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Thread: Blenheim 11 Sqdn collision on 5th April 1943 over Burma - Matheson and Besley

  1. #11
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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    A very detailed account of what happened can be found here

    https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/Sear...1061859&isAv=N

    Chris

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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    Further to TE888s request (#9 above)...

    NAA Record Search
    Unfortunately, Chris (above), links to Record Search results always time out, and have ever done so IIRC.
    Therefor, suggest always begin from scratch at
    https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au


    RAAF personal records
    RAAF men of ww2 will have either
    A personnel file A9300 (offr) or A9301 (airman)

    or, if wounded, missing, killed etc
    Their personnel file as above
    plus
    A casualty file (A705 eg).
    These may or may not be digitised at present: another topic.

    In this case, Record Search on Besley 402942 finds
    His A9300 personnel file digitised, including a copy of his account of the accident in action with 11 Sqn RAF.

    Searches on Foster and on Beasley's A705 cas files are bedevilled by some ref errors.
    So search on Beasley 402942 finds the correct casualty A705 file, also digitised.
    Includes additional accounts of the accident: Besley's own, plus Matheson's and an 11 Squadron pro-forma.

    Foster's correct service no is 407418 but none of his files are digitised at present.
    Nor are those of Matheson 406253.

    Interestingly, search on Foster 407418 finds Besley's A705 cas file at first pop, as "Beasley". Some nice indexing there, balancing the typo...

    This suggests the question, on NAA Record Search:
    Search on what?
    Well, for me, Name and Number together, knowing - as so often observed - any system/record is subject to error, so sometimes needing a little ingenuity in searching, when unexpected results or unexpected absence of result occur.

    On Aus service personnel, if stuck with a common name and no number, the WW 2 Nominal Rolls at Dept Veterans Affairs
    https://nominal-rolls.dva.gov.au/
    will usually produce reliable results in enough detail to sort the likely from the unlikely.

    Perhaps these notes will be of some use to those less used to Australian records.

    National Archives UK Discovery
    11 Squadron RAF Operations Record Book:
    Form 540 Summary of Events April 1943 AIR 27/157/43
    http://discovery.nationalarchives.go...ils/r/D8408157
    and
    Form 541 Record Of Events April 1943 AIR 27/157/44
    http://discovery.nationalarchives.go...ils/r/D8408158
    are viewable as watermarked digital copies at no charge (...another current topic).
    Both give brief summaries of the action. TNA links don't time out.

    All the accounts referred to above differ in details, though recorded by participants and close to the date of occurrence.
    I no longer have Besley's Pilot Prisoner Survivor to compare, it may differ too.

    Don Clark
    www.211squadron.org
    Last edited by Don Clark; 12th April 2020 at 00:50. Reason: TNA links no time out; tidy up
    Toujours propos

  3. #13
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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    Very, very odd.. Only Besley/Bealsy and Matheson survived..

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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    Pondered this for some time.

    S/Ldr WR Matheson 406253 Pilot, Z9667
    F/Sgt H Besley 402942 Pilot, Z7648
    were the only survivors of the mid-air collision of the two 11 Squadron Blenheim Mark IV aircraft on 5 April 1943.

    TE888's remark that it was "very, very odd" that only they survived struck me from the first, even at the most charitable reading, as unfortunate at best, in it's unstated implication.
    For example, from the point of view of any other surviving family members of the dead crews.

    It seemed to me, with some awareness (albeit from others experience) of the difficulties of getting out of damaged Blenheims, that the two pilots were in fact two very lucky men.

    The reports of the two pilots were referred to earlier but perhaps not taken in by TE888. Reading them again was very telling.
    For the sake of posterity, then, here are transcripts from the NAA RAAF A705 Casualty file for Besley
    (misrecorded as "BEASLEY Harvey - (Warrant Officer); Service Number - 402942" in National Archives of Australia www.naa.gov.au Record Search)

    Besley's report, extract:
    "The two aircraft collided, locked together and burst into flames and spun down and fell to pieces, I baled out at approximately 10,000 feet, the machines crashed and blew up, then I saw a parachute open at about 1000 feet and disappear into the cloud of smoke almost immediately. I landed about a mile away from the crash and was captured about two hours later and taken to Meiktilla lockup. S/Ldr. Matheson was brought in later in the same evening, he was slightly burned and had been knocked about by the Burmese."
    NAA: A705, 166/5/114 Page 26 of 87

