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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

    When we returned to the village, Vincent sat at a table with the headman in the lower part of his house. In the discussion he learned from a villager beside him , 75 years of age, of another old man in Pauktaw who had been present at the crash scene on 5 April, 1943. The villager speaking to Vincent said that he himself had not been present at the crash site but that the other man to whom he was referring, whose name was U Hyun Shwe, had told him the details one night several years ago. The Headman sent a “boy” (aged 30!) to find U Htun Shwe and bring him to Vincent. Soon...... U Htun Shwe was beside him.
    Soon it was time to go and I asked Vincent to take a photograph. ......The day had worn on and it was time to leave. The villagers had been informed that we would return the next day, the 50th Anniversary. After a one hour journey back along the dusty track in the Jeep, we reached the main road at 4 pm then drove U Ba Maung in the direction of Pyawbwe to his roadside stall and dwelling place. I took a photo of him beside his Mobil sign. He provided cups of Burmese tea and produced an exercise book in which Ossie(interpreter) wrote in Burmese the story behind the day’s adventure. I added a few words complementary to our guide. U Ba Maung was reimbursed for his troubles, ......and we journeyed back to Meiktila. We then made our way back in the Jeep to the Meiktila Hotel which was out of town proper on the road to Mandalay.
    Later, we were under a full moon on the verandah, being about 8:45 pm , when Vincent suddenly realised that he was the only one in possession of certain information which at that point had not come to light. He then conveyed the essential point to me. It related to one of the bodies. At the time it was mixed in with a number of other comments about other things which were seemingly in conflict and this needed to be clarified and resolved. There was an urgent need to locate the central person, his informant, on our return to Pauktaw on Monday 5 April and to establish with accuracy the specifics of the information he had endeavoured to impart. Vincent said he would make sure this happened. The problem, I was to find, lay with Vincent’s difficulty in expressing particular thoughts in English. After .......I went to bed.
    Second Visit
    And so 5 April dawned. We checked out of our hotel shortly after 6am and made our way .......to Meiktila.
    .... To understand the activity that took place at Pauktaw on the day of the 50th Anniversary of the crash, 5 April 1993, it is necessary to be aware of the conversation between Vincent and U Htun Shwe, the witness who had been sent for on 4 April by the headman of the village.
    While the “boy” was looking in Pauktaw village for the man wanted by Vincent, U Htun Shwe was already in the paddy fields with the group looking for the gravesite. .......... soon this group had returned from the gravesite to the village. Vincent’s group had now grown to 5. The Head man, the “boy” , the original informant and U Htun Shwe and Vincent. There was a big crowd around .Vincent did not know I was back.
    Vincent asked the headman if I was back. U Htun Shwe said: “ They are already here.” Vincent then enquired from his original informant and got him to confirm the identity of the person he had been speaking about previously. The informant said to Vincent: “This is the man that I wanted you to see”, referring to U Htun Shwe who was sitting next to Vincent. Vincent wanted U Htun Shwe to say for himself what he had previously told the other person. He said, “What happened at the plane crash?”

    U Htun Shwe replied: “I was there after the plane crash and helped to bury the bodies”. Vincent asked him: “How many bodies did you bury?” and he replied: “Only one. All the rest had been placed in the grave”. He then continued and said: “ One of the bodies was complete and he looks exactly like sayagyi”.
    At that time I was on the tailgate of the Jeep parked beside the house. My hat was off. Vincent was under the house sitting near the table. Vincent said: “Since all the bodies ( found at the crash site) were said to be incomplete how can you recognise the face?” U Htun Shwe responded: “It was the one complete body that looks like sayagyi. There was no injury on the face. The face looked nice”. (Myat hnar kaung nay hui tar). He continued: “When I first saw the body it was slightly turned on one side sprawled out. The two knees were bent as though running and falling”. Others turned the airman’s body over and he saw the face. The headman checked for signs of life and then said: He’s dead”. There was no visible sign of injury on the airman so this is why the headman had checked. U Htun Shwe bent down beside the airman and smoothed the dust away off the face with his fingers.
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 22nd November 2020 at 01:14.

