|Screened pilot/Navigator||A slightly different twist on the meaning of a screened airman:
Occasionally on Liberator squadrons in India a pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, and even an air gunner who had completed a tour flew an op as a "screen" on the same squadron - essentially overseeing a fresh airman or airmen in the same crew positions on his/their first op with the squadron. In such cases, really, the screen was acting as an experienced coach/critic to impart his in-flight wisdom regarding the finer points of Far East operational flying. This was prior to the screen's next posting to an OTU as an instructor, or to another assignment.
I'd never thought of a tour-ex airman flying an op like this as being "screened", but instead as being a "screener" of those with little Far East flying experience.
I don't know if such ops were flown voluntarily by the screen; I'm guessing that they were.
One case worth mentioning:
177155 Flying Officer Rowland TOTHAM DFC died on 17 May 1945 when the 355 Squadron Liberator he was piloting, KH250, was shot down during a raid on Port Blair in the Andaman Islands (Indian Ocean). Totham had been skipper for all but the first of his 31 ops with 101 Squadron in Bomber Command (his only previous operational flying; tour-expired 27 Nov 1944).
Despite his DFC-worthy experience on Lancs, Totham, with 1522985 F/Sgt John Herbert MCDOWALL as his 2nd pilot, was still accompanied on the Liberator flight deck on 17 May by a "screen pilot" who had just completed his tour with 355 Squadron: 197862 P/O Robert James DUCKWORTH. From Totham's logbook I know that he'd flown a total of 1019:35 hours going into his first op with 355. He had also just completed a course including 51:45 flying hours at No. 6 Refresher Flying Unit, all on Liberators and mostly as 1st pilot.
Obviously, then, Totham was not green, but P/O Duckworth was still along as a screen.
Also aboard their Liberator was a front gunner with a DFC: 179043 F/O Frederick Edward RUMSEY-WILLIAMS DFC. I know nothing of his or the remainder of the crew's previous operational experiences.
Only one parachute was seen. Of the eleven aboard KH250, only the mid-upper gunner, 1516012 F/Sgt Harold WYNNE, became a POW, but he died on S. Andaman Island on 17 Aug 1945 - two days after Hirohito's surrender radio speech. At this point I am presuming that Wynne was executed by the Japanese.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 13th May 2009 01:43:30|
|Hudson loss, 18 April 1942, Port Blair||Thanks to the Brain Trust!
I pored over my Rangoon Jail lists and books and can confirm that of the six men in the communal grave I mentioned in my posting, all but HOLROYD-DOVETON were killed in the accidental bombing of the prison on 29.11.43. These four airmen and the one army private in the grave are mentioned by name in the excellent memoir "Quiet Jungle - Angry Sea" by Denis Gavin. "Piggy" MARTIN, the private, was "compound [prison compound] tough...who just liked fighting", per Gavin.
I realized then that I have the Graves Concentration Report for WHITE, pulled off the web from his National Archives of Australia casualty file, I think.
Of the four men Col listed as the likely crew of Hudson V9211, then, JACKSON and FLOWER were definitely POWs who died in Rangoon. And the Gavin book has great info on Percy HALL, who, it seems, survived his imprisonment despite terrible bouts with dysentery and beri-beri. One passage from Gavin's book:
"Percy Hall was the only one I remember who recovered from the final stage of wet beri-beri. He tried everything from exercise and sunbathing to refraining from drinking water. He was a serious, intellectual RAF sergeant who wouldn't give in even when Len White and I bet him we would see him carried out. We lost because unaccountably Percy started to sweat one day, he sweated and stank like a urinal, and he gradually went down until in a week he was skin and bones and then he started to build up and even got to the stage where he went out regularly on work parties."
That just leaves Sgt John FREHNER. He isn't listed in Unsung Heroes by Les and Pam Stubbs, and his CWGC info confirms an 18.4.42 death. Missing, commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.
I don't know how reliable these lists are for figuring out aircrew casualties, but I went through the "MISSING, BELIEVED KILLED IN ACTION" in the Casualty List 159 that Dennis retrieved from the Flight Magazine site. Of all these names, only one do not show up in the CWGC database: Percy HALL, who we now know was in Rangoon Jail and a survivor, it seems.
The reason I was inquiring about this Hudson crew is because of my hunt for the missing crew of 355 Sqn Liberator KH250, shot down by AA fire at Port Blair, S. Andaman Island on 17 May 1945. One crewman, Sgt. Harold WYNNE, died as a POW on 17 Aug 1945 in Port Blair. Per the 355 Sqn ORB, and a 355 Sqn participant on that op with whom I corresponded, only one parachute was seen. The remainder of the crew were killed in the crash, and officially they are missing.
