View Full Version : Beaufort Ditchings - Allin Hawkshaw

27th December 2013, 15:54
RCAF photo PL-27002 (formerly UK-8922 dated 20 March 1944) is captioned as follows:

“After ditching an aircraft in the shark-infested Indian Ocean there is nothing like a spot of leave and your RCAF pilot shown above - Pilot Officer A, Hawkshaw (J19515) of Cornwall, Ontario figures there is not better place for leave than Colombo. He is shown enjoying the sights of Ceylon’s colourful capital in a rickshaw. Only 22 and a school teacher at Russell, Ontario, before joined the RCAF, Al d ditched two twin-engined aircraft within the last four months after one motor ‘conked out’ in each case. On his last seaward venture Al and his crew of three RAF fliers were rescued by a ship after four hours of drifting in a dinghy. But on their first dunking they were not so lucky and spent more than 24 hours clinging to a tyred wheel which had broken off their aircraft, before being rescued by a grain-laden vessel.

“A graduate of Ottawa Normal School, Al has served in Ceylon for one year and hopes to complete his Far Eastern Tour in dry clothes. Once ashore after the second ditching, Pilot Officer Hawkshaw thought there was some mistake when he was invited to an Officer’s Mess at an RAF station but all was in order. Just about the time his bomber made contact with the ocean his commission came through - when he took off he was still a warrant officer.

“While Al and his crew clung to the wheel during their first ditching, ‘a large fish with a knowing look kept fastening its gills to the side of the wheel’. Every time the boys forced the fish away from one spot, it bobbed up in another, and “we got the idea it was the type of pilot fish which guides sharks to a good square meal.’ When the dhow, carrying 40-feet sail, pulled alongside, the fliers were too weak to climb aboard and the Indian crewmen dove into the ocean to assist them.”

Hawkshaw died in 2005. His obituary mentioned his having served in a Beaufort squadron, and I assume this would be the unit in which he experienced these incidents - either No.22 or No.217 Squadron. Before I purchase ORB extracts from the British Archives, I would like to narrow down which unit it might have been and the approximate time frame (the date on the caption suggests December 1943 to March 1944 but it might have been earlier).

27th December 2013, 17:25
Since posting the above, I have found more on a Burma Star website. The dates are now clear - but not the squadron (yet). His recollections on the website were as follows:

On 8 October, 1943, we set out from the Santa Cruz (Bombay) airport to do a "Creeping Line Ahead" convoy escort in Beaufort 1, DW 940. Crew ; AI Hawkshaw, Captain, Cornwall, Ont., Navigator Bert Pawsey, Barnes, London, UK; WOP/ AGs Frank Perry, Leyton, London, and Norman Brick, Clywd, North Wales. At about 10:00 AM, 100 miles west of Bombay, engine failure.

So Sudden! I think I put the undercarriage down instead of opening the bomb bay doors to get rid of the depth charges. We "landed" OK. The dinghy would not release and Frank disappeared below the surface still pulling on the cord as the a/c sank. He bobbed up and we clustered on board the broken-off oleo leg, tire keeping; it afloat (lucky mistake). In a long vigil overnight, we huddled together; luckily sharks chose not to attack.

Next morning a Beaufort search a/c did a port turn around us so close we recognized the pilot, Martin Glynn. In our Mae Wests in the whitecaps we were invisible. Later in the morning we spotted a sail on the horizon. It tacked back and forth for what seemed like four hours, then came close enough to hail. All together boys, in a low pitched voice: "Ship Ahoy."

Pandemonium broke loose on deck. One of the crew jumped overboard with a rope (sharks around). We were too weak to climb up. They hauled us on board with ropes. The ship was an Indian dhow commercial vessel with a load of grain on its way from Karachi to Cochin. They broke journey to take us to Bombay.

Late afternoon, October 10th, we arrived and were unloaded onto the harbour command ship, Bombay Harbour. A launch was summoned but they were going to leave us as they thought we were M.I.5 or some such underground (water?) security outfit. Finally they took us and moored beside the third destroyer out, line abreast at dock. Major Strever (SAAF) came bounding over the decks, grabbed Norman (broken leg), carried him ashore and all of us off to hospital for a few days.

Second time around, 22 January, 1944, Beaufort 1 DW 872. The British fleet was coming east for the Pacific war. The Squadron mounted a practice torpedo attack, first light in the morning. What a sight! Silhouetted against the morning sky were Aircraft Carriers, Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers. Probably the first time during the war the classic "A-K Line" could be assembled.

Then, engine failure. Good ditching, good dinghy. Navigator this trip was Wilf. Martin, Warrington, UK and a passenger, Bill Carrol, who came along to see the fleet and to pick up his new uniform at the tailor's in Colombo. There was a small tin on the dinghy floor so Wilf. threw it overboard in case someone stepped on it and ripped the fabric. Horrors!! Frank's cigarettes, waterproofed and lovingly packed as he said, "Never again will I be without them like the last time."

A couple of hours later an Albacore from one of the carriers spotted us. Destroyer HMS Petard (brand new) picked us up and at 42 knots we were in Colombo harbour for lunch. On arrival at the airport (Ratamalana) I was invited to the Officers' Mess. My commission had come through. Maybe we should have ditched a third time. I might have made CAS !

27th December 2013, 17:42
Hi Hugh,

No.22 Sqn
Beaufort Ia

Op: Shipping Escort, RAF Santa Cruz, Time Up 16:15 hrs

Sgt A R Hawkshaw RCAF (listed as R/96063 - Ross)
F/O H W Pawsey
Sgt H D Perry
Sgt N Brick

The crew was trying to locate the ship when the starboard engine cut and the Beaufort was ditched off Santa Cruz, India, without jettisoning fuel or depth charges. The aircraft was ditched into the sun and so was held off resulting in a very heavy ditching, buckling the port wing and preventing the dinghy being released. The crew hung onto a floating main wheel until they were picked up by a fishing boat some 24 hours later.


No.22 Sqd
Beaufort Ia

Training, RAF Vavuniya, Time Up 05:00 hrs

W/O A R Hawkshaw RCAF
P/O W E Martin
F/Sgt F D Perry
F/Sgt W Brick
F/O L C Carroll

Took off for an ALT exercise but ditched at 07:15 hrs after port engine failure at 2,000 feet 138 miles west of Galle, Ceylon. All picked up safe and well from their dinghy by HMS Patard.


28th December 2013, 13:25
Many thanks, Ross. I note there is a conflict as to the precise January 1944 date but assume for the moment that the Burma Star entry was from recollections whereas your date was ORB-based.