, two being shot down over the sea, the third crashing on return to P2 with two survivors. Steele, Menzies and Gornall did not return. Nor did Sgt Bott, Sgt Lynas and Sgt Lamond in Z9713.

The story thereafter became somewhat muddled. Original sources and some later accounts differ not only as to date, but in recording the aircraft involved. However, the Palembang II signal of 10 February (as ms message chit or teletype) held in the RAAF casualty files at the NAA (Menzies A705/15 Item 163/143/69 for example), makes the case clear for the aircraft and crew identities, despite numerous garbles in names. Soon thereafter, however, signals misrecording the aircraft serials were being sent.

    Steele DH P04439_003
    Sgt David Steele (AWM image P04439.003)
    All three Steele brothers served in the RAAF. Sadly, on 28 August 1942 Sgt David Steele 416291 also lost his life, in an aircraft accident while with 453 Squadron RAAF at East Lothian in Scotland.

    As an RAAF Medical Officer, F/Lt Robert Steele 287406 saw service with the Dutch 120( NEI) Squadron, with their Kittyhawks on Biak to the North of Dutch New Guinea, and later in New Guinea. He survived the war.

A curious footnote...
Sgt Allan Theodore
Bott 400823 RAAF was a member of 211 Squadron, without doubt. He came from Victoria, and was killed in action ex-Sumatra on 7 February 1942.

By one of those remarkable coincidences of war, serving in Java with 84 Squadron was one Flying Officer James Edwin Warwick Bott 84718 RAF—from London. JEW Bott’s recorded date of death was 5 March 1942, but from other evidence it seems that he and Douglas Kewish died in a lorry with other 84 Squadron members, ambushed on the road from Kalidjati to Soebang, Java, on 1 March during the Japanese ground assault on Kalidjati. Perhaps coincidentally this is the date recorded for the death of Reg Mohr. It was a most difficult period, in more ways than one.

Other connections
A number of these men have been suggested by one source or another as RAAF members of 211 Squadron in the Far East. Excluded from the Far East operational aircrew tables with some confidence, their service or their connection to 211 Squadron is given briefly below.

Besley H 402952 Sgt pilot
Harvey Besley was posted to
72 OTU at Wadi Gazouza on 24 November 1941, a week after it was established by formally absorbing the 211 Squadron personnel (and three weeks before they were then posted back to the re-formed Squadron at Helwan). It was February 1942 before Besley completed his OTU course at Wadi Gazouza. Posted to 11 Squadron in Ceylon and later in India on Blenheim operations, he was captured by the Japanese in April 1943. He survived Rangoon Gaol. Harvey later wrote a rattling good account of his six years in uniform in Pilot—Prisoner—Survivor, referring there to 72 OTU as...211 Squadron.

Curran D Sgt Observer
Of 84 Squadron, according to Hall’s Glory in Chaos and Neate’s Scorpions Sting. No exact or close match to be found in the Australian online
Nominal Roll.

George LG 400238 P/O Observer
According to Hall, a 211 Squadron
survivor of the Far East but Jefford’s wonderful Flying Camels records his long service as an RAAF member of 45 Squadron from December 1941 to August 1943. Later of 163 Squadron RAF, where he was awarded the DFC in September 1945.

Hare A 400673 Sgt
Posted to 72 OTU 23 July 1942, long after the departure of 211 Squadron to the FE.

Harrison RV 408083
Ray Harrison, a Tasmanian, enlisted in the RAAF in October 1940. He was posted in to 72 OTU at Wadi Gazouza on 10 December 1941 as a Sgt WOp/AG for operational training. Only nine days later, about 300 staff of the OTU were posted out to 211 Squadron, reforming at Helwan. Harrison continued on with 72 OTU as it moved to Kenya and Nanyuki, with attachments to 70 OTU and later RAF Rhodesia, apparently either instructing or in aerodrome control. Repatriated to Australia in 1943 and service with 67 Squadron RAAF, he remustered as Aerodrome Control NCO. He was demobbed in November 1945.

The Sgt Pilot Harrison mentioned by Dru Paterson on the 1942 flight to the Far East (and possibly RAAF) remains elusive.

Summary
In the absence of a detailed roll of RAF-attached RAAF personnel, other than chance appearance of an RAAF service no in other records, no obvious single source exists for identifying 211 Squadron aircrew or groundcrew beyond the nominal roll of the Ground Party wrenched out of 72 OTU in December 1941. Few if any of these men are likely to have been Australian.

Over time. research into the various contemporary accounts and records found more men and resolved some muddles in later recall and accounts. For example, JB Keeping, NH Oddie and Merv Scope all had associations with (and named) many other RAAF personnel, some of whom were also members of 211 Squadron or 72 OTU.

Still, the record of RAAF service in 211 Squadron, while now substantial, probably remains incomplete. Some men firmly identified by name and photograph have remained elusive in Australian records and there may still be others not yet identified, however, as the years pass, the odds of any surviving RAAF member coming forward to share their tale are ever longer.

From the mist of the past and the tragedy of war, there are now in all 98 firmly identified Australians among the aircrew of 211 Squadron RAF from 1937 to 1946, and one non-aircrew member in 1942. No less than four of these men date from the pre-war re-forming of the Squadron. Another, JWB Judge, served as Commanding Officer from February 1939 to July 1940, presiding over the conversion from Hind to Blenheim and leading the Squadron to war with the Italians in the Western Desert.

