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Thread: Air Sea Rescue May 1943 Bay of Biscay

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    Default Air Sea Rescue May 1943 Bay of Biscay

    I am trying to research an air sea rescue (ASR) whichoccurred May 30 / 31st 1943 involving Whitley "E" of 612 squadron,based at RAF Davidstow Moor. This plane had ditched in the Bay of Biscay andsurvivors had been missed by numerous search planes. They were eventually seenby a Beaufighter and subsequently rescued. It is the pilot of this Beaufighterwho I am trying to research.

    I have found a record of Beaufighter squadrons and dates oftheir locations, from which I was able to find( via National Archives) the squadron activityreport (AIR 27 1496-57 . However, the details don't exactly match the records Ihave ( personal memoir/account of rescued Whitley pilot ).

    If AIR 27 1496-57 does indeed relate to this ASR eventperhaps the memoir is inaccurate. Or, was another Beaufighter from a differentsquadron involved ? Furthermore, my understanding isthat on these two specific dates, only 248 squadron, based at RAF Predannackhad Beaufighters deployed over the Bay of Biscay. How can I explore thisfurther to clarify if there were other Beaufighters then, possibly from other squadrons using Predannack for re-fuelling ?

    I'm not sure how to continue my research so any help wouldbe gratefully received
    Steve
    Last edited by SteveMason; 31st August 2018 at 22:27. Reason: messy code

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    Hello Steve, and Welcome,

    It might help if we give the name of the 248 Sqn pilot involved:

    1382222 P/O (Pilot) Robert Godfrey WORTH (124842) RAFVR.

    The 612 Sqn Whitley 'E', was BD679.

    Col.

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    Many thanks for your welcome.... it's appreciated.
    I am not 100% sure that P/O Worth was the pilot who first saw the survivors of BD679 because the memoir I have states there were two dinghies, roped together with only x6 men. The 248 Sqn activity records only one dinghy and with x8 men.

    Historical accuracy might indicate two separate ASR events,but perhaps there was just one with an inaccurate memoir ? Any guidance on how to find out would be gratefully received. Would P/O Worth have had a pilot logbook which might be available somewhere ?

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    It is perhaps always best to refer to all primary sources whenever possible to get the whole story, rather than relying on someone's memory.

    The 612 Squadron ORB (AIR 27/2115/9 and AIR 27/2115/10) describes what happened to the crew.

    The Whitley (BD697) left Davidstow Moor at 0550 DBST on 30 May, with a crew of six - F/S Barnshaw (Pilot), Sgt Millard, P/O Dixon, Sgt Drake, Sgt Donnahay (?) and Sgt Langham. After transmitting an SOS following an engine fire at 0840 DBST, the aircraft crashed four minutes later. The SOS did not include a position report. Although the ORB records the crew boarded a dinghy, there were in fact two (read on).

    Over 30 hours later P/O Worth (248 Squadron - Beaufighters) returning to base from escort duties transmitted a sighting report after spotting what he thought was a single dinghy with 8 survivors. (AIR 27/1496/58)

    In response to this F/O Sherwood of 279 Squadron took off from Davidstow Moor in Hudson F/279 (airborne lifeboat) at 1759 DBST on 31 May. At 1923 DBST, while flying at 800 ft at 50.05N 08.03W, he sighted what appeared to be a single dinghy, but which, on closer inspection, proved to be two lashed together, one large carrying five men and a small one with a single survivor. The Hudson remained on station until the survivors were picked up by an MSL at 2130 DBST.

    During the return to base F/279 came across an Anson and two Spitfires circling a stationary Walrus with a u/s engine. After sending a position report F/279 continued to base, landing at 2242 DBST. (AIR 27/1609/33 and AIR 27/1609/34)

    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 1st September 2018 at 22:09. Reason: Additional info & grammar

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    Many thanksBrian, especially for citing your sources. It does seem like P/O Worth saw the downed crew of BD697 purely by chance on his return to Predannack from his own mission. Or, and I am certainly no expert in this, might he have been in range to have received any radio transmission to alert him to look out for the dinghies ?
    Reading AIR27/1496/58, am I correct in interpreting that P/O Worth returning to base inBeaufighter “L” at 18:05 only to take off again at 19:45 in Beaufighter “S”,presumably to help the Hudson ? Or are the x8 survivors in the dinghy a separate incident ?
    Apologies for any errors in my reading, but I am new to this historical research.
    Steve

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    Hello Brian,
    Is there any indication of the identity or base of the MSL?

    Regards,
    Bruce
    http://www.filephotoservice.co.uk/
    RESEARCH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES & OTHER UK INSTITUTIONS

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    Hello.

    Just a couple of corrections/additions to what Brian has had to say:

    Firstly, the No.613 Sqn Whitley VII was BD679* (not BD697, which was a Hurricane!), and the pilot's name was, 655630 F/S (Pilot) Norman EARNSHAW RAFVR** (not BARNSHAW). The stationary Walrus (W3026), sighted by F/O Sherwood was from 276 Sqn, which sank while under tow, the crew were rescued by a launch.

    Steve, as already stated, there were six survivors from the 612 Sqn Whitley, in the two dinghies. Five in one dinghy, and one in the other.

    You can read a coherent account of the rescue, and associated goings-on, in the following publication:

    Dinghy Drop 279 Squadron at War 1941-1946
    Docherty,Tom
    Barnsley:Pen & Sword Aviation,2007
    pp.51-2

    * Armstrong Whitworth Whitley VII BD679 - 612 Sqn - Engine cut on patrol; ditched 60m W of Bishops Rock Light 29.5.43.

    Royal Air Force Aircraft BA100 to BZ999
    Halley,James J.
    Staplefield:Air-Britain (Historians),2006.p.28.

    ** Norman Earnshaw (later F/O, 174871 MiD), subsequently served on Mosquitoes with No.248 Sqn.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 2nd September 2018 at 05:02.

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    Gentlemen, thankyou very much for your help. I await Tom Docherty's book in the post !
    Regards
    Steve

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    Steve,

    You will need to add the following book to your reading list:

    Conflict Over The Bay
    Franks,Norman
    London:Grub Street,1999(updated & rev ed.)
    pp.53-4

    Too long to transcribe, but it is worthwhile getting Franks' spin on these events.

    I don't have a scanner, maybe one of the members might be able to help with copies of pages 53-4.

    Col.

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    Thanks to the suggested reading, I have now found out lots about this particular air sea rescue. In the process I have been awed by the extremes of both good luck and bad luck which befell these brave flyers. I have requested ORBs for 248 Squadron based at Predannack in May/June 1943 and hope to track the activities of P/O RG Worth in his Beaufighter from then to the end of the war (I have been advised by the RAF Museum that RG Worth apparently survived the war, but as I am not a relative I have no access to his service records). Are the ORBs the only source can pursue ? It is going to prove expensive for me to visit NAs as I understand I can only request up to x40 documents ( and I will need to read through about 50, with no guarantee of finding any further note of RG Worth.
    Unrelated to this thread I came across an interesting account which I will post separately

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