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Thread: 23/24 Feb 1944 missing, Far East

  1. #11
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    Dennis,

    Thanks for padding out that list. I'm sure it will be a great help to Matt.

    Format? I am physically transcribing the data from a set of ten microfiche. Much the same method they used to build the pyramids!

    Now, where is my quill?

    Thanks Mate,

    Col.

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    Hi, Col and Dennis.

    Nice work! These men, plus O'Donnell (RCAF) and Merriman (RIAF) match up to my guess as to the ten-man crew of BZ951.

    Happy holidays,

    Matt

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    In case you are interested, there is a plaque in honour of the same F/O Sydney Merriman in St Peter's Church graveyard, Agra showing that he died in action on 23rd August 1944.

    regards
    Elaine Blackburn Watson


    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Poole View Post
    Hi, Col and Dennis.

    Nice work! These men, plus O'Donnell (RCAF) and Merriman (RIAF) match up to my guess as to the ten-man crew of BZ951.

    Happy holidays,

    Matt

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    I've only just picked up on this Thread.

    Whilst I've nothing to contribute to the specific questions, can I record that a book I have found exceptionally useful is called: BURMA LIBERATORS by John R W Gwynne-Timothy. It was published in 1991 and is a two volume set, of which Volume 2 has potted squadron histories, details of many crews participating and, within the text, many casualty listings. Vol 2 is of the greater interest to me. The set ISBN is: 1895578000 and Vol 2 alone is 1895578027

    I have not checked the famous South American river for continued availability

    Colin Cummings

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    I'm glad you revived this thread, Colin. Since my last posting I have learned more details to share.

    The out of print BURMA LIBERATORS books are a valuable source, more so Vol. 2, although there are some baffling flaws and omissions that should have been explained (i.e., missing segment of a squadron's ORB). The books are hard to find, though.

    Back to BZ951...

    The following summary is based upon the 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit’s Operations Record Book; information provided to the next-of-kin of one of the casualties by the Air Historical Branch; previous postings in this message thread, and my analysis of wartime maps, a bomb damage assessment report, and Google Earth imagery.

    B-24 Mark III Liberator BZ951 “Y”, operating with No 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF, took off at 1750 on 23 February 1944 to join two other Liberators of 1673 HCU on an operation to bomb Sinde Dumps, Burma. Sinde was situated on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River about three miles south of the larger town of Prome, which was on the east bank.

    BZ951 failed to return to base (Salbani, West Bengal, India). The entire 10-man crew were reported missing. They were listed in this order in the Operations Record Book, Form 541 DETAIL OF WORK CARRIED OUT, Appendix “C”, 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit:

    40594 F/Lt ALLITT, Robert Edward DFC - PILOT
    109364 F/Lt HOUGHTON, Raymond Douglas – PILOT (PASSENGER)
    1601738 Sgt FLETCHER, William Kenneth – FLIGHT ENGINEER
    66511 F/Lt FRASER, Francis James – NAVIGATOR/BOMB AIMER
    1145139 Sgt BOYD, Trevor Barkley – WOP/AIR GUNNER
    1104751 W/O BEATEY, Thomas Atkinson – AIR GUNNER
    517958 F/Sgt RICHARDSON, Herbert Arthur – AIR GUNNER
    CAN J.86852 P/O O’DONNELL, Ernest William – AIR GUNNER
    IND 1791 F/O MERRIMAN, Sydney – NAVIGATOR/BOMB AIMER
    533351 F/Sgt NELSON, David - FLIGHT ENGINEER

    The aircraft had released its bombs on the target, but it “did not identify by W/T” (per the ORB) and was not seen again. (By this, perhaps it was meant that no wireless message of any kind -- including a distress signal -- was received at any time after bombs were released.)

    An extensive but unsuccessful search was made covering what was thought to be likely areas in the Bay of Bengal in which the aircraft might have forced landed.

    In June 1946 No 5 Searcher Team, RAF Missing Research & Enquiry Service, found the wreckage at 18° 44' 40" N.Lat, 95° 12' E. Long on a small island in the Irrawaddy River. The nearby village of Kyun-U, also on this island, is situated 2.5 miles due south of Sinde, the bombing objective on 23 February 1944.

