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Thread: An officer/cholera casualty named Ray Fella, India, 1944?

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    Default An officer/cholera casualty named Ray Fella, India, 1944?

    Roy Andrews, RAAF, wrote a self-published, typewritten memoir of his time as a wireless op/air gunner in India, which included his tour of ops on Liberators with 215 Squadron in late 1944 into April 1945. I'm editing his raw memoir, and I hope to track down his son and/or daughter to discuss possible republishing as a much-revamped book.

    As is common in such memoirs, not all facts are correct, and I've solved most of them, so far. One which I've failed to figure out, however, is an officer and pilot named (according to Roy) RAY FELLA, who supposedly died from cholera in 1944. I cannot find anyone by that name in my limited searching, so far, and that includes the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. For all I know, the answer is right under my nose and will be easy for someone else to find.

    Possibly the surname isn't spelled quite correctly. Can anyone figure out who this man is? I don't even know what branch of the air force he belonged to, or what his rank was, or when exactly he died, but here are the scant references from Roy's self-published book:

    From soon after 11 July 1944:

    "On the following day, after another visit to town, I found that I'd been posted to 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit just outside of Kolar, about 80 miles east of Bangalore. I would be crewed aboard a Liberator with an officer called Ray Fella. The rest of the crew were sergeants."

    Also:

    "At 1673 HCU yet not being trained as I expected, I was fed up with doing nothing and wanted to know if I'd really be on the course or not. However, at noon one day the CO told us that we were definitely on the course, and that, upon completion of the course, we would be joining 215 Squadron in East Bengal, India flying four-engine Liberator bombers. After hearing this, I went down with pilot Reg 'Jackson' Grouse, my mate, to try and change over from Ray Fella's crew to Reg's crew."

    Finally, from September 1944, when Roy was on a course at AFTU (Air Fighting Training Unit) Amarda Road in India:

    "By Friday, 22 September, Jackson and Pissey's bearer had been dragged off with cholera, and we'd
    heard that my first skipper-to-be, Ray Fella, with whom Id shared a room for a while, had died of cholera!"

    And that's the extent of Roy's references to this pilot.

    Can one of our super-sleuths can identify this man, including the date of his death? Admittedly, I haven't spent much time trying to solve the mystery myself.

    Thanks,

    Matt

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    Matt,

    A query for non-aviation deaths, with anyone who has an "F" in a surname and is buried/died in India comes up with only these names for 1943-45

    1943
    None


    1944

    Sergeant JOHN EDWARD FROGLEY 770058 1944-05-05 CALCUTTA (BHOWANIPORE) CEMETERY, KOLKATA Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    Pilot Officer JACK PLAYFORD Pilot 175969 135 RSU 1944-09-10 DELHI WAR CEMETERY Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    Pilot Officer JOHN ALEXANDER FRASER Air Gunner J/86090 99 Sqdn 1944-02-06 DELHI WAR CEMETERY Royal Canadian Air Force
    Flying Officer JOSEPH DONAT CAMILLE LEFEBVRE Navigator J/17682 1944-04-14 DELHI WAR CEMETERY Royal Canadian Air Force

    Flight Sergeant ALLAN PATRICK BRANIFF Pilot R/161417 1944-07-29 KIRKEE WAR CEMETERY Royal Canadian Air Force
    Sergeant ROBERT WILLIAM FRASER 616009 159 Sqdn 1944-02-03 RANCHI WAR CEMETERY Royal Air Force

    1945
    Warrant Officer JAMES PETER FOODY 30293 1945-12-01 CALCUTTA (BHOWANIPORE) CEMETERY, KOLKATA Royal Australian Air Force
    Sergeant HANLEY HUNT FITZGERALD 637863 322 MU 1945-12-29 DELHI WAR CEMETERY Royal Air Force
    Flight Sergeant RAYMOND ERNEST FONTAINE R/253106 356 Sqdn 1945-04-30 RANCHI WAR CEMETERY Royal Canadian Air Force


    The trades, cemeteries and units can be used to cull this list down further...

