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Thread: 159 Sqn Liberator damaged 23 July 1942

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    Default 159 Sqn Liberator damaged 23 July 1942

    Hi,

    During an attack on shipping in Benghazi 23 July 1942 was one Liberator from 159 Sqn damaged in combat with enemy fighters.

    I have the following information from Tavender: The Distinguished Flying Medal Register
    Banks, Raymond Victor. Aus.404463 Sgt, RAAF, 178 Sqn (L.G. 27 Apr 1943)
    “He has participated in 9 daylight attacks in which he acted as fire controller. On daylight attack carried out on shipping in Benghazi on 23rd July 1942, the formation in which his aircraft was flying met with heavy anti-aircraft fire and was broken up. He coolly directed the fire of his aircraft which was then subjected to concentrated enemy fighter attacks and one enemy fighter was shot down. He then assisted in the stopping of riddled petrol tanks which enabled the aircraft to reach friendly territory.”

    Unfortunately is there no information about Middle East operations by 159 Sqn in the ORB during this period. Is it possibly to identify the aircraft and the other crew members via damage report or any similar documents?

    According to A History of the Mediterranean Air War, Vol 2 Liberator AL534 was lost on this date but a reply by Alex Smart on another forum makes me sure that this was not the aircraft Banks flew in.

    Thanks in advance,
    Peter

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    Hi, Peter,

    The lack of 159 Sqn ORB records during part of 1942 is very frustrating. However, I do have some information on 159 Sqn's Benghazi shipping op of that date, from "Chocks Away!", the memoir of W/Cdr J. Leighton Beck DFC & Bar. And also from the paperwork for his recommendation for a DSO, downgraded to a Bar to his DFC. He was a S/Ldr and Flight Commander on 159 Sqn in the Middle East and then India.

    From his memoir:

    Daylight missions were very different. We had no fighter air cover so we flew in formation to give mutual support in fire power. To get under the German radar screen we flew low down the Med or down the Quattara Depression (a vast stretch of land below sea-level which ran westward for hundreds of miles south of the coastal strip) then at the last minute we would climb as rapidly as possible to bombing height for the final attack. We could not escape detection as we neared the target and it was sickening to have to witness the fighters taking off from their desert air strips as we approached. Meantime the ring of anti-aircraft defences were being manned to put up a terrific barrage over our target.

    This happened on 23rd July, 1942 on one of my sorties against shipping and port installations at Benghazi in Libya. We had flown for six hours 100 ft up over the bottom of the Quattara Depression and climbed up to 18,000 ft south of Benghazi and at that height I could see the fighters taking off to attack us. Then way above us on our run up to the docks I saw a formation of American Liberators attack right in front. They had supercharged engines so could fly at 32,000 ft out of flak range (their Nordyn bombsight was better than ours in the RAF) and I was amazed to see a large cargo ship in the docks receive a direct hit. It just exploded upwards and outwards with complete destruction.

    We were all tensed up in my formation naturally and on the approach it was like watching a film in slow motion. The noise of the engines blanked out most sounds except directions “left left” or “right right” from the bomb aimer or information from the gunners of fighter activity on the intercom system when the ME 110 attacked on the run up to the docks.

    Then all hell was let loose as we flew through the dense flak barrage. I could hear the crump, crump of shells exploding all around us and see the black puffs of smoke. The sound is somewhat like heavy doors being slammed shut at the end of an echoing corridor at each burst. Then “bombs away” and shortly after the formation’s bombs were seen to hit the docks and shipping given over the intercom by my rear gunner.

    As soon as we were clear of the target I could feel that my aircraft had received some damage but had no time to check as we were immediately attacked by three fighters. An ME 109, a ME110* and an Italian Macchi 200. My fighter direction officer Flt. Lt. Dalton was already in the astro-dome giving me information as to where each fighter was coming in. They were all quarter or stern attacks. With the running commentary from Dalton I took appropriate action to counter their attacks but we still got a terrible hammering. I could hear bullets and cannon shells smashing their way down the fuselage and one or two of the cannon shells smashed into the armour plating behind my back. I could also see pieces of the port engine being shot off.

