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

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

    This is in response to tankengine888 re George Foster. I have some information for you. If you already have this info, that’s excellent.
    George Foster lived at Unley, South Australia, where his sister and parents resided in the 1940s. His fellow South Australian,David Taylor, who took part in the raid on Meiktila on April 5, 1943 as a wireless operator/air gunner in Lionel Hudson’s Blenheim, previously flew with George Foster in another crew. David provided the following information:
    ”I knew George Foster well as he and I flew with another pilot, David Nightingale, before we split up. I have been unable to trace his family except that he had an elder sister, Isabel. He attended Unley High School, then joined the Savings Bank of South Australia in 1937, aged 16. He was also a member, as I was, of the 27th Scottish Battalian of Militia in 1938.
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 28th October 2020 at 03:10.

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

    In October, 1940, he was inducted into the RAAF as a Course 7 pilot. His official number 407418, indicates that he was an early South Australian member.
    In January 1941 following initial training as a pilot, he was transferred to undertake training as a navigator on 10 Course at Cootamundra. After completing bombing and gunnery training at Evans Head, he embarked on the Queen Elizabeth for the Middle East Pool to 70 Operational Training Unit at Nakuru, Kenya, where he crewed up with me and David Nightingale on Blenheims -three South Australians together.
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 28th October 2020 at 00:16.

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

    Continued.
    We flew to India early in March 1942 and joined X1 Squadron in Ceylon on 13 April of that year. When David Nightingale fell ill in mid 1942, I joined Lionel Hudson’s crew and George teamed up with Harvey Besley. I regret I have been unable to locate George Foster’s sister. “
    From David Taylor’s letter to my father, E.P. (Ted) Wixted who is Tommy Wixted’s youngest brother.
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 28th October 2020 at 03:10.

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

    To all of you who have researched this crash, well done. You have managed to have captured most of the information about it. With your indulgence, I would like to add a little more information and am happy to do this for you collectively. It will probably take up a fair amount of time, so I’ll do it in chunks. Firstly, let me explain where this information came from. My late father, E.P. (Ted) Wixted was Tommy and Bobby Wixted’s youngest brother. He talked directly to Bill Matheson in 1945, as well as over the phone and via letters. He directly spoke to Harvey Besley as well as over the phone and by correspondence. He spoke with Hudson, Graham, Anderson, Ewing, Proudfoot, and corresponded with Harley Stumm in 1945. He spoke to Cartledge‘s wife and she sent a photocopy of her late
    husband’s flight log. Also corresponded with David Taylor, Bob Huie and GED Moore. The formation of that op. Consisted of the following.

    Stumm, F/L R.J. Ingram. (d. 1.6.1943), F/Lt B. Burnley (d. 1.6. 1943)

    Hudson. David Taylor, GED Moore

    Graham. P/O Stump. Sgt Huie

    Ewing P. R.Ewing, Bob Malcolm (d. 18.4.1943)

    Proudfoot. F/Sgt A.C. Hunt, F/Sgt. J.P. Hicks

    Cartledge. Sgt. E.H. Proett, R.A.F. Observer

    Matheson E. Appleton, T.J. Wixted

    Besley. G. Foster, D. Andrew

    Anderson Unknown, Unknown

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

    5April, 1943
    At 0830, the formation took off from Feni in India, flew south-south west to Ramu, then east-south- east to Yenangyaung on the Irrawaddy. The target was Meiktila airfield. There is a large lake at Meiktila.

    *The formation initially comprised 12 Blenheim aircraft apparently, but 2 aircraft were forced to return to base with engine trouble, and another with defective guns.

    *While flying to the target, the formation consisted of four Vics in line astern. This was gradually reduced to three Vics.

    *A lake near Thazi was mistaken for the lake near Meiktila.

    *The formation twice spread for a bombing run before the mistake was realised, then the aircraft regrouped.

    *As it approached Meiktila, the formation spread for its bombing run for the third time.

    *It was at this point, 2 hours and 47 minutes after takeoff, that the collision occurred. The rest of the formation continued on, bombed the target and returned to base. A Japanese fighter was shot down by accompanying R.A.F. Hurricanes without loss.

    As told to Ted Wixted by Bill Matheson in 1945.

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

    Robinmargaret,

    Thank you very much for your additions to this thread. Having a contemporary account from that time on record after so many years is remarkable.

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

    The formation was as follows:

    Stumm 1
    Vic1 Hudson 2. Graham 3

    Proudfoot 4
    Vic 2. Ewing 5. Besley 6

    Matheson 7
    Vic 3 Cartledge8. Anderson9

    In 1945, Matheson used numbers 1 to 9 to explain how the accident happened. Research at a later date, led to the pilots names.

    As the formation approached the target, No 2 Vic went out to the left, and number 3 Vic went out to the right. Each Vic flies about 20 feet above the one which is to the rear. They were close together for greater protection against enemy fighters. This meant that No2 plane, passed over No. 4 and No.6 passed over No.7 ie Besley passed over Matheson.