    The local headman (presumably from Kyun-U) stated that the aircraft had bombed the Prome area (actually Sinde, but this is a reasonable geographic error) and was seen to approach the island on fire before crashing into trees at approximately 8.30 pm on 23 February 1944. He led the searcher team to the site and they identified the wreckage (what little there was) as a Liberator by its distinctive undercarriage. The headman said that three of the engines had been removed by the Japanese after the crash. Based on the geographic location and date, it was simple to link this to Liberator BZ951.

    The searcher team found four separate graves: one at the crash site containing five burnt bodies, and three others containing one body each about half a mile west of the crash site. Two crewmen were unaccounted for. The searcher team removed none of the bodies at that time.

    On 23 December 1946 No 42 War Graves Registration Unit visited the site with the headman to recover the BZ951 crew remains. The five bodies in the grave at the wreck site could not be relocated. From one of the other three graves a single body was recovered and eventually reburied – as an unknown airman – in Rangoon Military Cemetery (since renamed Rangoon War Cemetery) in Grave 8, Plot 3, Row G. The other two individual graves had been washed away by monsoon rains/flooding.

    So only one unnamed crewman lies buried in Rangoon War Cemetery today – identified as “AN AIRMAN OF THE 1939-1945 WAR, KNOWN UNTO GOD”.

    A sad case -- graves found, but all except one casualty's remains were lost.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    Default Have found details of William Kenneth Fletcher in our 1944 Parish Magazine

    William Kenneth Fletcher is mentioned as being "Missing" in the November 1944 Parish Magazine of St Michael, Horton, Berkshire
    Flexiday101

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Poole View Post
    Thanks, gents.

    It's good to know that the month has been corrected to Feb in AB's book. Steve, thanks also for your explanation of how the date often is off by a day.

    I have just received P/O O'Donnell's entry from the book "They Shall Grow Not Old", and it solves most of the mystery, together with Steve's updated AB date:

    O'DONNELL, ERNEST WILLIAM P/O (AG) J86852//R62897. From Bathurst, New Brunswick. Killed In Action Feb.23/44 age 22. #1673 Heavy Conversion Unit. Liberator aircraft # BZ951 failed to return from bombing operations over Sinde, Burma. Nine of the crew, not Canadians, missing believed killed. Pilot Officer Air Gunner O'Donnell has no known grave, his name is inscribed on the Singapore War Memorial, Malaya.

    I don't quite know if all crewmen were missing from BZ951...seems so (O'Donnell and his nine non-Canadian crewmates) but the wording is misleading. Sinde is just 12 or so miles WSW of Mandalay, so any survivors would have been transported eventually to Rangoon Jail. I have very thorough info on air force POWs there, and I can't link any of them to this loss. My guess: all of BZ951's crew died.

    Alex, FL980's loss date is indeed very close to BZ951's...a few time zones away...the cold Atlantic versus the tropics. Same sad ending, though.

    If anyone can verify any of O'Donnell's crewmates, I'd be most grateful.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  7. #17
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    Hi, Flexiday101,

    Over two months after your posting, I just discovered it. Many thanks for this tidbit.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    Default BZ951 - thank you

    Hi Matt,

    I just want to say a massive thank you for all this information about BZ951. My wife's great uncle was F/Lt Robert Allitt DFC and bar. We knew he was lost somewhere in the Far East after having fought in the Battle of Britain but none of us knew any of the circumstances. My wife and I visited Kranji Memorial in January 2001. I know that all of the information will be of great interest to my wife and indeed her brother as it is to my young children.

    Again, many thanks.

    Oliver

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Poole View Post
    I'm glad you revived this thread, Colin. Since my last posting I have learned more details to share.

    The out of print BURMA LIBERATORS books are a valuable source, more so Vol. 2, although there are some baffling flaws and omissions that should have been explained (i.e., missing segment of a squadron's ORB). The books are hard to find, though.

    Back to BZ951...