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

    Vincent then said, because the question occurred to him naturally. “The sayagyi (Ted Wixted) is also Australian like the airman. So perhaps it is because they are both Australians that he looks like sayagyi?” To this U Htun Shwe replied: “All the faces of the other three were undamaged but their faces were not like the face of sayagyi”. As he spoke, I was sitting at the back of the Jeep and was partly visible to U Htun Shwe and Vincent. There was no doubt as to which of the visitors he was referring to as “Sayagyi” ( honorable sir) because he pointed from the table where he was sitting, at the side of my head which was bare.

    Vincent asked: “Why do you think this airman’s body was so far from the wreckage?” U Htun Shwe could offer no explanation but thought he must have jumped or fallen out of the plane as it was about to crash. However, the pattern of wreckage distribution fails to support such a suggestion. The wreckage was distributed on a line south- north and traced out the final flight path. ........ The line of passage and all material remains as well as the bodies of the other airmen were some 150 metres to the west of where U Htun Shwe found the airmen’s body which he was discussing, and along the line of flight so there was no chance that the airman had jumped or fallen as the machines reached the earth. Clearly there had been no passage over the position where he was found. There was no piece of wreckage nearby either, which would have facilitated catapulting, of which there were some remarkable instances in World War 2. If catapulting did occur, with so little apparent effect on the airman’s body, it has to be regarded as among the more remarkable of such instances. Moreover the airman must have been inside the plane to start with. Add to this the fact that an otherwise anonymous victim in a foreign land, one among four victims, was able, because of this separation from the crash and a family likeness, to be identified 50 years later when his youngest brother arrived at the scene, and the story becomes historically unique.
    In April 1943, U Htun Shwe was a “yellow robe”, a young monk(ko yin). His friends from the village were called back by parents and told not to go near the bodies. Nobody told him not to because of his being a young monk. He had never seen dead bodies in his life to this time. When he thinks about it, it makes him sad. Today, after seeing Sayagyi, he can picture it again; it all comes back to him with vivid clarity and what he felt overcomes him again.
    The name “Htun Shwe” means “glaring gold”. He said that on seeing my face he had received a shocking surprise. Gradually his mood changed. He realised that the airman whom he had seen in 1943 had died but the presence in the village of sayagyi showed that life was continuing on. Ultimately, on 5 April, the same Htun Shwe became quite buoyant.
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 24th November 2020 at 06:21.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Robinmargaret View Post
    This is in response to tankengine888 re George Foster. I have some information for you. If you already have this info, thatís 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 Hudsonís Blenheim, previously flew with George Foster in another crew. David provided the following information:
    ĒI 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.
    I have not looked here for about 2 months and sorry for the late reply.
    As I am a 2nd cousin 3 removed (distant relation) I didnít know David Taylor nor Nightingale. I knew he lived in Unley and that but yeah, cheers for the information about this and others. Iíve looked for photos of George but I only found this ( https://victoriancollections.net.au/...cf422a74c1e2aa ). Poor Foster, Wixted, Appleton and Andrew. Is there any other ways to find a photo of George? AWM has no photos for neither Besley and Foster I learnt, anyways.
    thank you,
    Regards,
    Z. McNamara

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    Robinmargaret (24th November 2020)

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

    I posted a query on WW2Talk forum, and Simon (High Wood) on the Forum was extremely helpful in digging up what i think are one inch maps of Pyaktau and surroundings

    Simon's original post can be viewed at :
    http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads...10#post-908981 But it will take an account to see the detailed Map image.

    I took the liberty of borrowing one image and comparing it in GE




    on GE you can zoom into it a bit further. The below photo shows the southern tip of Pyaktaw village and I wonder if the site is somewhere within this image.