I have been working with the kin of the pilot, 177155 F/O Rowland TOTHAM DFC. The Air Historical Branch told them that the Lib crashed in a tidal marsh just outside of Port Blair and that the bodies were buried by the Japanese near a named village. Then, the British put up a proper marker on the communal grave when they reoccupied the area in Oct 1945, but the graves were not exhumed.
This is baffling, because ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 17th November 2009 04:49:03|
|1380358 F/Sgt R.M.B. McPherson, died 17.5.45||I wonder if the genealogy wizards who frequent this site might conjure up some essential facts on the following airman.
1380358 F/Sgt Robert Murdock Bannerman MCPHERSON was the rear gunner of 355 Sqn Liberator KH250, which was shot down by AA fire while attacking Port Blair, S. Andaman Island from 2000 ft on 17 May 1945. (This is the Liberator I mentioned on page 2 of the current thread on the Hudson crew lost on 18 April 1942.) It is known for certain that one parachute was seen, and that one KH250 crewman, mid-upper gunner 1516012 F/Sgt Harold WYNNE, died in Port Blair on 17 Aug 1945 as a POW. The ten others in the crew, including McPherson, are officially missing, with no known grave.
However, it has been established, via the Air Historical Branch, that the Japanese buried remains collected from the crash site, and that the British constructed a proper grave marker post-war but never exhumed the remains and never notified the next-of-kin. This past weekend the KH250 communal grave was rediscovered near the crash site, in an area flooded frequently since the 2004 tsunami due to post-earthquake subsidence.
So that I can share the news, I would like to find next-of-kin of as many of the crew as possible, and I thought I'd try this one at a time, starting with McPherson. (I'm already in touch with the family of the skipper, 177155 F/O Rowland TOTHAM DFC.) The only background info I have on McPherson at this time is from the CWGC:
Age 24, he was the son of Robert Murdock Bannerman McPherson and Nora McPherson; husband of D. M. McPherson, of Bideford, Devon.
Presumably the parents lived in Bideford, as well as his wife, but it could be that only his widow resided there. The CWGC database is unclear on this.
There are no McPherson phone listings in Bideford, only MacPherson; I have not tried these numbers yet. I plan to write to the two local weekly newspapers, but before I do so, I was hoping that some further biographical details will emerge, through the efforts of geneology-savvy readers with skills far greater than mine. I'd be most grateful for assistance.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 19th November 2009 12:36:08|
|1380358 F/Sgt R.M.B. McPherson, died 17.5.45||I'm home from the office and able to read Andy's e-mail. Sure enough, his electoral roll info included the address of F/Sgt McPherson's daughter Sylvia. And she is listed at that address in the BT phone directory, so at a decent hour I will throw caution to the wind and try to ring her.
A huge thanks to Andy and Martyn, again! I'll put together my next KH250 kin plea in a few minutes.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 20th November 2009 02:26:00|
|1522985 F/Sgt J.H. MCDOWALL, killed 17.5.45||Request #2 follows on the heels of the swift success, via this Forum, in finding the daughter of the 355 Sqn Liberator KH250 rear gunner (R.M.B. McPherson). Next on the list:
1522985 F/Sgt John Herbert MCDOWALL was the 2nd pilot of KH250, when shot down by AA fire while attacking Port Blair, S. Andaman Island on 17 May 1945.
A repeat of basics:
It is known for certain that one parachute was seen, and that one KH250 crewman, mid-upper gunner 1516012 F/Sgt Harold WYNNE, died in Port Blair on 17 Aug 1945 as a POW. The ten others in the crew, including McDowall, are officially missing, with no known grave.
However, the KH250 communal grave was rediscovered near the crash site, in an area flooded frequently since the 2004 tsunami due to post-earthquake subsidence.
I'd be grateful for help in finding more details on McDowall and his kin. From the CWGC:
Age 22, he was the son of Norman Herbert and Doris Mabel McDowall, of Higher Crumpsall, Manchester.
There are a couple McDowall phone listings in Manchester, but I thought I'd hold off trying them in the hope of solid leads developing first.
So would anyone like to take a stab at finding McDowall kin, or family biographical details?