    The following summary is based upon the 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit’s Operations Record Book; information provided to the next-of-kin of one of the casualties by the Air Historical Branch; previous postings in this message thread, and my analysis of wartime maps, a bomb damage assessment report, and Google Earth imagery.

    B-24 Mark III Liberator BZ951 “Y”, operating with No 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit, RAF, took off at 1750 on 23 February 1944 to join two other Liberators of 1673 HCU on an operation to bomb Sinde Dumps, Burma. Sinde was situated on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River about three miles south of the larger town of Prome, which was on the east bank.

    BZ951 failed to return to base (Salbani, West Bengal, India). The entire 10-man crew were reported missing. They were listed in this order in the Operations Record Book, Form 541 DETAIL OF WORK CARRIED OUT, Appendix “C”, 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit:

    40594 F/Lt ALLITT, Robert Edward DFC - PILOT
    109364 F/Lt HOUGHTON, Raymond Douglas – PILOT (PASSENGER)
    1601738 Sgt FLETCHER, William Kenneth – FLIGHT ENGINEER
    66511 F/Lt FRASER, Francis James – NAVIGATOR/BOMB AIMER
    1145139 Sgt BOYD, Trevor Barkley – WOP/AIR GUNNER
    1104751 W/O BEATEY, Thomas Atkinson – AIR GUNNER
    517958 F/Sgt RICHARDSON, Herbert Arthur – AIR GUNNER
    CAN J.86852 P/O O’DONNELL, Ernest William – AIR GUNNER
    IND 1791 F/O MERRIMAN, Sydney – NAVIGATOR/BOMB AIMER
    533351 F/Sgt NELSON, David - FLIGHT ENGINEER

    The aircraft had released its bombs on the target, but it “did not identify by W/T” (per the ORB) and was not seen again. (By this, perhaps it was meant that no wireless message of any kind -- including a distress signal -- was received at any time after bombs were released.)

    An extensive but unsuccessful search was made covering what was thought to be likely areas in the Bay of Bengal in which the aircraft might have forced landed.

    In June 1946 No 5 Searcher Team, RAF Missing Research & Enquiry Service, found the wreckage at 18° 44' 40" N.Lat, 95° 12' E. Long on a small island in the Irrawaddy River. The nearby village of Kyun-U, also on this island, is situated 2.5 miles due south of Sinde, the bombing objective on 23 February 1944.

    The local headman (presumably from Kyun-U) stated that the aircraft had bombed the Prome area (actually Sinde, but this is a reasonable geographic error) and was seen to approach the island on fire before crashing into trees at approximately 8.30 pm on 23 February 1944. He led the searcher team to the site and they identified the wreckage (what little there was) as a Liberator by its distinctive undercarriage. The headman said that three of the engines had been removed by the Japanese after the crash. Based on the geographic location and date, it was simple to link this to Liberator BZ951.

    The searcher team found four separate graves: one at the crash site containing five burnt bodies, and three others containing one body each about half a mile west of the crash site. Two crewmen were unaccounted for. The searcher team removed none of the bodies at that time.

    On 23 December 1946 No 42 War Graves Registration Unit visited the site with the headman to recover the BZ951 crew remains. The five bodies in the grave at the wreck site could not be relocated. From one of the other three graves a single body was recovered and eventually reburied – as an unknown airman – in Rangoon Military Cemetery (since renamed Rangoon War Cemetery) in Grave 8, Plot 3, Row G. The other two individual graves had been washed away by monsoon rains/flooding.

    So only one unnamed crewman lies buried in Rangoon War Cemetery today – identified as “AN AIRMAN OF THE 1939-1945 WAR, KNOWN UNTO GOD”.

    A sad case -- graves found, but all except one casualty's remains were lost.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  9. #19
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    Hi, Oliver,

    Glad the Internet has enlightened you.

    I've sent you an e-mail. I have some corroborating goodies to pass along.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  10. #20
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    William Kenneth Fletcher was mentioned in our Parish Magazine of November 1944 was being "Missing". Carolyn Wheeler, Churchwarden, St Michael's, Horton, Berkshire.

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