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    Robinmargaret (24th November 2020)

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

    Hi Jagan. I am thrilled by the maps that you have sourced. The crash site is marked by the yellow thumb tack/push pin, on the maps. The 1946 wreckage was said to have been found at 20 degrees 46 North and 96 degrees 1 East. It matches up pretty well I think. It also matches up with the other maps I have here. Where did the thumb tacks/push pins come from?
    Thank you so much for the interest and time you have taken. I have really appreciated it. I do have a couple of reproduced pictures from 1993 and have explored how to upload them. Not successful as yet though. There is just a little more to the 1993 trip.
    Writing about this accident has been a bit emotional for me, but carthartic as well. All of dad’s work to get as much information as he could, his trips to Burma and Alkborough have probably let me feel some peace about the events of 77 years ago, and 76 years ago respectively.
    I would be great if you were able to thank Simon on my behalf. Many thanks.
    Thank you again.
    Cheers Robin
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 25th November 2020 at 04:08.

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

    Hi there, Z. McNamara
    I will have a longer answer for you in a couple of days. The short answer is that there are 3 known photos that were provided by David Taylor in 1991. I have to investigate how I can obtain professionally done copies. I will get back to you.
    Regards
    Cheers
    Robin
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 25th November 2020 at 00:11.

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

    At Pauktaw on 5 April, we were given the names of five men.

    “1. U Htun Shwe, 70, who identified Tommy’s body as intact, no apparent injury, far from wreckage, by itself in a paddy field, facial features identifiable, lying like a man running who had tripped, burial in mass grave, on top.

    2. U Aung Thein, 72, saw Bill Matheson tied on the ground, had part of a parachute from which a shirt was made.

    3.U Kyaw Lun, 68, strong voiced chap who pointed to the grave on 4 April.

    4. U Paw Maung, 73, not from Pauktaw in 1943 but nearby in Ywa, the Japanese told village elders to bury the bodies.

    5. U Hla Aung, 72, did not present himself, ill.

    Soon we continued past Pauktaw along an even rougher track. It was a thrill ride. We turned off this track about 2 paddy fields from the gravesite; much closer than yesterday...........
    I recorded interviews at the site.Photos were taken. I asked Vincent to count the number of villagers present. He counted 89 adults, and 55 children, a total of 144. .........
    U Htun Shwe, Vincent and I then moved to the spot where my brother’s body was found. No wreckage was anywhere near the body. There were now trees nearby that had not been growing there then. In order that I might have a clear comprehension of what he was trying to convey, I simulated the position of Tommy’s body as I understood it to have been. U Htun Shwe pointed immediately and said something in Burmese. Vincent, who was taking a photo, instantly translated, saying: “He said ‘exactly like that’ “.
    We returned to the main group. Ossie the translator, wished to say a prayer and he was accompanied by Mary his wife and Vincent. Once again under the shade of a tree, I said to the people that the land was no longer a grave, but a piece of the living land...........
    I shook hands with all the men and finally with Htun Shwe. He was very happy and it was a fond farewell.
    We returned to the Jeep and back to Pauktaw. The visit was concluded with a call upon the headman . A gift was left with him for the village.
    We left.......... just before entering Meiktila, we turned off on the Thazi Road. I took photos in the village of Tawma and at the Tawma railway station. The photographs included one of a bullock cart. At Meiktila the party lunched at their favourite spot.
    At 2:30 pm on 5 April we identified a tin shed that had once served as a police station and was now an adjunct to the post office.......... The building accorded with Harvey Besley’s description of the former police station in which he and Bill Matheson were incarcerated. ......... The lake had once flown into the gully and had been blocked off by roadwork and other structuring.
    The postman was interviewed. He was familiar with the history of the site. There seemed no doubt that, on the basis of information received, we had located the correct former police station, and at almost precisely the hour at which, 50 years before, Harvey Besley had been brought in as a prisoner. It accorded totally with his description. The postmaster told us the shed was scheduled for destruction in 1993-1994.
    There had been little knowledge at Pauktaw concerning Bill Matheson though he had been observed making his parachute descent. U Aung Thein said he had once had a shirt which was made from part of the parachute. U Paw Maung was from a village near Pauktaw, in Ywa. Pauktaw interest was centred on the crash itself and it is likely that the villagers that surrounded Bill Matheson came from a village a little to the south. All the blame for the treatment Bill received, though not in any way acknowledged, was placed upon the presence of two Japanese from Pyawbwe on a foraging mission in a village nearby. He said Bill’s hands were tied and he was put on a bullock cart.
    We left Meiktila for Mandalay and Maymyo after the Jeep was returned at 2:50 pm on 5 April. A great deal had happened in the 50 hours since out initial discussion at Singaing on 3 April. An investigation that could have been totally profitless had produced a unique result. After a rest in the cool at Maymyo at Candacraig guest house, I returned to Rangoon by air on 7 April.

