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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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    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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    Matt,

    Usual thorough, clinical investigation of the "Facts". I have noticed elsewhere your personal contact with Roy Andrews. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us. Just pop the basics into the search boxes:

    http://ryersonindex.net/search.php

    Looks as if he lasted until he was 86.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 14th January 2020 at 07:20.

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    I'd found Roy's obituary online a few weeks ago. It doesn't say much, and doesn't mention a wife, only a son and daughter (daughter-in-law?) and grandkids:

    ANDREWS, Roy Stuart
    Publication: Melbourne Herald Sun
    Date listed: 24/3/2011

    ANDREWS. – Roy Stuart. Passed away peacefully Mar. 22, 2011. Respected and loving father of Greg and Sue and devoted grandfather (Guppy) of Amy, Rebecca, David, Hannah and Natalie. You meant the world to us all. Your love, integrity and humility were admired and will never be forgotten. PRIVATE FUNERAL

    Col, in the email I sent you, I included some info about Roy's probate records. I'm not sure from the obit whether Roy had two offspring or just one, and I wonder about his wife -- whether he was divorced, whether she died years ago, etc. Roy's probate records hopefully will clear this up, and I found that they are held by the Victoria, Australia Public Record Office. I'm hoping to find his son and/or daughter eventually.

    I now realize that my 26 July '45 report contained some of the details I thought I'd just recognized last night. Nope, I now realize I'd typed them up over twenty years ago, concerning Ray Bullen. I'd forgotten the details!

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    Col found someone he thought was a good candidate for Roy Andrews' son -- same middle name as the old man -- and I wrote to the online email address of the man's Melbourne business. It's HIM -- son Greg, and he gave me his sister Sue's email address, too. Greg is very supportive of my efforts to do something with Roy's memoir, so we're off and running. I have no need to pry into Roy's probate records now -- which was a pain, anyway.

    So, this thread, which started off asking about "Ray Fella" has led me to feel confident that this pilot was "Ray Bullen", and now I'm in touch with Roy Andrews' son as a direct result of starting this thread. Wonderful!

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    That's splendid news Matt. I'm always impressed with your determination and ability to trace family members.


    Have you established if either Greg or Sue know how their father completed his memoir? He must have kept a diary to have the details he included in his book, I would have thought, and getting a look at that might help the 'Ray Fella' mystery.

    Geoff

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    I pulled a bonehead move and failed to post what I had written a few hours ago, in response to Geoff Smith. Well, here I go with Attempt #2. This time, I'll hit the correct button to post it.

    Geoff, thanks, as always, for your kind words. I must emphasize, though, that Col Pay [EDIT: Friday morning 2 a.m. here. That's Col BRUGGY!!! And I know it. I told you above that I pulled a bonehead move, and this is another one. Sorry about that, Col. I'm both laughing and groaning, with the groaning predominating. Humble apologies for this one, Col...everyone deserves to be properly recognized.
    The brain works in mysterious ways...] was the one who found the likely son of Roy Andrews, and I just followed up by contacting the website Col had pointed out to me. So Col's da man!

    I know that Roy kept a diary in 1944, and he used it when writing his memoir. There are a few typos, so I've asked his son and daughter if either has access to the actual diary, in order that I might be able to double-check some things and repair a couple of likely typos.

    That was an excellent idea, Geoff, to see if the diary mentions "Ray Fella", and to see if maybe it has the correct name, believed to be Ray Bullen. I had not thought of that obvious angle of investigation! Adding the wrong surname really could have been a simple mistake on Roy's part when putting his memoir down on paper. Hopefully, the diary did note the correct surname, though I do feel pretty confident that Ray Bullen is our pilot.

    I have copies of three letters Roy wrote in 1998 to former 215 Sqn Lib pilot Wally Frazer of Canada, regarding Wally's excellent memoir, "A Trepid Aviator". Wally and Roy were on 215 at the same time. In one letter, Roy mentions that he lacked the patience to write his experiences down, but obviously at some point after late 1998, he did just that. However, the typos and a few other mistakes reveal that Roy did lack some patience -- but I'm able to figure out most of his errors.

    Roy also made it clear in his memoir (which is undated) that the diary concluded at the end of December 1944, and that after that, he only had his memory to go on. And, presumably, his logbook; I've asked his family if the logbook survives. Not sure if there are any letters to his parents or brother surviving. They would have been very limited in the kinds of info wabout which he was able to write, due to censoring rules, but, still, the letters might be filled with fascinating and useful info. (Roy, in his memoir, mentions having to censor NCO mail, several times. It was a task he found boring.)

    Geoff, I also have copies of two letters you wrote to Wally and one reply, from Aug/Sept 2000. Let me know if you need copies for your files.

    Cheers,

    Matt
    Last edited by Matt Poole; 17th January 2020 at 07:24.

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