    *The official report said it was a JU 88 but I think it was a ME 110. Flt. Lt. Dalton did a magnificent job of keeping me informed of in the fighter’s movements.

    I had headed north out to sea as I knew the fighters had only about 20-30 minutes endurance before having to return to base to re-fuel. The formation had been broken up in the intense barrage and the others were nowhere to be seen and after some 15-20 minutes running battle the fighters pulled away which was just as well as my rear gunner’s guns had jammed and the turret was out of action as well as the intercom and my 2nd pilot was wounded. As soon as they left, my crew reported that my starboard outer engine was on fire and streaming smoke and flame behind so I put the nose down and dived for the sea after operating the fire extinguisher on that engine. This was one method of putting out engine fires and on this occasion it worked.

    I pulled out of the screaming dive at 500 ft over the sea thankful that the excessive speed hadn’t pulled the wings off and happily the fire was out. My port inner was giving only half power so I had only 2 ½ good engines to fly the 1000 mile journey back. I lightened the aircraft by throwing out everything of weight that could be spared and finally after some 7 hours, staggered back to Fayid in bright moonlight. I landed safely but the nose wheel had been damaged and had collapsed causing my aircraft to slew off the runway on its nose in a cloud of sand until we finally stopped just short of a stone building. Next day I viewed the aircraft and it looked like a sieve with over 100 jagged holes. This mission to Benghazi was the worst in terms of being within a hair’s breadth of being shot down.


    From the paperwork for his DSO recommendation comes this summary of the 23 July 1942 op:

    23rd July, 1942. Daylight attack on Benghazi harbour as leader of formation of four Liberators. Five mins. before reaching target formation attacked by ME.110 right up to target. Intense flak encountered over target. One Liberator shot down, two forced to leave leader through severe flak damage. Bombs burst on harbour installations. S/Ldr. Beck’s aircraft was severely damaged by flak, No. 4 engine was hit and stopped, No. 2 engine hit and running on half power. Inter-comm. system shot away and rear turret damaged and out of action. Immediately after leavingt target S/Ldr. Beck’s aircraft was simultaneously attacked for 20 mins. by 3 enemy aircraft (1) ME.109 one attack (2) Ju.88 eight attacks (3) Macchi 200 four attacks. Aircraft repeatedly hit but skilful evasive action and fire control prevented further severe damage. The Macchi 200 scored many hits at point blank range in last attack, as fighting controller could not see E.A. making stern attack from below. The inter-comm. was shot away, 2nd pilot wounded. S/Ldr Beck brought the aircraft back 800 miles on 2½ engines, and crash landed safely at base. Starboard tyre was shot through and nose wheel undercarriage damaged and would not lock down.

    Definitely the 159 Sqn Liberator shot down on this op was AL534. From David Gunby and Pelham Temple's excellent "Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean, Volume 1: 1939-1942" comes this summary:

    Took off St Jean, detailed to attack the harbor and shipping at Benghazi. Failed to return. F/Sgt Peterson is buried in Benghazi War Cemetery, while F/Sgt Hogg is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial.

    The crew:

    F/O R A Malcolm pow
    W/O R J Male pow
    F/Sgt J S Peterson RCAF KIA
    F/Sgt J H Hogg KIA
    Sgt W Bell pow
    Sgt A Charlton pow
    Sgt A Westwood RCAF pow.

    There have been several RAF Commands Forum postings on this, including queries about Charlton and Hogg. Google on "AL534 159 Squadron" and you'll get these links.

    This doesn't answer your question about Raymond Victor Banks, I know! Well, he was on one of the three other Liberators, serial numbers unknown. And because Beck mentions F/Lt Dalton as his Fire Controller, my guess is that Banks was not on Beck's Liberator.

    I was in touch with Beck's grandson, who said that the family had no surviving logbooks, so we don't have that source for his Liberator's serial number.