Thanks in advance,
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 20th November 2009 02:52:25|
|1522985 F/Sgt J.H. MCDOWALL, killed 17.5.45||Thanks for those pieces of the puzzle, Dennis. I must admit to being seriously out of my league when trying the genealogy sites you listed...can't seem to make any progress, and I'm getting psyched out far too easily.
I ended up phoning the six or so McDowalls in the Manchester area phone directory. Two ans. machines, four "no known relation" responses (from four very pleasant and interested people). Will try the last two again this weekend.
I'd be most grateful for any further help on zeroing in upon F/Sgt McDowall kin from anyone who loves the thrill of the hunt and in bringing much-deserved details to families that were denied the truth, despite it being known, decades ago. Sure seems like F/Sgt McDowall had no siblings, and certainly no wife, so this is a much more difficult search, probably, for more distant relatives.
At least one of McDowall's crewmates is from the Manchester area, as well; I don't know hometown info on some of the men, though. Maybe a newspaper in Manchester will print an appeal, along with the news of the crew grave's discovery, and photos of the grave. Hopefully this story with a local Manchester twist -- finding a missing crew's communal grave exactly where British officials knew it existed 64 years ago, and my desire to share the truth with kin of the Manchester airmen -- will appeal to those who want to sell newspapers.
For now, I'll keep on submitting individual KH250 crew kin requests to this board, hoping that readers will continue to take pity upon my lack of genealogy smarts... Will put forth Request #3 as soon as I can.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 20th November 2009 09:53:55|
|578 Sqn AG's DFC, ORB citations||179043 F/O Frederick Edward RUMSEY-WILLIAMS DFC, an air gunner, died when 355 Sqn Liberator KH250 was shot down over Port Blair, S. Andaman Island, on 17 May 1945. It was his first op with 355.
According to the Flight Magazine issue of 28 December 1944, announcing his DFC, he was affiliated with 578 Squadron. I am guessing that he flew a tour with 578, on Halifaxes, prior to his 1945 posting to 355 in India.
Might one of our readers have the 578 Sqn ORB handy? I would be grateful for any tidbit of info about his service with 578.
Is Rumsey-Williams' DFC citation known to a reader?
I have posted a guestbook message on the 578 Sqn website and I have contacted the webmaster and another researcher, but so far no replies have come my way. I thought I'd try RAF Commands, proving my impatience.
Back on 20 Nov, in the MCDOWALL thread, Dennis Burke mentioned the website http://freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl as a source for finding kin details. I'm pleased to say I've had better luck since my initial stab ... the learning curve ... I have found evidence of a Rumsey-Williams brother's birth and marriage, but no further post-war family details. What I have, however, will help in the search for next-of-kin.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 30th November 2009 07:29:50|
|578 Sqn AG's DFC, ORB citations||John,
Many thanks for your DFC info and for searching for crew details and any link to 355 Sqn.
Since my last posting I heard from a 578 Sqn/RAF Burn website researcher, who put me in touch with one of Rumsey-Williams' crewmates for several ops with "Max" Baer in the summer of 1944 (but not one of their regular crew). I'm at work right now and don't have the names handy. Later I'll post their names and also a fun anecdote about Baer's beat up of Burn when returning from the final op of his tour in Aug '44. Rumsey-Williams was the rear gunner during that memorable incident. I now have an excellent photo of him, with the Baer crew, which I've submitted to the Berkhamsted, Herts newspaper. Also a wonderful photo of the Halifax buzzing the control tower.
None of the names of the Bair crew match to the names of Rumsey-Williams' fellow casualties in Liberator KH250 on 17 May 1945.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 14th December 2009 11:29:14|
|NCO uniform questions||Yesterday I received three group photos showing the crew of 355 Sqn Liberator KH250 (skipper: F/O Rowland TOTHAM DFC) in tropical India in 1945. They were shot down by AA over Port Blair, S. Andaman Island on 17 May 1945. Only the MU gunner, F/Sgt Harold Wynne, survived the shootdown, but he died as a prisoner of war three months later.
Together with the nephew of one of the air gunners on the crew, I have positively ID'd most of the faces. We think that two unidentified crewmen in 2 of the 3 photos are warrant officer. The problem is that they have no markings on their shirts to indicate rank or crew category, and the sleeves are rolled up. However, these two appear to be wearing straps on the right wrists which seem to carry a design which might very well be a W/O crest or crown.
In a third photo an airman wearing a brimmed cap also seems to have a similar wrist band. I can see no commissioned officer's loops on his shoulders, yet the cap insignia is for an officer -- I think. It shows the eagle and the crown insignia, and the brim is dark in tone. Could this be an NCO's cap?? Up to now I'd been under the impression that NCOs only wore the peaked forage cap.