    Matheson's report, extract
    (mis-spelt as Mathieson)
    "On 5.4.43 I was flying No 7 position in a formation of 9 Blenheims detailed to bomb Meiktila, Burma. We were flying at about 15,000 feet, the formation had made two runs over a town which bore some resemblance to Meiktila, and as I was moving to starboard for a third run, the gunner cried "look out" and almost simultaneously there was a collision with an aircraft which I later learnt to be No 5 [ie in the formation]. I ordered the crew to bale out but received no reply. For some time there was a fire in the cockpit and the aircraft remained locked together. As soon as the planes broke free and the fire subsided I escaped through the top hatch the aircraft then being in an inverted spin and minus the rear portion of the fuselage. The bombs blew up when my aircraft hit the ground. The other plane burnt out."
    NAA: A705, 166/5/114 Page 9 of 87

    Having read these two statements afresh, it seems to me that, with both aircraft locked together, on fire, spinning (one inverted), breaking up in the air and plainly not recoverable, it is very fortunate that any crew survived. With all respect for the dead crewmen, in the circumstances described it is remarkably fortunate that the two pilots were able to extricate themselves, not in any way "very very odd" that only they were able to do so.
    Last edited by Don Clark; 21st September 2020 at 09:38.
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  5. #15
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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    Don

    The Blenheim was notoriously bad for bale-outs other than Pilot - He could escape through top hatch -But I think he had to go first - The rear gunner had to escape from top in front of fin IIRC and thus was prone to be fit by fin

    Paul

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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    Thanks indeed, Paul. I rather thought so, and top hatch for the Pilot - his the best chance.

    As for for the gunner, while there was another upper hatch it was forward of the turret (after exit from which impact with tail or turret might well ensue). In the Mark IV at least the gunner's planned (Pilot's Notes Fig 7) route was via the camera hatch in the cabin floor, just to the rear of the cs rear spar/well.

    The Observer was supposed to use the nose under hatch - after jettisoning the hatch. How this was managed when the nose gunsight/gun cupola combo was added I know not.
    The Mark IV pilot was supposed to use this nose hatch too "unless unable to do so"!
    Such larks, they might have said.

    Don
    Last edited by Don Clark; 21st September 2020 at 10:04.
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  7. #17
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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    A graphical example of difficulty in Spitfire escape to augment the posts above from Don and Paul.

    Went to a lecture by Martin Baker a few years ago on pilot escape and they showed a video that included clips from Farnborough Wind Tunnel bale out testing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFAw76CIcq8

    0.30 to 2.00

    Left me with a lasting shudder when I subsequently read the simple phrase "baled out" in documents

    Ross
    Last edited by Ross_McNeill; 21st September 2020 at 09:52.
    The Intellectual Property contained in this message has been assigned specifically to this web site.
    Copyright Ross McNeill 2015/2020 - All rights reserved.

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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    Many thanks, Ross - quite a clip.
    Makes you think, indeed.

    My father, an Observer in Mark Is, never had to bale out of a Blenheim, fortunately.
    Toujours propos

  9. #19
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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    Ross thanks - I think that is EN498 https://allspitfirepilots.org/aircraft/EN498

    The thing they don't show in that video is the fact that if you can rotate aircraft 180% you will fall out...

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    Default Re: SN 407418 F/Sgt George Aktinson Foster, 11 squadron, Died April 5th 1943 Burma.

    Perhaps a little more on the unfortunate 11 Squadron collision, if I may.

    On my reading, the formation was (from my late fathers own Blenheim ops notes) that on the right:

    Three vics of three, line astern, entirely usual for Blenheim ops.
    No 7 being the lead aircraft of the rear vic (Matheson).
    No 5 the Port (left) aircraft of the middle vic (Besley).
    The whole formation should be turning Starboard (right).

    It is not too hard to get out of position in a formation manoeuvre, for example, having further to travel, the aircraft on the outer side of the turn may struggle to "keep up" and sag back. Another example: "cutting the corner" to catch up.

    Neither found to be the case here. The reports in Besley's A705 file record that the cause of the collision was not understood nor determined.
    Still, collide they did, with enough damage to lock the two aircraft together for at least some time.

    The general point is that baling out of any aircraft is far from a doddle: well made by the very useful posts of Paul and Ross.

    In the specific case of the mid-air collision of Blenheim IVs Z9667 and Z7648, the crews faced attempting to get out of two heavily damaged aircraft, on fire, spinning and breaking up.
    In those circumstances, in the confines of a Blenheim IV, baling out was certain to be difficult for the pilots and, for the crew, very difficult indeed (& in the event, not possible).

    To hint otherwise, as #13 did, was never justifiable.
    Last edited by Don Clark; 22nd September 2020 at 06:10.
    Toujours propos

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