    I have a copy of the logbook of another 159 Sqn pilot of the time, John Musgrave, but he didn't fly on that op. However, the following day, 24 July, he was 2nd pilot on F/O Terry Towell's crew flying AL564 from St Jean (their base in Palestine) to Heliopolis "FOR REPAIRS". No idea if this was battle damage-related.

    I know the Banks Liberator was not AL544, another long-serving 159 Sqn Lib. The logbook of air gunner Harry Reid DFM indicates that AL544 was flown between St Jean and Fayid (Egypt) on 23 July. Not part of the Benghazi op.

    And that's all I have for you, Peter. The puzzle remains incomplete!

    Cheers,

    Matt
    Last edited by Matt Poole; 6th August 2014 at 08:24.

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    Hi Matt,

    You have always been generous with details in your replies and this was no exception, much appreciated. Even if the main question still is unanswered you gave me valuable information.

    I will try to get a copy of Beck’s memoir Chocks Away. Interesting to read something that can complement the dry facts in the ORB.

    Cheers,
    Peter
    PS
    I have some log book information regarding 160 Sqn that might interest you. I will send an email.

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    Hi, Peter,

    Thanks for the kind words. Glad to help!

    Yes, I'm interested in the 160 Sqn logbook info! We'll link up privately about this soon.

    One last thought about W/Cdr (final rank, I think) J. Leighton Beck: FlyPast had a nice segment on him in, I think, the April 2013 issue (from memory, at work now). A superb RAF career (not me!). And you can find a copy of his book via www.bookfinder.com.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    Hi Matt,

    Regarding our work on the Liberator serial numbers. Have you checked any of the station records like RAF Station Fayid AIR 28/266 or the ORB of No.242 Wing, AIR 26/326? However I am not sure if this information can be found in these records and I do not know if 159 Sqn did belong to 242 Wing in July 1942.

    Cheers,
    Peter
    Last edited by phasselgren; 7th August 2014 at 15:02.

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    Peter/Matt,

    During July thru' November 1942, AUS404463 Raymond Victor BANKS RAAF, (159/160 Sqns.), had as his pilot, one, F/O W R AUSTIN. Can either of you fully identify this airman?

    Col.

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    Hi, Col,

    Like you, I could only find references to a W. R. Austin on 159/160 Squadrons in the Middle East. But in a google search I found this spring 1945 reference to a F/Lt W.R. Austin, not that it's the correct man:

    W/C F. R. Sharp and F/L W. R. Austin, both of the Goose Squadron, and F/O J. O. Stewart of the Bluenose were mentioned for their work on the Essen raid when awarded their D.F.Cs.

    That link: http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-...eas_vol3_e.pdf

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Aha...MAYBE he was RCAF, and because this particular W. R. Austin was awarded a DFC, I thought I might be able to find his full name in an awards listing, such as this one which likely was sourced from the research of our own (well, we're grateful to you contributing so much here) Hugh Halladay:

    AUSTIN, F/L Warren Russell (J8939) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.408 Squadron – Award effective 6 July 1945 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 1453/45 dated 14 September 1945. Born 1918 in Hamilton, Ontario; home in Sudbury or Paris, Ontario; enlisted Hamilton, 13 January 1941. Trained at No.3 ITS (graduated 3 July 1941), No.10 EFTS (graduated 20 August 1941) and No.5 SFTS (graduated 21 November 1941). Commissioned 1941. Award sent by registered mail 17 June 1946. Photograph PL-36890 is a portrait.

    Flight Lieutenant Austin is a highly skilled and resolute pilot. He has completed very many sorties against enemy targets and has set a fine example in pressing home his attacks. On one occasion in March 1945 he piloted an aircraft detailed to attack Essen. When nearing the target one engine became unserviceable owing to an oil leakage. This did not deter Flight Lieutenant Austin who continued to the target when he eventually bombed at a height much lower than planned. His determination to make every sortie a success has won the greatest praise. He is a fine captain whose example has been well reflected in the operational efficiency of his crew.