In quick googling, I found one reference to a wrist strap indicating NCO rank in the tropics, but it was not RAF. Also, the nephew said, "When I served in the Royal Marines Commandos a wrist band was worn by Colour Sergeants and above whilst wearing tropical uniform, or short sleeve order."
Unfortunately the photos are not quite sharp enough to make out the actual W/O crest or crown designs, but there seems to be something there.
So: 1) In the tropics did RAF warrant officers (or even sgts/flt sgts) sometimes wear their rank on a wrist strap? 2) Could an RAF warrant officer wear a brimmed cap?
Thanks, as always. ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 11th July 2010 11:56:35|
|NCO uniform questions||Malcolm and Alan,
Thanks for enlightening me. Peaked cap vs forage cap is now understood, and the photo evidence, compared to the ranks of the KH250 casualties (per CWGC and the 355 Sqn ORB), makes perfect sense.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 12th July 2010 12:20:39|
|RAF casualty? in1945? named Guy John something?||Hi, Oldduffer,
I forgot to acknowledge your wise suggestion to approach the CWGC for assistance. I've had some very frustrating dealings of late with CWGC brass regarding a verifiable, undeniable communal RAF Liberator crew grave that I've been able to find in the Andaman Islands (KH250, 355 Sqn, downed 17 May '45). Progress is being made (initial CWGC site visit took place in April), but we -- the kin of the missing men and myself -- have found that the CWGC folks are generally tight-lipped, despite receiving tons of evidence from us. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so it is worth the effort to ask them for assistance on the "Guy John Brailsford" mystery.
The daughter will get back to me soon, I hope, with her birth mother's postings circa 12/44 and 1/45, and that will be extremely valuable for cross-referencing with RAF squadrons, etc.
Sure wish we had confidence in the accuracy of biographical details the daughter had assumed were solid leads. The fact that, per the Debt of Honour Register, no "Brailsford" casualties except for the now-discounted Ken Brailsford easily fit the bill is troubling, but it's way too soon to assume defeat. Could be that "Guy John" is correct but "Brailsford" is in error...or he was not aircrew...not killed...etc... The shame/backlash factor in 1945 regarding a child out of wedlock must have been significant, so that the true facts may have never been revealed by the birth mother. Skeletons in the closet are not out of the question. And according to the tale, the birth father never knew (was not told...and then he died?) that he'd impregnated the WAAF.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 31st May 2011 01:18:38|
I looking for the details of two DFC holders from 355 Squadron, who's Liberator Bomber KH250 H 'Hawkeye' was shot down on 17 May 1945.
Pilot - F/O 177155 Rowland Totham DFC
Nose Gunner - F/O 179043 Frederick Rumsey-Williams DFC
The pilot was previously with 101 Squadron and did a full tour of 32 missions over Europe , before being posted to India to 355 Squadron,along with five other members of his crew.
I looked on line at the National Archives and the various list's but their names are not listed. I've also looked at the London Gazette's for the period but again, nothing.
Can anyone shed any light on this for me
Best Regards ....Read More.||Ronmanley on 20th December 2011 09:07:57|
|DFC Holders||Ron is the nephew of Liberator KH250 rear gunner Bob McPherson, killed on 17 May 1945. The crew:
Pilot 177155 F/O Rowland TOTHAM DFC
2nd Pilot 1522985 F/Sgt John Herbert MCDOWALL
Screen Pilot 197862 P/O Robert James “Jim” DUCKWORTH
Navigator 1804316 F/Sgt Harold Walter EMERSON
Bomb Aimer 187828 F/O Ieuan Anthony “Tony” MORGAN
Wireless Operator 655366 W/O Harry JOHNSON
Wireless Operator 977546 W/O Hugh CAMPBELL
Front Gunner 179043 F/O Frederick Edward “Ted” RUMSEY-WILLIAMS DFC
Ball Gunner 1557907 Sgt Leslie BENFELL
Mid-Upper Gunner 1516012 F/Sgt Harold WYNNE
Rear Gunner 1380358 F/Sgt Robert Murdock Bannerman McPHERSON
After the kin of Rowland Totham found me through the Internet, I helped Totham's daughter, the true next-of-kin, to write to the Air Historical Branch requesting info. The resulting details provided by the AHB gave me the essentials needed to rediscover the location of the crash site and the communal crew grave holding the remains of up to 10 men; there are 10 missing men, officially. (Only Harold Wynne baled out and reached the ground alive, but he was executed by the Japanese three months later, by lethal injection. His body was recovered post-war; he was buried in Kirkee War Cem in India.)
