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Thread: RCAF Pilot Gordon Lawson - RAAF Squadron 458

  1. #1
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    Default RCAF Pilot Gordon Lawson - RAAF Squadron 458

    Hello

    I live on Ontario, Canada and I recently was given a box of old family photos from the estate of an uncle who passed away age 90+. My uncle did not serve in the military but among the photos are 3 which are military in nature and I have no idea how they are connected to my family.

    Photo One
    Young man in civilian dress - written on back "Best wishes Gordon Lawson"

    Photo 2
    Gordon in fatigues - shorts, shirt & pith helmets with friends dress the same. One photo atop a large cannon with a young Black child wearing dark coat with large belt and shoulder strap with large striped turban or hat.


    Photo 3
    Gordon holding a large snake with about 8 commrades looking on. Written on back
    "Yours Truely but don't get the 'wind up' it's alright. It's harmless although alive and kicking, the poison has been extracted. This is the local snake charmer's property we swiped from him for the occasion. Gordon"

    On line search found at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
    LAWSON, Gordon Herbert
    Service number J/96901
    Date of Death - 15/07/1943
    Royal Canadian Air Force
    Age 24
    Malta Memorial Cemetery
    Son of W.A (William Albert) and Mabel Grace Lawson. Gradview, Manitoba, Canada

    So this appears to be Gordon of my photos BUT Manitoba is abot 2,000 KM from where my uncle lived. The mystery deepens!

    Further online searches reveal the following -

    458 Squadron RAAF World War 2 Fatalities

    Date of Death - 15 July 1943

    Source - Series A9186 Control 149 AWM 64 1/280 NAA; A705, 166/17/229

    Aircraft type - Wellington

    Serial Number - HP 631

    Radio Call FU -F

    Unit
    458 SQN RAF

    "A/c F (FO Lawson) and A/c A (FO Markowsky) were sent to assit after another plane in the squadron had sighted an M/V cargo liner and 3 destroyers on the night of July 14/15 1943.

    Both Lawson and Markowsky planes failed to return from the mission.

    Post war enquiries among local inhabitants of La Maddalena by Missing Research & Enquiry Unit established that the aircraft was shot down into the sea between Palau and La Maddelena."

    Crew of HP631

    G H Lawson - FO - RCAF

    L Y Hazeldine - FO - 2nd pilot - RAAF

    M H Tarrison - FO - RCAF - Navigator

    A R Pagan - Gunner - RCAF

    E A McCorkell - Gunner - RCAF

    R E Burrows - Srg - RAF

    A Renton - RCAF - Navigator

    All crew members lost their lives.

    I somehow feel that I am the keeper of the memory of Gordon and his crew.

    I would gladly share the photos. Does anyone have any knowledge of these men? I would appreciate any information on how Canadian recruits were selected for pilot training etc. Is it likely that some of the men in my
    photos would have been crew members of Gordon's? Did crews hang out together outside the planes?

    I will try and gain access to Gordon's military file at National Archives in Ottawa,Canada.

    Thanks for your comments

    Bye for now
    Canada Gal

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    Hi Canada,

    If the photographs are of F/O G.H. Lawson I would be interested in seeing them. My interest is in the Nav. of Lawson's crew, namely F/O M.H. Tarrisoon, who was part of Air Observers Course No.36 at Pennfield Ridge, NB.

    You can contact me at pennfieldparish@yahoo.com

    Regards,
    Christian

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    Hello Canada,

    Your source (Alan Storr), has incorrectly identified F/O Lawson's Wellington. The serial should read - MP631, not HP631 (not carried on any RAF aircraft). The "Radio call sign", FU-F, quoted by Storr is also incorrect, MP631 carried a single-letter identifier - "F". Incidentally, F/O Lawson's service number should read - J/9691, not J/96901.

    Here are the details of the other 458 Sqn RAAF loss mentioned by you:

    14/15-7-1943
    No.458 Sqn RAAF
    Wellington XI MP702 "A"

    Took off 2057 on Cross-over patrol - Straits of Boniface and south of Elba. Aircraft diverted to attack enemy shipping, and failed to return.

    J/9250 F/O (Capt./Pilot) William J. MARKOWSKY RCAF - PoW - Camp L3/PoW No.1781 (Died 10-2-1997)
    AUS402314 F/Sgt (2nd Pilot) Edward Joseph COLCLOUGH RAAF - PoW - Camp 4B/PoW No.83651 (Died 16-4-1982)
    122961 F/O (Nav.) Ronald LEONARD RAFVR - PoW - Camp L3/PoW No.1779
    80384 P/O (Gnr. S.) Harry Whitby John FILMER RAFVR - PoW - Camp L3/Pow No.1773 (Southern Rhodesian)
    R/98819 WO2 (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Thomas Eric GRIGGS RCAF +
    1365035 Sgt (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Eleazer STANFIELD RAFVR + (Newfoundlander)
    1315620 Sgt ( - ? - ) E J W BLACKLER - PoW - Camp 357/PoW No.370

    Griggs and Stanfield commemorated on the Malta Memorial.