    Updated List.. ran a wrong query earlier..
    Last edited by Jagan; 11th January 2020 at 18:18.

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    Hello Matt,

    I know there is plenty to mitigate against what I'm going to say, but wouldn't it be a strange twist of fate if your "Ray Fella", turned out to be NZ425880 P/O Raymond Maurice BULLEN DFC RNZAF. I'm always suspicious of those latter-day write ups. Time and memory plays too many tricks on us.

    Just thinking aloud.

    Your excellent piece on Ray Bullen's demise, still makes harrowing reading. For those who haven't seen it, take a look:

    http://www.rquirk.com/amarda/crashrev07sc.pdf

    Here's a shot of the 215 Sqn "fellas" (including Roy Andrews), having a bit of fun!

    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article156602047

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 12th January 2020 at 15:13.

  4. The Following User Says Thank You to COL BRUGGY For This Useful Post:

    Jagan (12th January 2020)

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    People,

    Fake News!, Fake News! Don't believe a word of it Folks. Puts a whole new meaning on the expression "The D.T's". For God Sake Matt, it has taken me years to live down the bloody handle "Col. Bogey", and there ya' go, kicking it all off again.

    Thanks Mate.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 17th January 2020 at 10:10.

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    Hello Matt,

    I feel a bit guilty as it may have been my query to you that has set you off on this latest work! Still, I know you'll do a cracking job.


    For what it is worth, there was a F/O R Fellows who flew some 10 ops with 215 Squadron, in the period Apr - July 1943. Unfortunately nothing I can see in the ORB suggests if he was RAF or from another service, or what happened to him. Certainly he does not seem to have been a casualty, and by his placing in the crew lists he would most likely be a Nav/B.

    I will have a look at 1673 HCU's records when I go to Kew in February. A long shot that students might be listed, but worth checking out.

    All the best,

    Geoff

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    All great contributions, my friends.

    Jagan, many thanks for your efforts. As with so much of our research, what might seem like a wasted effort is, in fact, valuable in studying the whole picture and eliminating some names.

    No, Geoff, don't feel guilty. "Ray Fella" is directly from Roy Andrews' memoir, so I was lazily hoping one of our know-almost-all-of-it-alls would solve the mystery for me. I had not spent the money to acquire 215 Sqn Wellington-era ORB examples directly from Kew, although I already had, from Robert Quirk, his admittedly fuzzy and challenging (in places) to read scans from the 215 Sqn microfilm. I'd quickly looked it over, but a slow computer was testing my patience, and, oops, I'd completely missed F/O R Fellows. Because he wasn't a pilot, though, he can't be the man Roy Andrews referred to, but the name may have stuck in Roy's brain, though incorrectly.

    But, Col, yes, the more I look at the evidence, the stronger I lean toward the possibility that Roy Andrews was referring to RNZAF pilot Ray Bullen, and that Roy's recall of facts decades later was simply faulty. Certainly, Ray Bullen died on 26 July 1945 in the tragic collision of the two AFTU Libs, and not from cholera in 1944! Yep, memoirs tend to have wrong facts, as I've discovered a number of times. Yet as with Bill Kirkness' memoir, which I unravelled/edited, expanded, and turned into a book, I feel that Roy Andrews was inherently honest by nature, and that any faulty info I have discovered could be put down to memory error and not to fibbing on purpose!

    AND, Col, you spurred me to dig in my records for more background info on Ray Bullen -- and I've discovered corroborating evidence. I feel pretty confident that Roy Andrews opted out of Ray Bullen's Liberator crew at 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit at Kolar, India. Here is that evidence:

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

    1. A summary of Ray Bullen's RNZAF career received from the NZ Defence Force back around 1998:

    "In September and early November [1944] he converted to Liberator aircraft at No. 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit, Kolar, India, before posting on the 6th November to No. 358 Squadron." [358 Sqn was formed at Kolar from 1673 HCU crews at that time.]