The grave, known to hold the remains of multiple casualties from KH250, was brought to the attention of reoccupying British forces in Oct 1945. However, instead of exhuming these remains from a very accessible site adjacent to the main road in the area, a decision was made to leave them in place and to simply construct a brick and concrete grave marker. A plaque with the names of the missing men was added.
The kin back home were not told the truth.
On my behalf in Nov 2009, a Port Blair newspaper editor, Sanjib Kumar Roy, visited the village closest to the wrecksite. He was immediately shown the crew's nearby communal grave. Land subsidence from the quake which triggered the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami has forever altered the terrain, and now the grave, once on dry land, is flooded daily by tidal action. The concrete grave marker is in deplorable shape -- broken and collapsing, and the plaque with the missing men's names disappeared.
It has been a two-year struggle to get the Ministry of Defence to recover the remains (which, per a Japanese report, were of multiple crewmen -- 7 is the number given, but I wouldn't trust the accuracy of this). Finally, this past April Duncan Povey of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission made a site visit and wrote a favorable report. In mid-August the MoD's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre committed to a recovery project, and they are currently working on the complicated plans with the British High Commission in New Delhi.
I am in direct communication with the kin of all 10 missing men; last Friday Ron Manley made contact with this 10th family. I had found Ron Manley's family through the help of the RAF Commands ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 20th December 2011 02:10:31|
|Meaning of "P.M.C." in 357 Sqn ORB||Hi, Dennis,
I don't know enough about the AM949 crew burial site yet, but it may be an example of a missed opportunity to exhume known remains for reburial post-war in one of the Burma cemeteries established by the then-Imperial War Graves Commission. There could be more to the story, such as lawlessness which kept the Missing Research & Enquiry Service team, or another searcher team, from reaching this remote site very close to the China border. Or perhaps vegetation growth obscured the wartime gravesite and prevented the local villagers from pinpointing the site to MRES or other searchers.
On the other hand, I have extensively researched several Liberator crashes where remains were known to have been buried, but then the RAF victims were left in the original graves for reasons that are just plain baffling, instead of being moved to a war cemetery like so many other casualties in the Far East. I wonder if the AM949 crew remains were essentially never recovered through neglect or poor decisionmaking or incompetence or whatever.
Take the case of Liberator KH250 of RAF 355 Sqn, shot down over Port Blair, S. Andaman Island on 17 May 1945. The Japanese forced the local villagers to bury multiple remains (10 men are officially missing) near the crash site just outside of Port Blair, the target. When the British reoccupied the Port Blair area in Oct 1945, they were soon made aware of this crash site and the nearby Liberator wreckage (some of which was visible into the late 1980s, according to local villagers who were interviewed). What was done about it? Instead of exhuming this communal gravesite, someone ordered the erection of a brick and concrete grave marker, complete with a cross and a names plaque listing the missing crew of KH250. No bodies were exhumed, yet less than five miles away the grave of their crewmate -- executed three months after his bale out/capture -- was exhumed post-war and moved to Kirkee War Cemetery in India. Not exhuming the communal gravesite is baffling -- and the families of the missing were not told the truth. I'm now three years into the ongoing battle to get the communal grave exhumed.
Liberator KH214 of 215 Sqn was shot down during a low-level attack on a Burma-Siam Railway bridge in western Burma on 3 Jan 1945, killing the crew of eleven. On 26 Sept 1945 the first Allied search team looking for Death Railway POW graves stopped in the village of Anankwin, Burma, along the railway. A Japanese officer who had been in command of the anti-aircraft gun crew which downed the Liberator took the searchers to the communal gravesite of the KH214 victims. A memorial service was held (led by Padre Henry Babb, a POW who had volunteered to participate in the search for graves), and a photo was taken of the grave and the service-in-progress. The Japanese officer had provided a date for the Liberator's downing -- 3 January -- and a description of the Liberator downing which matched up, without question, ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 18th December 2012 07:49:39|
|DNA expertise welcomed||Greetings from the Washington, DC area.
Might a DNA expert advise on the "best potential" for DNA matches between RAF airmen whose remains are recovered and their direct blood relatives? Some genetic connections yield better results than others.
On 17 May 1945 RAF 355 Sqn Liberator KH250 was shot down during a raid on Port Blair, South Andaman Island, in the Indian Ocean.