    All the above subject to comment/confirmation/correction. Other Forumites will be along shortly to help.

    By the way, Welcome!,

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 11th April 2011 at 08:27.

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    Default Thank You Col Bruggy

    Quote Originally Posted by COL BRUGGY View Post
    Hello Canada,

    Your source (Alan Storr), has incorrectly identified F/O Lawson's Wellington. The serial should read - MP631, not HP631 (not carried on any RAF aircraft). The "Radio call sign", FU-F, quoted by Storr is also incorrect, MP631 carried a single-letter identifier - "F". Incidentally, F/O Lawson's service number should read - J/9691, not J/96901.

    Here are the details of the other 458 Sqn RAAF loss mentioned by you:

    14/15-7-1943
    No.458 Sqn RAAF
    Wellington XI MP702 "A"

    Took off 2057 on Cross-over patrol - Straits of Boniface and south of Elba. Aircraft diverted to attack enemy shipping, and failed to return.

    J/9250 F/O (Capt./Pilot) William J. MARKOWSKY RCAF - PoW - Camp L3/PoW No.1781 (Died 10-2-1997)
    AUS402314 F/Sgt (2nd Pilot) Edward Joseph COLCLOUGH RAAF - PoW - Camp 4B/PoW No.83651 (Died 16-4-1982)
    122961 F/O (Nav.) Ronald LEONARD RAFVR - PoW - Camp L3/PoW No.1779
    80384 P/O (Gnr. S.) Harry Whitby John FILMER RAFVR - PoW - Camp L3/Pow No.1773 (Southern Rhodesian)
    R/98819 WO2 (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Thomas Eric GRIGGS RCAF +
    1365035 Sgt (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Eleazer STANFIELD RAFVR + (Newfoundlander)
    1315620 Sgt ( - ? - ) E J W BLACKLER - PoW - Camp 357/PoW No.370

    Griggs and Stanfield commemorated on the Malta Memorial.

    All the above subject to comment/confirmation/correction. Other Forumites will be along shortly to help.

    By the way, Welcome!,

    Col.
    Col Bruggy

    Thank you for the additional information and corrections (some of the errors might have been keyboarding slips - recently fell and broke my right hand - so my typing has suffered greatly!) Once again thank you.

    Canada Gal

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    Hi CG

    Further to what has already been posted (and riding on the coat-tails of the research already done), Peter Alexander's "We Find And Destroy - A History of 458 RAAF Squadron" (2002) adds a little on Lawson and a surprising amount on Markowsky.

    Lawson is the only one of his crew mentioned in the book:

    pp95-96

    Anti-shipping patrols in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and off Corsica, continued with increasing intensity. Colonel McKenzie, his two Flight Commanders, S/Ldr Peter Thompson and F/O Douglas; P/O Price (a New Zealander), F/O Neilson, Sgt Moncur, F/Sgt Armstrong, F/O Markowsky, P/O Lawson, F/O Suddaby and their crews were among those operating with torpedoes. ... Moncur and his crew did not return from their operation on the 24th [June]. Lawson was attacked by a night-fighter on the same sortie.

    Page 99

    F/O Quinlan torpedoed a ship on the 15th. The same night F/O Markowsky and F/O Lawson were lost with their crews off Bonifaco and north of Sicily respectively.

    Page 208-9

    Bill Markowsky on an anti-shipping strike, and attempting to silhouette a potential target in the moonpath, unfortunately made a turn right above an enemy destroyer oresenting a very easy target. They were shot down and few of his crew survived the ditching but Bill himself eventually surfaced and became a POW for two years. Moved from camp to camp on a number of occasions, on one he was lined up with a number of other POWs, mostly airmen, and the guards began shooting them - starting at the other end of the line. Bill and another Canadian airman decided that if they were going to be shot they would at least present a moving target so they took off into a neighbouring orchard. They were recaptured but their action seems to have earned a degree of respect from the guards and they lived to tell the tale.