    Mind you, this has nothing of any Middle East Liberator flying, but it has potential.

    The above came from: http://www.forfreedom.ca/?page_id=1192.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    In the hope that there would be slightly more biographical detail on Hugh's full listing of award winners, I peeked at this site: http://rcafassociation.ca/uploads/ai.../ALPHA-AR.html.

    No luck; same details.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I did, however, find another reference that ties nicely with the DFC citation details:

    http://rcafbrantford.blogspot.com/20...post_7336.html

    Course 37: September 1 - November 17, 1941


    Wings Parade was held Monday evening in the Drill Hall. Group Captain Bertram Johnson, station C.O., presented wings and addressed the graduates.

    “You are leaving at a very important time. It is important because we are now numerically on par with the enemy, due to the efforts of the countries of the British Commonwealth and the United States.

    +(J/8938) Julian Frederic Sweet – 150 Sqn.; (J/8939) Warren Russell Austin – DFC 408 Sqn., Hamilton; +(J/8940) Ronald Henry Penalagan – 424 Sqn., London; (J/8946 – R/98336) L.J. Jerry Biel, Los Angeles; +(J/17464) Murray Quinn Moffatt – 102 Sqn., Toronto; Richard H. Plewman, Toronto; W.T. or F.G. Oliver, Toronto; +(R/93321) Norman Raitblat – 425 Sqn., Toronto; Victor M. Gaskin – 428 Sqn., Windsor; +(R/89530) Lawrence Edward McGee – 415 Sqn., Hamilton; Benjamin Yanover, Hamilton; R.O. Gibson, Kenora; Harold L. Lancaster, Rodney; (J/21296) Carl Cooper Puterbough – DFC 214 Sqn., Norland; Richard Seymour Clinton, (R/79119) Charles Thomas Carolan; Robert Christopher Stevens, Erieau; Kirk M.C. Strachan, St. Marys

    RAF: Class senior: E. Speller, Guildford, Surrey, W.E. Hayter, Essex; J.F. or J.E. Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland; +(1380301) Herman Joseph Michael McDonnell – 129 Sqn.

    Posted in from No. 10 EFTS, Mt. Hope: Austin



    However, in the same website there is an earlier listing of what must be another W.R. Austin graduate (about 7 months sooner):


    Course 19: January 28 - April 7, 1941

    Group Captain B.F. Johnson presented wings to the graduates in the station drill hall Monday evening.

    "You are members now of a great team, about to take part in the greatest game the world has ever seen.

    "You have received the best individual coaching for your positions that is possible to give.

    "But now the days of individual coaching are past. From now on you will be playing on the team, on your own responsibility. But there are still coaches on the sidelines to watch you and correct your mistakes.

    "But remember: From now on team play is the thing with the world as your audience. It's the team that counts. Only by teamwork will we be able to win.

    "And remember too that you will be playing against an opponent who will not hesistate to use every possible kind of mean and dirty trick in order to defeat you.

    "You must learn to meet and beat him at his own game. Do not hesistate to use his own methods and when you get him, make sure he will never rise to fight again. Make sure you get him beyond all possibility of error.

    "You have done excellently here. I wish you all the best of luck."

