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Thread: WO Keith Holden RAAF. 358 Sqd. Caterpillar club

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    Default WO Keith Holden RAAF. 358 Sqd. Caterpillar club

    Hi,

    Would anybody have any information regarding WO Holden's qualification for the Caterpillar club? His service record doesn't mention any incident so I presume he wasn't injured.

    His details are:
    430657 W0 Keith Holden RAAF. Served with 358 Sqd in India from Nov 1944.

    Many thanks in advance,
    RAAF/RAF

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    Hello RAAF/RAF,

    Here is how AUS430657 W/O Keith HOLDEN RAAF, became a member of the 'Caterpillar Club'.

    The Liberator could sustain considerable damage and still keep flying. F/O D C L Kearns, in KH160:'W' (of 358 Sqn.), returned from operations on 28 July (1945), with about three to four feet of the starboard wing missing and extensive damage to the port fin and nose section. He had been climbing away from the DZ, situated in a pocket in some hills, by flying along a valley but to his consternation he was suddenly confronted by a high tree-covered saddle between the hill tops. After dropping the load of containers and packages, he had opened up the engines to climb away but there had been no immediate response; the airspeed was still down to 135mph when he turned right to climb out of the valley and had encountered the ridge. Seeing that he was not going to make it by engine power, he pulled back on the control yoke and the Liberator staggered through the tops of the trees at 90mph. How he kept the aircraft flying is a mystery. At Jessore he found that the Liberator became uncontrollable at less than 155mph and ordered five of the crew out by parachute. The second pilot and navigator stayed with him and he made a good landing at the high speed - an excellent piece of airmanship.

    See:
    Flights of the Forgotten:Special Duties Operations in World War Two.
    Merrick,K.A.
    London:Arms & Armour Press,1989.
    p.309.

    Holden's presence aboard KH160, is confirmed here:-

    WWII RAAF Caterpillar Club Members.

    Holden, FSGT K, 28.7.45, South East Asia.

    also aboard, and baled out, was:

    Thompson, FSGT R J, 28.7.45, South East Asia. (AUS418312)

    See:
    Australian Airborne:The History and Insignia of Australian Military Parachuting.
    O'Connor,John.
    Kingsgrove:Author,2005.
    pp.322 & 325.

    Regards,
    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 14th May 2009 at 08:38. Reason: minor correction

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    Default Kh160

    The 358 Sqn ORB Form 541 has some additional info, and the names of the crew. First, the crew:

    151961 F/O Kearns, captain
    166941 P/O White, 2nd pilot
    97707 S/Ldr McConnell, nav
    1667185 Sgt Holton, bomb aimer
    A.430657 F/Sgt Holden, wireless op
    418312 F/Sgt Thompson, wireless op
    1596158 Sgt Gibson, despatcher
    3011373 Sgt Bradwell, engineer

    From the ORB, the details resulting in the bale outs of Holden and four others:

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

    LIBERATOR KH160. 0745 - 1900. A/C took off at 0745 as briefed. The weather on way out was good. Cu. and Sc. over Chins and Shans. Identified D.Z. Reception as briefed. The D.Z. is placed on the side of a steep hill and is 3500 ASL. On North side of D.Z. is hill 5500 ASL and on South side is a long ridge 4700' ASL. There is a valley leading up to D.Z. on a heading of about 080 deg M. At end of valley, about 1/4 mile from D.Z. is a sheer hill 7000' ASL. We circled D.Z. and decided on run of 084 deg. Made run at 4200' indicated. As we dropped cans and packages on D.Z. I opened up 2500 RPM and Turbo 10, making a turn to right. The engines did not respond for a second or two after I opened up. My speed was then 130 MPH. Turned right over ridge but could see we would not clear it, so pulled A/C over top at 90 mph. As we cleared top of hill we clipped off a few feet of our starboard wing. Got A/C under control and flew back to base. Due to lack of control at any speed less than 155 mph, I flew over aerodrome and ordered 5 of my crew out by chute. All landed safely. We landed A/C OK. Capt., 2.P., and Nav. in it.

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

    The Form 540 monthly summary for July 1945 also summarizes what happened, and the "Flights of the Forgotten" info seems to have been based on this description. This Form 540 entry lists the pilot's full initials; he was F/O D.C.L. Kearns.

    An even more detailed account of the entire op, in Keith Holden's own words, is reproduced on pages 45 into page 48 of the wonderful, yet hard to find book "Beyond the Irrawaddy and the Salween, RAF Special Duty Missions in the South East Asia Theatre of War 1944 - 45" by 358 Sqn veteran Dickson G. Morris, RAAF. Just a snippet from Dickson's gem of a book:

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

    . . .I was certainly stunned, a minor worry was whether I would get caught in a palm tree, but I soon hit the ground with a thud. . .I was told that the skipper had made an excellent landing, in fact better than an aircraft which had preceded him.

    Ground staff mechanics were quick to have the aircraft repaired, one was heard to remark "Blimey, the old girl came in on a wing and a prayer this time". A glamorous drawing of the skipper appeared on the aircraft's fuselage in front of the wing, showing Denny [Kearns] brandishing a broad axe, and labelled 'Woodcutter'. On the trip score also shown on the fuselage a tree appeared around the bomb, indicating the trip when 'W' almost met its Waterloo on a mountainside in French Indo-China.

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

    A color 1/48 scale model decal sheet for this nose art can be seen by googling on woodcutter seac 358.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    Hi Matt and Col,

    Thank you both both the fantastic information provided on W/O Holden. That certainly answered my question!

    All the best
    RAAF/RAF

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