One crewman, Harold Wynne, baled out, was captured, imprisoned, and executed by the Japanese two months later (after Hirohito's surrender radio announcement). The ten others are officially missing, but I rediscovered their long-forgotten communal grave in 2010. The five-year campaign to get the grave exhumed continues - it is contingent upon Indian government permission that has yet to be granted. So, although the permission may never come in this very political world of ours, it would behoove our group to gather DNA evidence now, in anticipation of an eventual exhumation.
I am in contact with direct kin from each of the ten crewmates; some (shown in red) are obviously excellent DNA testing candidates, but others are weaker...or I would like assurance that they are good candidates.
Rowland TOTHAM: daughter of Rowland's daughter
John MCDOWALL: distant relatives (not great, but better than nothing; not defined here)
Jim DUCKWORTH: son of Jim's sister
Harold EMERSON: son of Harold's sister
Tony MORGAN: either his sister (if still alive; she was, but that was 4 years ago), or else either of two daughters of Tony's other sister
Harry JOHNSON: son
Hugh CAMPBELL: son of either of Hugh's siblings.
Ted RUMSEY-WILLIAMS: daughter of Ted's brother
Les BENFELL: son of Les' sister
Bob McPHERSON: daughter
Thanks for any insight you can offer. I should add that any day now a contact at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission should advise us on DNA matters, but I seek additional points of view.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 6th May 2015 10:32:45|
|DNA expertise welcomed||Hi, Franek,
Many thanks for your valuable information. The success of any DNA-gathering effort is contingent upon a) the Indian Ministry of External Affairs granting permission for an exhumation effort, b) finding any remains in a saturated-soil gravesite now inundated by tidal ebb and flow in a marsh (flooded since the 2004 tsunami disaster), c) the successful extraction of usable DNA from remains (IF any remains are recovered at all, after 70 years), and d) a successful match to kin DNA.
I really never even thought of collecting DNA from the next-of-kin until recently...and in the past couple of years the daughter of Rowland Totham and the sister of Hugh Campbell have passed away. Very strong DNA links. I would not be surprised if the sister of Tony Morgan has also died...I'm awaiting news. So I missed out on these direct links, though Totham's daughter's daughter is alive and well, and Morgan's other sister's two daughters are well.
We will collect what we can...and hope, hope, hope that a dig can take place. Just to get into the soil...mud, that is...would be the first major victory. And then, IF remains are found, the DNA comparisons might yield positive results. Ultimately, a burial in a war cemetery is the goal.
I should further explain that the gravesite was once on dry ground slightly above the tidal marsh, but the Boxing Day 2004 earthquake which triggered the tsunami resulted in about a one-meter drop in the land. Then came the tsunami, and ever since then, the grave has been flooded routinely by tidal action.
I don't know what the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will need to make a positive determination of any crew identities. I imagine they will need a legal identification. There is solid evidence that the grave only contains the remains of a British crew (Liberator KH250, 355 Sqn) -- from evidence provided by the Air Historical Branch (old documents from the 1940s) and from modern investigations and interviews conducted five years ago. However, we have been told that the Indian government is not satisfied that the grave is that of the KH250 casualties (up to 10 missing crewmen), and they will not dig upon a grave where Indians are suspected as being buried. A names plaque, built post-war as part of a permanent grave marker, disappeared before the tsunami hit, possibly in the 1990s. I'm working on tracking down the past landowner (my contacts have already interviewed the current owner) in the needle-in-a-haystack hope that a photo showing names on the plaque will materialize. And local villagers will also be asked for photos. We have a low probability of success...but it is worth the effort because if such a photo can be found, it just might sway the Indian government into accepting that this is, indeed, the burial site of British casualties, not Indians.
Hope springs eternal...nothing ventured, nothing gained...and there are a few other clichés I can evoke. I think my fingers are permane ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 6th May 2015 07:02:17|
|DNA expertise welcomed||Hi, Jonny,
The less I say about JCCC the better. Actually, they won't be involved again unless there is an exhumation with human remains found. The nephew of casualty Bob McPherson is in contact with the CWGC regarding DNA -- no info received quite yet, but we do expect help -- so we will bypass further direct contact with JCCC completely, until (if it happens) remains are found. Good bleepin' riddance. Sorry for the negativity, but if...you...only...knew...
The McPherson nephew (Ron Manley) and I tracked down the kin of each of the other men who died in the crash of KH250 -- so JCCC won't have to spend their time and funds on this in the future. (And Ron found the kin of Harold Wynne, who was executed.) It is understandable that JCCC wouldn't even begin to track down next-of-kin unless remains were found. (Because Wynne has a known grave, JCCC would never track down his kin, also understood.)