    +(J/4813) Arthur Brian Wheeler, +(J/4814) John Frederick Kelly Sandys, +(J/4815) William Ernest Culcheth, +(J/4818) Fred William Ward - 421 Sqn.; (J/4819) George Pryce Hughes, +(J/4820) George Edwin Coldrey, (J/4821) James Frank MacDonald Bell (DFC), (J/4822) Gerald Cowes Pryor, +(J/4824) Douglas Stuart King, +(J/4825) Richard Pryce Hughes, +Cyril Roland Hall, John Harold Jewitt; (R/67236) Clyde Homer Edward 'Ted' Cook - 423 Sqn., +(R/54498) Henry Winterknight Garvin - 40 Sqn.; D.J. Draper, W.R. Austin, +(R/72124) George Randal Woollatt, +(J15131) William Reid Suggitt (DFC - 428 Sqn. KIA 617 Sqn.), +(R/78250) Russell Hamilton - 608 Sqn., R. Davies, +(R/71689) Alan John Knight - 405 Sqn. and (R/71779) Simon S. Shapiro (POW - 10 Sqn.), all of Toronto; W.J.D. Maclaren, of Ottawa; R.J. Wilson, Huntsville; D.R. Duffy, Kingsville; (R/73753) James Cameron Bredin (POW - 40 Sqn.), Cornwall; F.W. Ward, Hamilton; +(R/78304) Archibald Grant Geddes - 104 Sqn.; William H. Dixon - 148 Sqn., London; +(R/71720) Thomas Lorne Kirk, Tamworth, Ont.; +(R/69860) Howard Bevan Clark - 51 Sqn.; +(R78203) Charles Lorne Bray DFM - 103 Sqn.; J.A. Cook, Toronto; +(R/77476) Hiram Wolf, Ottawa, (R/66150) Hubert Fortescue Watlington (DFM - 39 Sqn.), Hamilton, Bermuda; Ed Davies Cheshire, England and 12 graduates from Argentina.

    Posted in from No. 10 EFTS Mt. Hope


    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    So, Col, in the end I don't know if either of these is the correct man, or whether the ex-159/160 Sqn Liberator pilot was Warren Russell Austin. My last thought on the matter: the archived 160 Sqn Association newsletters on Robert Quirk's website might have something, though nothing turned up in my quick google search. I'll leave this to you, should you feel inclined to pore through the newsletters.

    LASTLY -- I presume you just want the name to complete your records, right?

    Cheers for now,

    Matt

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    Hi Matt,

    Your efforts are appreciated, but l should have explained earlier. l have searched extensively for the elusive W R Austin.

    l eliminated AUSTIN, F/L Warren Russell (J8939), on the following grounds:

    "To No.4 Manning Depot, 2 April 1941. To \K\" 8 April 1941. To No.3 ITS, 27 May 1941; promoted to LAC, 2 July 1941, posted that date to No.10 EFTS; course completed 20 August 1941 but only on 1 September 1941 was he posted to No.5 SFTS; graduated and commissioned 21 November 1941. Trained as instructor and posted on 6 March 1942 to No.7 SFTS. To \"Y"\ Depot, 27 September 1943; taken on strength overseas, 21 October 1943."

    http://rcafassociation.ca/honours-aw...ards-database/

    So, Warren Austin RCAF, was still in Canada during the period under review.

    l have searched the LG thoroughly, and found nothing substantial, which lead me to believe, that there is either a spelling error, or Austin was not RAF. l have checked the RAAF, RNZAF, RCAF and SAAF sources that l have available. Once again, nothing substantial.

    One the first places l investigated, were your own listings of Log book entries, your review of Oughton's Lib book and the ORB entries on Rod Quirk's site. l also checked the back issues of "AD LIB", on the same site.

    It was not for the want of trying, that l posed the question!

    Basically, the reason for the enquiry was the fact that virtually nothing came up on Austin in my searches - most annoying.

    Whilst it adds little to the debate, the following on AUS404463 Raymond Victor BANKS RAAF, might be of interest:

    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42010312

    Thanks for your help Mate, l'll keep searching!

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 11th August 2014 at 00:20.

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    Hi, Col,

    I should have known you had thoroughly exhausted the logical sources, including google! Tough nut to crack here.

    I just remembered that I have an extensive 159 Sqn Association membership list from about 1990. I'll peek at it, just in case an Austin appears. Ditto an old Burma Bombers Association list.

    Thanks for the R.V. Banks newspaper cutting!

    Cheers for now,

    Matt

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    Sadly F/Sgt J. H. Hogg in Liberator AL534 was my late step grandfather's son, from Wolviston, Billingham, Co. Durham.

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