    2. Excerpt of 28 Oct 1998 letter from ex-air gunner Ted Smales to Matt Poole:

    "I first met Ray Bullen at 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit in September 1944 at RAF Kolar in Southern India. Ray was then a Flt/Sgt pilot looking for extra crew members to make up a crew of eleven for the Liberator (B24). I joined his crew as nose gunner. We completed our training 7-11-44 and the next day 358 Sqdn was formed.

    We then commenced Sqdn training which included close formation flying etc. Having finished that, we then went to Digri in the Bengal area ...after one operation the Sqdn was alloted to Special Duties. This consisted of dropping agents and supplies into enemy occupied territory. Also with the start of Special Duties, the Libs were stripped of their front guns, ball turret, and waist guns. So I found myself with approx. 60 more air gunners surplus. After about a month most of us found ourselves on the boat bound back to the UK."

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

    I had corresponded with one of Ray Bullen's crewmates on 358 Sqn, who was on another crew at 1673 HCU, though at the time I didn't even know who Roy Andrews was, so Roy's name did not come up in our correspondence. Sadly, this gent, Ted Smales, and a couple of others who knew Ray Bullen and flew with him have passed away, so although there might be someone around who could tell me more about Roy Andrews, the "good old boy" network has broken down, and most of the men have fallen off the perch. It is too much effort for me to search for more of the veterans now, I'm afraid, though some are still going strong.

    Geoff, I would be very interested in seeing if the 1673 HCU ORB makes mention of Roy Andrews. Who knows...maybe he will be listed as a wireless op/air gunner with Ray Bullen at first. Official records, though sometimes erroneous in their own details, can be extremely helpful in painting an accurate picture.

    I'll wait and see what this ORB has to offer, if anything, but I do think it very likely that Ray Bullen was Roy Andrews' skipper at first. As I'm heavily editing Roy's memoir, I'll make appropriate changes.

    Again, thanks to Jagan, Col, and Geoff. It is no surprise that answers to my original query have spurred me on to come to a conclusion which is likely correct, even without yet knowing with 100% confidence. Ah, the beauty of this message board, and my learned friends!

    Errol (Martyn), I wouldn't be surprised if you were involved in my acquiring info on Ray Bullen from Walter Guttery at the New Zealand Defence Force back around 1999 or so. My records aren't quite as complete as I wish, so I can't be certain...though you've helped me a number of times. Thanks for your efforts!

    Thanks for the kind words, Col. The version of my 26 July 1945 writeup to which you linked is not my latest one. Actually, I'd succeeded in having Robert Quirk remove a later version from his website, because I wanted to turn it into a print-on-demand book, and I wanted at the time to bar at least a few more "something for nothing" creeps from ripping me off. The book printing hasn't happened yet (Jagan and I discussed this at one point, too).

    It's no surprise that my report's findings were plagarized -- that's what happens when info is put on the Internet, even if "copyrighted". An Indian SOB downloaded my pdf file from Robert's site and then claimed some of the research as his own. Each year he holds a memorial service for the 14 airmen who died (including Ray Bullen) on the abandoned runway where the Libs were based (Amarda Road airfield in Orissa, India), and he found the family of the one Royal Indian Air Force member who was among the casualties, AND he visited the crash sites and even found an eyewitness or two among villagers. So, he has done real investigative work and is to be commended for SOME of it.

    However, the man is a scoundrel in my eyes, and every single year he puts out the same erroneous press release "facts" and also claims as his own things that only I found. For something like six or seven years now, he has said "next year" his book about 26 July 1945 would be released. Should be interesting, if it comes out, to see how much he plagarizes!

    One day, before hell freezes over, I would like to turn my report into a print-on-demand book, with even more updated info than I have now.