Ron and I decided that these families should be offered the chance to learn basic details that were never shared with them by the UK government, plus a wealth of other things I have found through modern research. Not one family turned down this golden opportunity. Several close kin have passed away since then, so we are grateful to have been able to share with them "in the nick of time."
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 7th May 2015 06:01:37|
|Murdered Airmen||[QUOTE=Oldduffer;109754]There are a number of other recorded cases in NW Europe. In south east Asia it was almost a part of Japanese policy to execute captured aircrew.
As late as a few weeks before the war in the Far east ended, the Japs executed prisoners and there was a general concern that their forces had been instructed to murder all POWs to hide their tracks.
A nasty and sordid business. [/QUOTE]
Yes it was, Colin. And not just up to a few weeks before the war's end...see my soon-to-be added post in the SEAC forum section about the KH250 loss 70 years ago today. The mid-upper gunner was executed on 17 Aug '45, after Hirohito's surrender speech was made.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 17th May 2015 05:56:13|
|70 years ago, today||Today is the 70th anniversary of the downing of [B]355 Sqn Liberator KH250[/B], hit by AA fire during an attack on Port Blair, S. Andaman Island (the westernmost point of Japanese expansion, I believe) on 17 May 1945.
Of the eleven-man crew, only one was able to bale out: [B]1516012 F/Sgt Harold WYNNE[/B]. After three months of incarceration in Japanese hands in Port Blair, Wynne was executed by lethal injection on 17 August 1945 -- [U]after[/U] Hirohito's surrender radio broadcast. Wynne and four of his crewmates, including their skipper, [B]177155 F/O Rowland TOTHAM[/B], were on their first op in the Far East after completing a tour on Lancasters of 101 Sqn. Totham was awarded a DFC for his 101 Sqn tour.
Another crewman on the doomed KH250, [B]179043 F/O Ted RUMSEY-WILLIAMS[/B], had completed a tour on Halifaxes of 578 Sqn; he was awarded a DFC after that tour.
The ten who died on 17 May 1945 fell just north of Port Blair. The Japanese forced local villagers to gather remains for burial in a single grave nearby. Post-war the British created a permanent grave marker complete with a names plaque -- instead of exhuming the remains for reburial in a war cemetery. What makes this especially baffling is the fact that Harold Wynne's remains, in a cemetery nearby, [U]were[/U] moved to the newly-established Kirkee War Cemetery.
The families were never told the truth, and the ten men are officially missing, with no known graves.
I found the grave in late 2009, with the help of an associate in Port Blair. The struggle to get the grave exhumed continues. Currently the UK MoD's Nautical and Air Advisor in New Delhi, Royal Navy Captain Stuart Borland, is working very diligently at winning the approval of the Indian government for a dig -- which is the only holdup. I can't praise Capt Borland enough for his stellar efforts.
The grave, once on high ground adjacent to a marsh, has been flooded routinely ever since the massive underwater earthquake on Boxing Day 2004 lowered the land by up to a meter, and the tsunami surged through the area. The concrete grave marker is a smashed wreck now, and missing the names plaque...very sad. The flooding is disgusting.
A crew photo can be seen here, along with a photo of the shattered crew grave which doesn't show the flooding, and a photo of KH250:
Ten of the eleven who flew aboard KH250 on 17 May 1945 are in the crew photo. The five highlighted in bold, below, were crewed together on 101 Sqn for a tour:
[B][U]Back Row Left to Right[/U]:[/B]
Navigator – [B]1804316 F/Sgt [/B][B]Harold Walter EMERSON[/B]
Mid Upper Gunner – [B]1516012 F/Sgt[/B] [B]Harold WYNNE[/B]
Pilot – [B]177155 F/O[/B] [B]Rowland TOTHAM DFC[/B]
Bomb Aimer - 187828 F/O Ieuan Anthony “Tony” MORGAN
2nd Pilot – 1522985 F/Sgt John Herbert MCDOWALL
Rear Gunner – [B]1380358 F/Sgt[/B] [B]Rob ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 17th May 2015 06:43:49|
|70 years ago, today||Hi, Colin,
Wow -- I missed your very generous comments from -- gasp -- pushing three years ago! Thank you kindly, Colin.