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

    Thank you Jagan for your kind reply. There is so much more to the twist and turns of this accident. I hope it is ok to keep posting. Cheers Robin

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    From Bill Matheson 1945. “As that move was taking place,Tommy Wixted warned me of the danger by suddenly calling ‘Lookout’. In almost the same instant there was a massive impact on the machine.I thought we had been hit by flak or perhaps a fighter, and it was only then I realised that there had been a collision.It seemed to me that my navigator/ bomb aimer, Ted Appleton, became a victim of the collision immediately it occurred. His only warning would have been Tommy’s sudden call but he had no chance of acting on it.”

    “The engine exhausts of the upper aircraft were directly above my head and the heat was burning my face.I looked towards the tail of the aircraft and saw it had broken away, but whether in front or behind Tommy’s position as gunner I had no idea. There was no sign of Tommy.
    The one chance of escape for me would occur only if the engine and wing of the other aircraft above my head were to fall away. I waited and waited, the heat burning my face. Suddenly it was gone. On the instant, I was out, and jumped. My parachute barely opened before the wreckage struck the earth below. Once on the ground, I watched the other parachutist coming down some distance away. “
    Later, it appeared that for an unknown reason, the lower plane lifted into the bottom of the upper plane. The right hand engine of Besley’s plane struck Matheson’s plane in the cabin, and Matheson’s left hand engine struck the other plane in its cabin, thus”locking the planes together. “.

    Bill Matheson in 1945.
    “Resistance to being made a prisoner was pointless. The radio that had been behind Tommy was brought in from the wreckage by the Japanese, so it appears the tail section broke away further along the fuselage behind him and he remained in the main section of the aircraft. The Japanese said they buried four airmen who were found in the wreckage. They seemed to treat the dead with a respect they never showed to the living.”

    As told to Ted Wixted by Bill Matheson in 1991.
    “I came down probably within a mile of both the wreckage and the nearest village. The country was flat and bare; during the wet season it would be cultivated for rice. Within 10 to 15 minutes I was surrounded by screaming children and their parents- some armed with shotguns and others with short swords. Robbed of boots and wristwatch I was taken to a minor village and handed over to the Japanese who tied me up hand and foot. I was tossed into a bullock cart and taken to the township of Pyawbwe which has a sizeable army garrison. After some delay, a truck took me to Meiktila.”

    Bill Matheson 1991 continued
    “At Meiktila I was put in a cell next to Harvey Besley. This was a stone or brick outbuilding divided into two cells by a timber wall and with about 4 inch hardwood bars. You entered on hands and knees through a trapdoor- this was used to pass in food. A guard faced the cells 24 hours a day. A two-story villa outside was occupied by Japanese Military Police.
    After a month, Harvey Besley and I were taken to Rangoon by truck and put into separate cells in what was the large local civilian prison. This was the 3rd of May.”

    Bill Matheson 1991 Continued
    “On Sunday 30 May, I was one of a party of nine, flown to Bangkok and next day to Singapore in a Japanese bomber. I’ve no idea the reason for the separation. After a month’s isolation in a house, we were transferred to the main Changi POW camp which by Japanese standards was well organised.”
    Last edited by Jagan; 30th October 2020 at 01:05.

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

    Thanks Jagan for organising the post into a better format. Unfortunately my log in logs out after a very short time. Cheers

    Harvey Besley 1986.
    A very full account of life in Rangoon prison appears in two books, one by Harvey himself and one by Lionel Hudson. In May 1945 the Japanese in Burma seemed on the verge of defeat. Only the Monsoon, due on 15 May, could delay the inevitable. Some prisoners were left in Rangoon prison, and some were taken by Japanese forces as they retreated from Rangoon, apparently as hostages. Harvey Besley was in the latter group. Unaware of the intentions of his captors he decided to escape and did so with five companions.
    Eventually they met a British unit and their predicament was at an end. For his work in Rangoon prison, capped off by his escape, Harvey received the Military Medal. (Ted Wixted)
    Besley, Harvey. “Pilot, Prisoner, Survivor” 1986 Darling Downs Institute Press, Darling Heights, Toowoomba, Q, 4350. ISBN 0 949414 11 5

    Hudson,Lionel, “Rats of Rangoon”, 1987. Leo Cooper Imprint, Heinemann Group of Publishers, 10 Upper Grosvenor Street, London. W1X 9PA. ISBN
    0-85052-2838.

    The Military Medal was a unique medal in more ways than one. At the time of the awardHarvey was a serving Air Force Officer; the medal is normally awarded to army personnel below the rank of officer.It is a totally fitting reward for Harvey and one might say, an appropriately unique finale for everything else that had begun at 11:17 on the morning of April 5, 1943.
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 1st November 2020 at 11:10.

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