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Thread: 23/24 Feb 1944 missing, Far East

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    Default 23/24 Feb 1944 missing, Far East

    Greetings, all.

    I am trying to resolve a loss discrepancy in the Oughton book, "The Liberator in Royal Air Force and Commonwealth Service", and to arrive at a definitive crew listing. I have come up with the names of ten missing airmen commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, some or all of whom may be from this particular crew. I wonder if anyone can more solidly tie any of them to a Liberator loss over Burma on 23/24 Feb 1944, and can link Liberator BZ951 to this date.

    In BZ951's individual history on pg 136 Oughton says that it was on 1673 HCU as of 1.2.44. This makes sense to me. However, Oughton's next info is "missing on navigational exercise, 25.7.44; SOC 15.11.44." This is a problem.

    I strongly suspect that the loss date is wrong and that BZ951 was really the known 1673 HCU loss of Liberator Y over Sinde, Burma on the night of 23/24 Feb 1944. An official 1944 report: "Review of the Night Operations of 231 Group, Strategic Air Force, Eastern Air Command (17th February - 16th March, 1944)" lists the following info:

    Missing Aircraft

    Date: 23/24.2
    Target: Sinde
    Defences: Nil
    A/C: Y/1673
    Av. Ht. Of Sqdn: 10,000
    Cause: Air explosion seen.

    The serial number of aircraft "Y" is not given. It is definitely a Liberator, as 1673 was a Lib HCU.

    Contrary to this evidence, no Far East RAF losses for 23 or 24 Feb 1944 appear in the Air-Britain or Joe Baugher B-24 serial number lists. It looks probable to me that these lists are in error, and that BZ951 "Y" was lost on 23/24 Feb 1944, not "on navigational exercise 25.7.44".

    Neither a loss on 23/24 Feb '44 nor a loss on 25 July '44 is mentioned in "Air War For Burma" by Shores.

    I welcome any further evidence.

    The 10 names I've come up with include a Canadian. Perhaps the book "They Shall Grow Not Old" will reveal the truth? I don't have this book and kindly ask for someone to peek at a copy for me.

    The names:

    ALLITT, Flight Lieutenant, ROBERT EDWARD, D F C, 40594. Royal Air Force. 23rd February 1944. Column 431. 

    BEATEY, Warrant Officer, THOMAS ATKINSON, 1104751. Royal Air Force. 23rd February 1944. Age 28. Son of Thomas Beatey, and of Catherine Beatey, of Percy Main, Northumberland. Column 433.

    BOYD, Sergeant, TREVOR BARKLEY, 1145139. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 23rd February 1944. Age 22. Son of A. Edgar and Margaret Jessie Boyd, of Greenisland, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. Column 435. 

    FLETCHER, Sergeant, WILLIAM KENNETH, 1601738. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 23rd February 1944. Column 436. 

    FRASER, Flight Lieutenant, FRANCIS JAMES, 66511. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 23rd February 1944. Age 25. Son of James and Janette Fraser, of Hove, Sussex. Column 431. 

    HOUGHTON, Flight Lieutenant, RAYMOND DOUGLAS, 109364. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 23rd February 1944. Column 431. 

    NELSON, Flight Sergeant, DAVID, 533351. Royal Air Force. 23rd February 1944. Age 26. Son of Hugh and Nancy Nelson, of Ballyhampton, Larne, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. Column 435. 

    O'DONNELL, Pilot Officer, ERNEST WILLIAM, J/86852. Royal Canadian Air Force. 23rd February 1944. Column 444. 

    RICHARDSON, Flight Sergeant, HERBERT ARTHUR, 517958. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 23rd February 1944. Age 29. Son of Herbert George and Selena Richardson, of Southsea, Hampshire. Column 435. 

    MERRIMAN, Flying Officer, SYDNEY, 1791. Royal Indian Air Force. 23rd February 1944. Age 21. Son of Ernest and Gladys Merriman, of Agra, India. Column 445. 

    Thanks,

    Matt

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    Matt

    The AB book "RAF Serials BA100 to BZ999" gives the loss date for BZ951 as 25/2/44. In my experience from dealing with RAF Aircraft Movement Cards it is not uncommon for the date for a missing a/c to be recorded as the day after the actual loss. Unless a check is made with the unit ORB or some other document then the discrepancy is not apparent.

    Steve

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    Default 23/24 Feb 1944 missing, Far East

    Hello,

    40159 to RAF as Liberator GR.V FL980. MIA Feb 25, 1944


    Also mia in the time frame, but 59 Sqdn, Convoy patrol off Ireland ?

    Alex
    Last edited by Alex Smart; 12th August 2009 at 22:51.