Of the 99 known 211 Squadron men of RAAF or Australian origin, just 57 survived the war: 41 men died on active service, either with 211 Squadron (three of them while training at Wadi Gazouza) or in subsequent service with other Squadrons.

Of the 48 Australian airmen who were operationally active with 211 Squadron from 1940 to 1945, 19 were killed in action or on air operations while serving with the Squadron, or died in captivity (a loss rate of 40%). These men, all recorded in the Losses roll above, on the Squadron Honour Roll and on the roll of FEPoWs who died

Sources
72 Operational Training Unit Operations Record Book TNA AIR 29/686
211 Squadron RAF Operations Record Book
TNA AIR 27/1302, AIR 27/1303.

Merchant Shipping Movement Card SS Cap St Jacques 1940—1946 TNA BT 389/6/131
Merchant Shipping Movement Card SS Kota Gede 1939—1946 TNA BT 389/38/217
Merchant Shipping Movement Card SS Tung Song 1940—1942, 1942—1945 TNA BT 389/27/515
Merchant Shipping Movement Card SS Yoma 1939—1946 TNA BT 389/32/212
NAA WA Office Tung Song Official Log Book PP174/2
RAN Merchant Ship Movement
Records Stirling Castle 1941—1942
RAN Merchant Ship Movement
Records Tung Song 1942—1945

RAAF List 1932-1938
RAAF/RAF SCS Exchange Scheme nominal rolls via D Norman
RAAF Aircraft Loss Cards via D Norman
RAAF Records of Service (Series A9300, A9301), Casualty Files (Series A705) and Personnel Occurrence Reports (Series A10605),
National Archives of Australia.
RAAF Museum Point Cook rolls and images
Roll of Honour, Honours and Awards, and personal and other records of the
Australian War Memorial
Commonwealth War Graves Commission records
World War 2 Nominal Roll, Australia

Aistrope J photographs and correspondence re DG Boehm with author
Barclay R correspondence with author
Burrage diary, letters and Burrage/Mooney family papers via Adrian Fryatt
Ellis family correspondence with author
Furmage family papers via Adrian Fryatt
Hodges Wright Militaria Ballarat
Auction 651 Item 3555 RAAF 407429 (Wright 2013)
Matheson NAA RAAF Series 9300 RAAF service record, NLA Trove Adelaide Advertiser entries, AWM Collections db
Pailthorpe C and A Flying Log Book and correspondence via Adrian Fryatt.
Payne L correspondence with author
Steele RT correspondence via Adrian Fryatt.
Vincent D correspondence with author
Other personal correspondence as noted

Air Historical Branch RAF Narrative—Middle East Campaigns—Vol II: Operations in Libya and The Western Desert June 1941 to January 1942 (AWM 220 Item 16; TNA AIR 41/28, MLRS facsimile). See pages 46-56, Appendix K, Appendix N.
Air Ministry Air Force List (HMSO) issues for July 1937, October 1937, January 1938, April 1938, November 1938, December 1938, January 1939

Besley Pilot—Prisoner—Survivor (Darling Downs Institute Press 1986)
Campbell and Lovell So Long Singapore (Campbell 2000)
Charpentier, Lacey-Johnson & Jeudwine Global Warrior (Lacey-Johnson 1999)
Chorley Bomber Command Losses Vol I 1939—1940 (Midland 1998)
Golley Aircrew Unlimited (PSL 1993)
Gillison Australia in the War of 1939—1945: Series 3 Air Vol I RAAF 1939—1942 (AWM 1962)
Hall Glory in Chaos (Sembawang Assn 1989)
Herington Australia in the War of 1939—1945: Series 3 Air Vol III Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939—1943 (AWM 1954)
Herington Australia in the War of 1939—1945: Series 3 Air Vol IV Air Power Over Europe 1944—1945 (AWM 1963)
Hurst The Fourth Ally: The Dutch Forces in Australia in WWII (Hurst 2001)
Jefford The Flying Camels: The History of No 45 Squadron RAF (Jefford 1995)
Jeudwine et al Global Warrior (Lacey-Johnson 1999)
London Gazette 1948:
Maltby Report on Air Operations During the Campaigns in Malaya and Netherlands East Indies Dec 1941—Mar 1942 HMSO
McMillan RP 2003 IWM interview
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80023525
Neate Scorpions Sting: The Story of No 84 Squadron RAF (Air Britain 1994)
Newton A Few of the Few (AWM 1990)
Newton First Impact (Banner 1997)
Odgers Australia in the War of 1939—1945: Series 3 Air Vol II Air War Against Japan 1943—1945 (AWM 1957)
Robertson Australia Goes to War (Doubleday 1984)
Shores, Cull & Izawa Bloody Shambles Vol II (Grub St 1993)
Scope As Luck Would Have It (Scope 1992)
Smith et al
Naval Events 1942 at Royal Navy and Naval History www.naval-history.net
Storr Missing With No Known Grave (Storr 2006) at
AWM
Vincent The RAAF Hudson Story Book One, Book Two (Vincent 1999, 2010)
Wisdom Wings Over Olympus (George Allen & Unwon 1942)
Woodward Three Times Lucky (Boolarang 1991)

 

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Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 31 Jul 2017. Page created 31 Mar 2002, last updated 31 Jul 2017
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