    Lastly, regarding that link showing Roy Andrews with others from 215 Squadron, Roy's self-published book (just typewritten and very amateurish, but with the makings of a wonderful book...that's where yours truly comes in to the picture!) includes a copy from a contemporary newspaper. I have written something to add to the text about the photo. That same photo can be seen in the archives of the Australian War Memorial, here: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C323626

    Also, there is a second photo of Roy here: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C323340

    Col, I'll be writing you an email in the next day...but HOPEFULLY not in the next hour, since I need to tear myself away from this computer and go to sleep!

    Cheers to all,

    Matt
    Last edited by Matt Poole; 14th January 2020 at 06:38. Reason: Some typos, some additional info

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    Hi Matt,

    Point noted! It's a case of 'not what you know, but who you know' I guess...

    Be good to see what the diary says. I must say I'm not convinced on the Ray Bullen theory so far, but let's see how it pans out. My trip to Kew will be mid-February by the way.

    Mention of Wally Frazer and his book reminds me that somewhere in the house I have a copy of his draft for his publisher, all printed out on that old style computer printout paper. He sent it to my dad for his comments and I managed to blag it some years back. I get the impression that Wally's original was quite heavily edited for publication, and I have always intended to sit down and compare draft and published book. There may be some missing gems in there I hope.

    I must have written to Wally about 'Cec' Shannon, whose medals I had purchased about that time. Don't worry about the copies, Matt, I should have the important bits in my file on Shannon. Incidentally, according to a note in my copy of 'A Trepid Aviator', Wally died on 18 October 2002. He was survived by his wife, whose health was not good at that time, and his son.

    Regards,

    Geoff

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    Hi, Geoff,

    Yep, you address the medals of "Cec" Shannon in your correspondence with Wally. The offer is always there, if you need copies of the letters at any time.

    I had corresponded with Wally's daughter, and she trusted me enough to send me a pile of original correspondences to and from Wally in regard to his book and/or other subjects, like "Cec" Shannon's medals. I copied them and mailed them back. I lost touch with her, and, so far, I can't find her name or address from circa 2007 -- which is frustrating, as I'm usually careful about such things. Oh well...

    I just sent an email to the son and daughter of Roy Andrews. I don't yet know if either has Roy's 1944 diary, either the original or his typewritten version. It would something if he typed it in digital format, though the problem with this is the likely introduction of typographical errors. Sure would like to learn if he mentions his first skipper's name -- Ray Bullen, I hope. Since Roy got the surname wrong in his memoir, my guess is that the diary only has the first name "Ray". But...I...will...know, sooner or later (fingers crossed).

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    Matt,

    I got to visit Kew on Saturday and now have copies from the 1673 HCU ORB covering the period from July – November 1944, which amounts to about 30 pages. Sadly there is no ‘Eureka’ moment for you.

    The record consists of the usual narrative, typically a couple of pages cover one month, and documents appended to each month. These are ‘battle orders’ for what appears to be the final exercise – Exercise ‘Echo’ – completed by the crews whilst at Kolar. This seems to have been carried out as a night cross country of about seven and a half hours, with practice bombs to drop as well.

    Unfortunately whilst some list complete crews, some merely list the captain ‘& crew’. As they are orders for the operation, neither do they confirm which crew members actually flew on the exercise. So, whilst we usefully have the whole of F/Lt Grouse’s crew list for Ex ‘Echo’ No13 on 5/9/44 and Andrews is listed, his book seems to have him in hospital at the time!

    And I could not see Ray Bullen listed anywhere. So either he was not a captain (and was included in an ‘& crew’) or he did not get to complete Exercise ‘Echo’ on his course before 1673 HCU was disbanded to become the nucleus of 358 Squadron.

    Sorry this is not more help. I’ll email you separately later today.

    Regards,

    Geoff
    Last edited by Smith 565; 17th February 2020 at 09:11.

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    Hi, Geoff,

    Thanks for this detailed post, and for the private email and ORB copies.

