Almost exactly to the day, 72 years ago, two Australians lost their lives taking off from Begumpet Airfield in Hyderabad, India. The accident happened when Vengeance AN944, an aircraft newly built and inducted into service by No.82 Squadron RAF, was in the process of taking off from Begumpet for the flight to Madras. At the controls were Flying Officer Edward Loughrey REIS with Sgt MARKLEW as his gunner.
Reis was the fourth in the formation of Six Vengeances heading out to Madras. As the Vengeance gathered speed on the runway it slowly drifted on to the grass side of the runway and got airborne. Now with the drift, the aircraft flew slowly towards an elevated floodlight. Those watching thought that Reis cleared the floodlight, but a puff of white powder emerged as the wing struck the obstruction. The Vengeance flipped over onto its back and crashed straight into the ground . Edward “Ted” Reis was killed instantly. His gunner Marklew was pulled out grievously injured, and passed away a few minutes later.
Both crewmen were buried in the Trimulgherry Military cemetery the same day. An RAF Regiment provided the escort and firing party.
Original Grave Marker at the Trimulgherry Catholic Mornington Cemetery from 1945.
Three days later, Reis’ father received the news by Telegram in New South Wales in Australia.
Operational Record Book Entry for Begumpet recording the accident
Though initially the casualties that occurred near Hyderabad and Secunderabad were usually interred in the cemeteries at Bolarum and Trimulgherry, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, entrusted with the upkeep of the war dead of the British empire and its dominions, adopted a policy of ‘consolidation’ into a smaller number of more manageable cemeteries.
Nearly eleven years later, after the war, Reis remains were transferred from Trimulgherry to the CWGC Cemetary in Madras (Current Day Chennai) and laid to rest in Plot V Rod W, Grave 16.
Letter notifying the transfer of the remains from Secunderabad to Chennai
Begumpet airport still exists today – home to the Indian Air Force’s Navigation Signals School. Much of the old infrastructure – terminal building, and hangars can be seen on the site.
There is little indication of the flurry of activity that happened here during the second world war, or of the aircraft that crashed, or the lives that were lost.
- Australian Archives Record Search – REIS Edward Loughry – (Flying Officer); Service Number – 400291; File type – Casualty – Repatriation; Aircraft – Vultee Vengeance AN944; Place – Begumpet Aerodrome, Karachi, India; Date – 27 October 1942
- CWGC Record for E L Reis
- The Reis family webpage with an eye-witness account of the crash
- Begumpet Airfield today
A short tribute to Reis from a local news paper.
ALBURY – News has been received here of the death of Flying-Officer Edward Loughry Reis, elder son of Mr. and Mrs. George C. Reis of Guinea Street, Albury. An honoured ex-student of the Christian Brothers’ College, Albury, Ted Reis had captained the school’s football, cricket and tennis teams.
He was a foundation member of the Albury Aero Club, and was the first member to make his solo flight. At the outbreak of war he enlisted in the R.A.A.F., and completed his training in Australia.
In March 1941, he was commissioned as Pilot-Officer, and in April this year, while serving under the Bomber Command in England he was promoted to Flying Officer.
Following upon this, he was transferred to India, and it was there, in the course of duty, he lost his life on October 27 in an aircraft accident. He was 24 years of age.
A well-known Albury Catholic writes:
“Ted Reis was my ideal of a young Catholic gentleman. His bright personality and straight-forward nature endeared him to everyone who knew him, and all Albury mourns his untimely death. As a Catholic, his devotion to his faith was an example for all, young and old, to follow.”
On the day after Flying-Officer Reis’ death his only brother, Brian, entered camp at an R.A.A.F. station “somewhere in Australia.”
THIS LETTER IS AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE AIR ACCIDENT DURING THE WAR THAT CLAIMED THE LIFE OF TED REIS.IT WAS WRITTEN TO TED’S BROTHER, MR BRIAN REIS IN ALBURY AUSTRALIA BY T A LAWRANCE, OF YORKSHIRE ENGLAND. WE APPRECIATE THE FAMILY’S PERMISSION TO PUBLISH ITS CONTENTS.
___________________________________Dear Mr Reis,
Your letter of the 19th came as a surprise to me for I had certainly given up hope. In fact, I had forgotten all about it and had previously dismissed the matter from my mind in the assumption that you may have received news from another source, or that the letter had never been delivered; you may even have moved from the address I had, however I now know the justified reasons for the delay in replying.