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    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

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    Matt

    I have checked the first two Allitt and Beatey and they both come up on the CWGC search and both are shown as commemorated on the Singapore Memorial. So it would seem that BZ951 is still unfound in the jungle or that it went into the sea?

    Steve

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    Steve,

    Over land, unless the aircraft came down in the wide Irrawaddy River. Sinde is a small town close to the Irrawaddy. If you search on "Sinde, Burma" in Google maps, you will be directed there. The region is characterized by rice cultivation, not jungle.

    The book "Missing, Believed Killed" by Stuart Hadaway explains some of the difficulties in casualty recovery work in Burma after the war. An air explosion is a particularly challenging problem to investigate, anywhere. Given more resources, no doubt the remains of some of the crew could have been recovered, as they were probably buried by local people.

    The names I came up with are just possibilities for crew. Other than O'Donnell I have no proof yet of a connection to BZ951.

    Thanks,

    Matt

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    Well Allitt and Beatey both come up with a date of death of 23/2/44 on CWGC. You do not say whether you have checked your provisional crew list against CWGC?

    Best of luck with your search

    Steve

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    Steve,

    Sorry...I appreciate your thoughts on these casualties. In my initial posting I forgot to mention how I came up with names. I figured that casualties from BZ951 would have ended up in either Rangoon War Cem or Taukkyan War Cem in Burma, if their remains were recovered. Otherwise they would have been honored as missing aircrew on the Singapore Memorial.

    Several years ago I obtained bound copies of the two cemetery registers from CWGC, and I intended to study them for evidence of any RAF airmen killed in late February 1944 who might be linked to the loss of BZ951. This search of the hardcopy, I thought, would have been easier than searching display page by display page on the Debt of Honour Register.

    I started out, instead, by concentrating on the Singapore Memorial, assuming that the crewmen were never recovered...but there are over 24,000 missing! More easily searched than the Debt of Honour Register is same CWGC info on the website http://www.roll-of-honour.org.uk/Cemeteries/ . Starting with AA of the Singapore Memorial, and searching on "February 1944" only, I quickly (and most fortunately) found that F/Lt Allitt was missing on 23 Feb 1944. No unit given.

    I stopped there, did a google search on his name, and found Casualty Communique No. 385, printed in Flight magazine on 18 May 1944. I searched on the names of the missing from the various air forces and, cross-referencing each with CWGC data, I arrived at the list of possibilities which I gave in my first posting. (Two or three of the Communique names, though, were not found in the CWGC database. They either survived, or there is a spelling discrepancy, and one or more might still be a potential victim aboard BZ951.) Then, to my delight, I learned that the entry for the Canadian, O'Donnell, in "They Shall Grow Not Old" connects him to BZ951 of 1673 HCU and the loss on 23 Feb 1944. So that solved my main inquiry.

    But I still don't know for certain how many of the men on my list were O'Donnell's crewmates. Some may have died in non-related flying with other units, etc, and I may have missed a name or two. Or Casualty Communique No. 385 may not have held the names of all the BZ951 crew.

    I am still curious about the crew from the HCU...for most, a first and last op. Certainly I can get the definitive crew listing from O'Donnell's personnel file via the Canadian archives, if need be, but my main inquiry was in connecting BZ951 with the known loss of aircraft "Y" of 1673 HCU over Sinde, Burma on 23/24 Feb 1944.

    Again, thanks for your help and your good wishes.

    Cheers,

    Matt

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    Hello All,

    Could someone with access to GRO RAF War Deaths, complete the following listing?

    ALLITT, Robert E. F/Lt. 40594 - 1673 HCU
    BEATEY, Thomas A. W/O 1104751 - 1673 HCU
    BOYD, Trevor B. Sgt. 1145139 - 1673 HCU
    FLETCHER, William K. 1601738 - ?
    FRASER, Francis J. 66511 - ?
    HOUGHTON, Raymond D. 109364 - ?
    NELSON, David 533351 - 1673 HCU
    RICHARDSON, Herbert A. 517958 - ?

    I have only transcribed 'A', and part of 'B'.

    Col.

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    ALLITT, Robert E. F/Lt. 40594 - 1673 HCU
    BEATEY, Thomas A. W/O 1104751 - 1673 HCU
    BOYD, Trevor B. Sgt. 1145139 - 1673 HCU
    FLETCHER, William K. 1601738 - 1573 HCU <--- as printed, but clearly a typo on the register
    FRASER, Francis J. 66511 - 1673 HCU
    HOUGHTON, Raymond D. 109364 - 1673 HCU
    NELSON, David 533351 - 1673 HCU
    RICHARDSON, Herbert A. 517958 - 1673 HCU
    I knew there was a reason I stayed up!

    What format are you transcribing it? Excel, Word, notepad?
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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