There is great news to report. At last the UK and Indian governments have worked out a protocol which will allow for a dig -- but now after the monsoon season has passed. This autumn, hopefully. The Indians have insisted that if remains are found, digging will cease so that the remains can be DNA tested. They must be proven to be non-Indian in nature, or else there will be no recognition of these remains as casualties from KH250, and they will not be given a burial in a CWGC cemetery.
I have questions about the protocol. Soon the kin will be meeting with Tracey Bowers of the MoD's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, at which time questions, ideally, can be answered.
But at last there is hope for a proper exhumation. One step at a time, of course, and just winning Indian approval for a dig is a huge hurdle overcome.
Some years back there was an issue with Western companies removing remains from India (such as for use in teaching human anatomy -- I know a British Navy officer, very important in the negotiations with India, who learned biology on an Indian skeleton), as they were a plentiful source. The Indian Government clamped down on this, and there are legal safeguards in place to prevent it. India is especially sensitive about the possibility of Indian remains being claimed as English, as well. I have provided a wealth of evidence, from contemporary British records to modern eyewitness recollections, that all but prove that the grave is that of casualties from KH250 -- up to ten men's remains.
Nevertheless, proof of non-Indian heritage, via DNA, will still be required. I can only hope that a) remains can still be found after 73-plus years in what is now waterlogged soil, and b) assuming that there are remains in situ, that the DNA won't be so degraded as to defeat the effort to prove non-Indian heritage and, thus, to provide a proper burial to KH250 casualties, at long last.
I have full confidence that no one of Indian heritage was buried there.
The grave once had a plaque attached to it which contained the names of the all-RAF crew (from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales). The plaque was either stolen or demolished some time before the Boxing Day '04 quake and tsunami. Currently I have contacts trying to track down any evidence of the plaque -- including photos showing names -- in the villages near the gravesite. One person helping out is a journalist who lives in one of the villages and who, as a boy, played at the lone gravesite. No evidence of the plaque, or legible names on the plaque, may emerge, but if they do, I'm hoping our case will be strengthened, for what it's worth.
Onward we go...with fingers crossed. Eyes have been crossed for a number of years, out of frustration over the almost-interminable waiting for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn.
Matt ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 15th June 2018 10:09:58|
|70 years ago, today||Thanks for the valuable insight, Jagan. The way any culture looks at human remains is complicated, and sometimes inconsistent. For example, in the West old bones – hundreds or even thousands of years old – can be treated like objects to be studied academically and to be stored in boxes on shelves in museums and universities, especially if the bones are seen as “them”, not “us”, but it would likely be sacrilegious to treat recent remains of any kind in such a callous manner. Well, maybe! Supposedly a piece of Hitler’s skull is in a Russian archive. And probably police storage boxes contain human evidence like bones, from many cases, throughout the West.
As I pointed out, English schools so conveniently used [and still use, in some cases?] Indian remains for teaching English students about biology!
Years ago in a museum (maybe one of the Smithsonian museums in DC) I viewed the mummified corpse of a man buried in Philadelphia in the 1700s. He had been chemically preserved by something seeping through the soil from above. Centuries later, this colonial corpse – essentially one of "us", just hundreds of years old – is on public display! That wouldn’t be done with Uncle Charlie who died in 1990, I don’t think!
From a Western cultural perspective alone, even if it was fully accepted that [I]only[/I] UK airmen’s remains were buried in the KH250 grave, the issue of disturbing the 73-plus year old gravesite in order to give the remains an honorable burial can be contentious, as well. Some would take the “let them lie where they were initially buried” approach, and I can understand this point of view. All that could be recovered, at best, are remnants that have not yet turned to dust, while the soil would still contain the further essence of human remains, too small to be collected. And then others would insist that waterlogged remains (disgustingly flooded repeatedly by tidal action since the Boxing Day 2004 quake, land subsidence, and tsunami) that cannot be protected via some sort of new construction and then maintained in perpetuity (as determined by the CWGC after a 2011 KH250 site visit) should be moved, and that interring such recovered remains in a war cemetery is the honorable thing to do.
Regarding the insistence by Indian officials that any remains be proven to be non-Indian, initially I’d wondered if this demand by the Indians might be to punish the British for past transgressions. However, it is clear that the Indian government wishes to avoid any outside chance of desecrating an Indian burial site – beyond a point, that is. To allow any dig whatsoever seems to show that the Indians likely believe that only UK remains will be found – as my evidence – circumstantial evidence – has determined. Thus, the Indian government is now willing to allow some digging, but India will still protect any found remains (if there ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 16th June 2018 10:32:08|