    Wixted, Edward Patrick. “Fortunes of War” 1991, Monographic Booklet. Desktop Publisher. Brisbane.

    Wixted, Edward Patrick “A Return to Burma.” 1993. Pamphlet Brisbane. 14 April, 1993.

    Private correspondence of E P Wixted.

    Conversations with R.M. Stammers (nťe Wixted.)
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 25th November 2020 at 04:00.

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

    Hi again
    I’ll give you what I have.
    The booklet you have shown was sent to Mrs. Pattison on 23 August 1991. She is Dave Andrew’s sister. When she was at Taukkyan Cemetery, there was another lady there who said her name was Miss Barker. She lived in Sydney and sent Mrs. Pattison a photo of the grave saying her brother was buried there. Could she have been George’s sister? Very possibly.
    Isabel was born in 1909 and married Maurice B in 1939. I do not know what the B stands for. It could be Barker or just a crazy coincidence.
    In the SA births deaths and marriages, there is also a section with the title South Australian Public Trustees/ Deceased Estates. George Aitkinson Foster is listed under that section. I am not a member, so I cannot access the document. This is the same for Isabel’s document of marriage.
    Also, go to Nominal-Rolls.dva.gov.au and you can download George’s certificate of service and or print it. If you cannot access it from there, go to Australian War Memorial, Nominal Rolls WW 2 and it will redirect you from there.
    Regarding the photographs, the one on the cover of that booklet is from David Taylor and George is in front of a brick building.
    The 2nd photo is of George and David Taylor and is on page 21 of the booklet. The third photo is of George and an older man in an older uniform. Perhaps his dad. The face is unclear because of the shadow of the hat. If it is his dad, he may have served in WW1. This may also Be a red herring. Try Nominal Rolls again for WW1. The George Foster most likely is No. 3313 who was a labourer, 44 years old, and worked for the East West Railway in South Australia. He was, of the many George Fosters, the only one to embark in South Australia. This, as I said may be an entire furphy and useless to you.
    The photos were supplied by David Taylor, photographed at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane and added to their aviation collection. Because of COVID, the museum closed and set about reorganising their displays etc, and the last time I tried to contact them, their website and email were down. Here is their contact address. www.qm.qld.gov.au. I am certain they could help you. The originals were returned to David Taylor.
    If you would like a copy of the booklet, just let me know and I will talk to Jagan about the protocols of contacting you to get the booklet to you.
    Cheers
    Robin
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 25th November 2020 at 09:51.