Naturally, one does not forget outstanding events in one’s life, especially in the case of Ted, but I may add at this point that to relate all the events and knowledge of Ted will occupy a lot of space, so before proceeding with details may I say in simple words that “I am sorry”; sorry first, in your loss of Ted, then your father, but delighted to read that such wonderful recovery has been made by your mother. Yes, I agree she must be a wonderful mother and can fully understand your sentiments, as I too have a wonderful mother. A mother who also shared the anxiety of thousands of others, but was blessed to receive her sons without loss. Well, I will relate here the details of Ted’s unfortunate accident and will in due course at your request, give you details of my acquaintance with him.
The start of the accident was from Karachi I believe in October 1942. The correct date I can’t give, but four days prior to his accident we were ferrying new aircraft to our new base in Madras. The first leg of the journey was to Jodhpur where we stayed the night due to inadequate refuelling facilities. The next day on to Bhopal, where again we had to stay the night as in Jodhpur. The following day on to Hyderabad where conditions where much better.
At approximately 10.00am, I was airborne in the last leg of the journey. I was navigating in a Hudson and acting as guide to the other 6 Vengeance aircraft we were ferrying.
We took off first, circled the aerodrome at about 2,000 feet waiting for the others to take off. There was a slight cross wind and a short runway. We had difficulty clearing but made it okay. Three other Vengeances took off without much trouble. By this time we had circled the aerodrome and flying in direct line with the runway at about 2,000 feet when Ted’s aircraft he was piloting commenced to takeoff.
I was watching him directly below me as he gathered speed. He also began to drift from the direct-run of the grass runway. He actually got airborne and I could see him drifting slowly towards an elevated floodlight. I thought he had cleared it with his wing when I saw a puff of white powder and then saw Ted’s aircraft turn on its back and go straight in within the next few yards. He hadn’t the slightest chance to recover his balance after hitting the light.
You may appreciate that this happened within seconds and when I say “slowly” as above, I mean from the commencement of his run.
It was a very unpleasant experience for me, perhaps my worst, for I see only too clearly exactly what was happening but had no alternative but to watch and pray that he would miss this obstacle. Another 5 or 6 feet to starboard or even 5 or 6 feet higher and he would have been clear – and safe.
Ted was killed instantly, but his gunner survived for a matter of minutes. I attach a brief sketch of the scene and this may enable you to follow my explanation more clearly. Also enclosed is a photo of the aircraft taken at Jodhpur. This was Ted’s aircraft.
Ted had two other RAAF mates and normally they were inseparable pals. Unfortunately “Poppy” Stower met with an accident by sheer bad luck and “Sandy” Sandilands who completed many operations also met with an accident in his own aerodrome. All three were most unfortunate accidents.
My reason for writing in the first place, being that both Poppy and Sandy would be unable to write much before their own deaths, due of course to the censorship that prevailed.
I had Ted’s address but not the other two boys and although I knew of this fate could not explain as I could in the case of Ted.
To the best of my knowledge Ted was buried in Hyderabad or Secumderabad (almost the same place). The actual aerodrome was a place called Becundpet, so if you were notified of one of these it will be correct, for you will understand that we carried on with the convoy with the exception of a flight commander who returned to officiate. Therefore I can’t quote anything further but I am under the impression that some photos were taken of Ted’s resting place. Whether they were for official use or whether they were forwarded to you, you can inform me perhaps better.
Your love and respect for Ted is easy to understand for I could imagine him being popular with anyone and so certainly gained much respect by the “boys” in the 82 Squadron from the day he joined us.
Candidly, I never had the opportunity of flying with him but could add that I would have been confident to have flown anywhere and at anytime with him, his piloting was only outclassed by his personality and generosity.
We conversed on many occasions but the main topic was flying. At the time I was the oldest flying member of the squadron as I was about to commence my second tour of duty with this squadron and Ted was out to learn all he could.
His biggest complaint was that he had flown in training in practically half the world but had never dropped anything heavier than a practice bomb – but this was no fault of his own. Neither did “Poppy” but Sandy was considered the most accurate dive bomber in the SEAC force and well deserved his DFC which was later awarded.
Well, I must close now and trust that this letter will enlighten you. I presume you used the Box number to avoid this letter going “home”, however you will know your own plans best and can assure you of every consideration should you wish to write again, and take this opportunity of wishing you the best of luck in all your ventures and sincerely hope that your mother maintains her health.
T A Lawrance