    This excerpt from pages 208-9 is from Chapter 18 "Tall Tales and True". Gathered by Peter Pettit and subtitled "More experiences from 458 Squadron", the chapter comes with this 'disclaimer':

    After more then 50 years, the accuracy of many of these reminiscences and recollections of happenings on the Squadron, may be questioned but their inclusion is warranted if only as a tribute to the spirit of the Squadron. That spirit has been kept alive for so long, due mainly to the untiring efforts of the editor of our Squadron history, Peter Alexander.

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    As far as the link goes, could he have met your late Uncle when he was in RCAF training or maybe college?

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    Canada,

    The only RAAF member of Lawson's crew, AUS401507 F/O Leslie Youle HAZELDINE, has two pertinent files at the National Archives of Australia. They are an A9300 Personnel file, and a A705 Casualty file, neither of which are digitsed for viewing. In the absence of information in that area, we have to look elsewhere for the time being.

    I suggest you take a look at the following file:

    http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/ItemDetail.asp?M=0&B=1074960

    Hit the View digital copy symbol at the top of the page, and you should get Nickall's 63pp A705 Casualty file. Go to pp.10-13 of 63. The results are inconclusive, but it is all that we have available at the moment on the fate of some of Lawson's missing crew.

    Col.

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    Default Thank you Everyone

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy in West Oz View Post
    Hi CG

    Further to what has already been posted (and riding on the coat-tails of the research already done), Peter Alexander's "We Find And Destroy - A History of 458 RAAF Squadron" (2002) adds a little on Lawson and a surprising amount on Markowsky.

    Lawson is the only one of his crew mentioned in the book:

    pp95-96

    Anti-shipping patrols in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and off Corsica, continued with increasing intensity. Colonel McKenzie, his two Flight Commanders, S/Ldr Peter Thompson and F/O Douglas; P/O Price (a New Zealander), F/O Neilson, Sgt Moncur, F/Sgt Armstrong, F/O Markowsky, P/O Lawson, F/O Suddaby and their crews were among those operating with torpedoes. ... Moncur and his crew did not return from their operation on the 24th [June]. Lawson was attacked by a night-fighter on the same sortie.

    Page 99

    F/O Quinlan torpedoed a ship on the 15th. The same night F/O Markowsky and F/O Lawson were lost with their crews off Bonifaco and north of Sicily respectively.

    Page 208-9

    Bill Markowsky on an anti-shipping strike, and attempting to silhouette a potential target in the moonpath, unfortunately made a turn right above an enemy destroyer oresenting a very easy target. They were shot down and few of his crew survived the ditching but Bill himself eventually surfaced and became a POW for two years. Moved from camp to camp on a number of occasions, on one he was lined up with a number of other POWs, mostly airmen, and the guards began shooting them - starting at the other end of the line. Bill and another Canadian airman decided that if they were going to be shot they would at least present a moving target so they took off into a neighbouring orchard. They were recaptured but their action seems to have earned a degree of respect from the guards and they lived to tell the tale.

    This excerpt from pages 208-9 is from Chapter 18 "Tall Tales and True". Gathered by Peter Pettit and subtitled "More experiences from 458 Squadron", the chapter comes with this 'disclaimer':

    After more then 50 years, the accuracy of many of these reminiscences and recollections of happenings on the Squadron, may be questioned but their inclusion is warranted if only as a tribute to the spirit of the Squadron. That spirit has been kept alive for so long, due mainly to the untiring efforts of the editor of our Squadron history, Peter Alexander.
    Thanks to everyone who has responded to my search for Gordon. Hopefully his memory and record will be preserved for future generations.

    Canada Gal

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    Hi

    Leslie Hazeldine who died with Gordon Lawson is a relative of ours - he was my Grandma's cousin - I don't know alot of about him my Gradmother died in 1991 before I started researching the family history but we always knew she had lost relatives in both WW1 & WW2. If you are still interested I paid for and recently received access to the RAAF file regarding the disappearance of the plane and its crew including Gordon Lawson - if you go to the Australian National Archives site and search by Leslie Hazeldine, you can now access a digital copy of the file. I am still awaiting for his personnel file to be released by the National Archives.

    I also note that you have a photograph of Gordon Lawson and colleagues - I wonder if one of those pictured is Leslie Hazeldine or if they are Canadian colleagues? I accessed the flight log for squadron 458 via the National Archives too and it appears that Leslie Hazeldine only ever flew with Gordon Lawson. If you think its possible one of the men could be our relative would it be possible to obtain a copy of the photo please?

    Thanks Michelle

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    Default 458 Squadron

    You probably are aware, but if not, as of April 2012 458 Squadron Association has a web site. My Uncle WO J.M.Wagstaffe was a pilot with 458, he died in a crash April 1944 on Malta.
    http://458raafsquadron.org/home.html

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