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

    Hi Jagan. As I have finished all the information I have for now, I would like to give you a copy of the booklet from whence the information, in the main was derived. Are you able to tell me the protocols around me getting an address to which I can send this booklet. I have asked Mr. McNamara if he would also like one. If anyone else would like one, I am more than happy to oblige. You have been a great source of information for me and I hope that my posts may have helped someone else.
    I have 2 theories that might be easy to debunk or they might have a ring of truth.
    We know so much more about air currents these days. I live directly beneath the flight path of a busy airport. Their wheels are let down right above my head, which makes me think they are about 500 to 1000 feet above me. After about 40 seconds or so, the trees in my yard are blown about by a very short wind. The aircraft fly over in 5 minute intervals for about an hour, so I know that this happens from thousands of observations.
    Birds fly in a v shape. This allows the updraft from each bird ahead to make it easier for the one behind, to keep flying.
    Besley said he moved up from Matheson’s Vic to the one ahead of him. This means that he was flying faster than Matheson. He also had to increase his height by about 20 feet. And then it appears that Vic 2 turned left, while Vic 3 turned right. The interruption to the updraft could so easily have lifted Matheson’s aircraft, straight into Besley’s aircraft.
    My second theory is about Tommy. Blenheims were not pressurised. Tommy sees the lifting up and calls out Lookout. I am going to presume that he would duck. We know that the exhaust was above Matheson’s head. Let me make a presumption. The aircraft is now interlocked so presumably Tommy could not get out and there is for a very short time a vacuum. The split second the top aircraft parts from above Tommy or the tail of the aircraft breaks away, Tommy may have been gone. For those few seconds or maybe longer, there is as I said a vacuum, and when that vacuum is broken, Tommy would have been sucked out of the aircraft. Similar to the passengers who were sucked out of an aircraft when the cargo door opened and the depressurisation caused them to disappear into the sky. I can only hope that Tommy was unconscious by then.
    Not a week ago, my second oldest brother, David, who is the spitting image of dad, visited a cousin from my mother’s side of the family, who he has not seen in over 20 years. The first words out of her mouth were, “You look just like your dad”.
    When U Htun Shwe said the airman looked like Sayagyi, and dad told me, I immediately thought of this poem by Thomas Hardy. I will leave you with it.

    The Family Face

    I am the family face;
    Flesh perishes, I live on,
    Projecting trait and trace
    Through time to times anon,
    And leaping from place to place
    Over oblivion.

    The years-haired feature that can
    In curve and voice and eye
    Despise the human span
    Of durance - that is I;
    The eternal thing in man,
    That heeds no call to die.

    Thomas Hardy


    Cheers Robin
    Last edited by Robinmargaret; 25th November 2020 at 07:34.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Robinmargaret View Post
    Hi again
    Iíll give you what I have.
    The booklet you have shown was sent to Mrs. Pattison on 23 August 1991. She is Dave Andrewís sister. When she was at Taukkyan Cemetery, there was another lady there who said her name was Miss Barker. She lived in Sydney and sent Mrs. Pattison a photo of the grave saying her brother was buried there. Could she have been Georgeís sister? Very possibly.
    Isabel was born in 1909 and married Maurice B in 1939. I do not know what the B stands for. It could be Barker or just a crazy coincidence.
    In the SA births deaths and marriages, there is also a section with the title South Australian Public Trustees/ Deceased Estates. George Aitkinson Foster is listed under that section. I am not a member, so I cannot access the document. This is the same for Isabelís document of marriage.
    Also, go to Nominal-Rolls.dva.gov.au and you can download Georgeís certificate of service and or print it. If you cannot access it from there, go to Australian War Memorial, Nominal Rolls WW 2 and it will redirect you from there.
    Regarding the photographs, the one on the cover of that booklet is from David Taylor and George is in front of a brick building.
    The 2nd photo is of George and David Taylor and is on page 21 of the booklet. The third photo is of George and an older man in an older uniform. Perhaps his dad. The face is unclear because of the shadow of the hat. If it is his dad, he may have served in WW1. This may also Be a red herring. Try Nominal Rolls again for WW1. The George Foster most likely is No. 3313 who was a labourer, 44 years old, and worked for the East West Railway in South Australia. He was, of the many George Fosters, the only one to embark in South Australia. This, as I said may be an entire furphy and useless to you.
    The photos were supplied by David Taylor, photographed at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane and added to their aviation collection. Because of COVID, the museum closed and set about reorganising their displays etc, and the last time I tried to contact them, their website and email were down. Here is their contact address. www.qm.qld.gov.au. I am certain they could help you. The originals were returned to David Taylor.
    If you would like a copy of the booklet, just let me know and I will talk to Jagan about the protocols of contacting you to get the booklet to you.
    Cheers
    Robin
    Okay, summarized,
    Georges Father never served
    is there a way I can find the photos, I looked at the site, though I never used it, I didnít find it, if thereís a link Iíd like it. Also thatís not the email, thatís the site address. Anyways long story short can I find the photos online, if so link etc.
    also Iíd like to research this David Taylor, would you know when he enlisted, service number, etc.
    let me know if I missed anything.
    Regards,
    Z. McNamara

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