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Thread: Wellington HD973, missing 7 Feb 1943

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    Default Wellington HD973, missing 7 Feb 1943

    I have an undated photo of five men standing in front of Wellington HD973, with the serial clearly seen. One of the men, 191880 F/O Alfred HERBERT, was later posted as a Staff Pilot to the Air Fighting Training Unit at Amarda Road, India. He and 13 others died on 26 July 1945 in the aerial collision of two AFTU Libs, one of which he was piloting.

    His mate from AFTU who sent me the photo believes that "Herbie" had flown with 99 Sqn, flying Wellingtons out of India before eventually switching to Liberators.

    The Air Britain serial info on HD973 says:

    Wellington 1C
    HD973 1446 Flt/99 squadron Missing 7.2.43.

    Can anyone provide further details on this loss? It's a simple curiosity; nothing more. "Air War for Britain" by Christopher Shores has nothing. I haven't nagged 99 Sqn historian Martyn Bond for help yet because he is snowed under with work lately. I'll try him later, if need be.

    Thanks,

    Matt

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    My research pal Robert Quirk in Canada just sent me an excerpt from "Each Tenacious", the story of 99 Squadron. In the narrative there was no Wellington loss on 7 Feb 1943. There was one on 11 Feb, though the serial number is not given. From the book:

    ++++++++++++++++++
    Eleven Wellingtons were detailed to attack Sagaing Jetty on 11 February with an alternative target of Mandalay marshalling yards. . .All the crews successfully identified their target and a very concentrated bombing of the jetty was made during which a number of huge explosions were seen. Some excellent photographs were taken. Fires in the target area were last seen eighty miles away on the return journey. All aircraft except one returned safely to Digri. Pilot Officer Watson and crew, who were only on their second operation, transmitted distress signals before force landing in enemy territory near Gabgaw. Later the crew reported on radio that they were safe and not injured at position 2237N 9446E.

    Information received on 20 February from Air Headquarters India indicated that in an intercepted broadcast, Tokyo Radio stated that "A crew of six of a heavy bomber had been captured on the night of 12/13 February" and this was presumed to be Pilot Officer Watson and crew who had crashed in enemy territory on that night. The crew were classified as prisoners of war.
    ++++++++++++++++++
    The Tokyo Radio loss date seems one day off...A different crew??

    I know of the Watson crew -- sent to Rangoon Jail. Catalogue number 27269 at the Imperial War Museum is a long interview with Richard Edward Watson. The date of his loss is given as 11 Feb in this document, and his crew were:

    Pilot: 118504 F/O Watson Liberated at Rangoon Jail
    2nd pilot Sergeant Jim Mansell -- killed in the accidental bombing of Rangoon Jail by American Liberators, Nov '43.
    Navigator: Flying Officer Jack Wright Liberated at Rangoon Jail
    Wireless Operator: Pilot Officer Greg Kirwan Liberated at Rangoon Jail
    Front Gunner: Sergeant Ron Haddon, RAAF 406938 -- was on the forced march from Rangoon Jail, made an escape.
    Rear Gunner: Sergeant Malcolm Woods -- RAAF 416306. Liberated at Rangoon Jail.

    All but one, then, survived incarceration.

    But was their Wellington's serial number HD973 ?? Or was HD973 on 215 Sqn?

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    All right, SOLVED. Sgt Ron Haddon and Sgt Malcolm Woods were RAAF, so again the Nat. Archives of Australia files come to the rescue! I searched on the service number for Malcolm Woods and the resulting listing gave the serial number of the aircraft: HD973. Just what I was looking for. A crew listiing also was evident:

    WOODS, Malcolm Stuart - (Warrant Officer); Service Number - 416306

    WATSON P E – (Pilot Officer); Service Number – 118504

    MANSER W A J – (Sergeant); Service Number – 915429

    WRIGHT J D N – (Pilot Officer); Service Number – 116213

    KIRWAN G P – (Pilot Officer); Service Number – 123861

    HADDEN R J – (Sergeant); Service Number – 406926 RAAF

    So Air Britain's date was wrong. The plane went down on the night of 11/12 February 1943.

    And "Air War For Burma" by Christopher Shores did, after all, present details of this loss, under the heading "Friday, 12 February 1943": "Meanwhile 11 Wellingtons of 99 Squadron raided the Mandalay marshalling yards, but Plt Off R.E. Watson was obliged to force land his bomber in hostile territory near Gangaw, he and his crew later being reported to be PoWs." The target is incorrect; should be Sagaing Jetty a few miles away.

    No need for further info on this...Case solved.
    Last edited by Matt Poole; 29th April 2012 at 11:31.

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