    I've been frustrated in trying to get Roy's son and daughter to share anything. The son finally told me that he doesn't know of a logbook, but he has not answered my simple question about the existence of the typewritten (digital?) version of Roy's diary, which Roy mentioned in a letter a few years ago, or Roy's wartime photos -- inferior copies of which I've seen. The daughter hasn't replied to my three emails.

    It's a real shame, because a) the diary would easily solve some mysteries, b) getting high-quality photos is essential if a regular book publishing is to be realized, and c) a logbook would be a real gem that would provide a wealth of details.

    I understand what you wrote about Roy saying he was in hospital, but, in looking over his vaguely-written memoir, because of your new info, I can now see the possibility that he went into hospital after that 5 Sept '44 flight with the Grouse crew. Here's the wording of Roy's account:

    ...We went back on the 3rd of Sept [returned to 1673 HCU from leave]. The next day I was Range safety Wop, Bing was the Range Safety Pilot.

    I had to go to hospital with the trots, and sore eyes. I was there for three days. I got into trouble for leaving the hospital without permission. I did that because I was afraid that I'd miss my posting.


    It is my guess that Roy simply summarized his diary entries poorly. Yes, I bet he was in hospital for three days, but he did not add a date for when he went to hospital. Because he only mentioned returning to 1673 HCU on 3 Sept, and being Range Safety W/Op on 4 Sept, and then being in hospital for three days, it is reasonable to infer that his hospital stay could have begun on 4 or 5 Sept. But now the 1673 ORB reveals that Roy was on an exercise with the Grouse crew (Grouse was his new skipper; that is well-established) on 5 Sept, so the start of his hospital stay could not have begun until after that flight. Well, that's assuming the ORB is correct, and that Roy was on the exercise. BUT...those records have errors -- I have seen an erroneous serial number, for example, and every ORB I've ever seen has errors!

    However, I bet his diary clearly states the date when he went to hospital. This is a perfect example of how his diary could clarify matters.

    And, of course, it could also solve the mystery of Ray Fella vs Ray Bullen. Also, the logbook would clarify this, assuming Bullen was an aircraft captain, not a second pilot. Even then, some logbooks list 2nd pilots. But, anyway, the logbook should have the name of the skipper of any flight Roy was on, with the date.

    Unless I do succeed in getting the diary or the logbook (and I know that I have no inalienable right to see such personal info), I must not mention Ray Fella or Ray Bullen in the edited memoir I'm working on. No big deal, really, but it would be nice IF it turned out to be Ray Bullen, as I suspect, because I could add some factually-correct info about Ray's fate in an AFTU Amarda Road aerial collision between two Liberators on 26 July 1945, after Ray had earned a DFC with 358 Squadron.

    Oh well...Your info is very helpful, even though the 1673 HCU ORB is not the goldmine it could have been. Now we know, and there are a few interesting tidbits in there that have great value to me. In fact, I'm sharing excerpts with the families of at least three men mentioned in the ORB. Many thanks for your kind efforts and sharp eyes!

    What I've done so far in editing/revising/expanding Roy Andrews' memoir is very satisfying, and I am a stickler for accuracy. It's just that I sure could use a little more cooperation from the family. The son runs a business, and he said he has no time -- so that makes perfect sense, but he only told me this after I'd written four emails. Had I known earlier, I wouldn't have wasted his or my time. The fact that I haven't even received an email reply from the daughter is very frustrating; the son gave me his sister's email address, and I have no snail mail address or phone number or surname. To learn that, say, there is no logbook, the diary is missing, and there are no photos in the children's possession would be valuable info, as then I would stop wasting my time trying to acquire the impossible. And then my publishing options would slightly change.

    Par for the course, perhaps, because these folks we focus upon are mostly gone now, so we can't ask them for clarification, and their families sometimes don't care enough about the past or don't have any time to help. Beggars can't be choosers, and I'll make the most with what I have!

    Cheers,

    Matt
    Last edited by Matt Poole; 23rd February 2020 at 17:28.

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