View Full Version : 413 Squadron Catalina lost on April 9, 1942

3rd January 2014, 22:00
Hello all,
I am looking for help re: the above loss.
Specifically, I am looking into the loss of F/O (O) Robert Gibson Hervey.
I have found the names of his crew (all RAF):
F/S J.K. Hooper
F/S P. Bourke
F/S D. L. Housley
F/O R.K. Bourne
F/O A.W. Donald
I have seen references to a single 413 Squadron Catalina lost on that date but it refers to one piloted by F/L Thomas (RAF).
Again, any and all info is sincerely appreciated.

Ian M Macdonald
3rd January 2014, 22:58
No information but I suggest that it is likely that F/L Thomas was the captain of Hervey's crew, and note that Sgt Hooper was RCAF, not RAF.
Standby for someone with a 413 Squadron ORB to tell us ...
Ian Macdonald

3rd January 2014, 23:55
Hi Ian,
Correction noted. I did not do my due diligence in quoting from "They Shall Not Grow Old."
Fingers crossed for the ORB.

4th January 2014, 00:27

No.413 Sqn RCAF
Catalina I W8421:QL-Y (There is some doubt about this coding)

Took off Koggala, 0256. At 0716 reported the position and speed of a large enemy force, but before his message was completed, was shot down by two A6Ms, which had taken off from 'Hiryu' at 0600, flown by NAP 1/C Hino and NA 1/C Kotani.

Crew (Alpha order):

645247 Sgt Patrick BOURKE RAF +
100541 F/O Roderick Kenneth BOURNE RAFVR +
747910 F/Sgt Cecil Charles GURNEY RAFVR +
J/4699 F/O (Nav.) Robert Gibson HERVEY RCAF +
R/91031 Sgt John Kenneth HOOPER RCAF +
915310 Sgt Derek Laxton HOUSLEY RAFVR +
938960 Sgt John Denzil Marcus MOXHAM RAFVR +
40444 F/L (Pilot) Rae THOMAS DFC RAF +

All commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.

See: Bloody Shambles. Vol.2./Shores et al. pp.412-413


4th January 2014, 14:34
Thanks ever so much.
It is very much appreciated.

4th January 2014, 18:07

According to the squadron ORB's, Catalina s/n W8421 was first coded AX*D and later QL*D. It was shot down by Imperial Japanese Navy A6M Zeros while observing the Japanese fleet off Ceylon on the 9th of April 1942.


4th January 2014, 21:47
Thanks Chris!
Much appreciated.
Did you get this from Bloody Shables as well or a different source? (need to learn how do this stuff on my own!)

4th January 2014, 21:59
G'day Bobby

That was from the squadron Operational Record Books.


4th January 2014, 22:21
G'day Bobby

Quoted from the squadron history.

“On April 9, F/L 'Tommy' Thomas of 413 Squadron lifted off Koggala Lake in 'Y' for Yorker heading east, to locate the enemy fleet. Soon after dawn at 07:00 hours, he sent his first communication giving the position, course and speed of a large enemy force. The message broke off suddenly and Koggala could not re-establish contact. They were never heard from again.

Twenty-five minutes later, close to 100 Japanese aircraft appeared over Trincomalee Harbour. Radar and Tommy's last message meant that the defenders were more prepared than during the previous Sundays' attack. Twenty-one aircraft engaged the Japanese in an intense battle of which nine were shot down.

Squadron Leader Len Birchall and Flight Lieutenant Thomas DFC, RAF were Mentioned in Dispatches to No. 222 Group for their efforts to warn the defences of Ceylon of the impending Japanese attack.”


Bill Walker
5th January 2014, 02:55
My notes also had this aircraft as "Y" when lost, probably from the book "Canadian Flying Ops in South East Asia 1941-1945" by Melnyk. Is it possible that Thomas and crew were not in W8421 when lost?

11th October 2014, 04:33
In 2013 a fisherman from the east coast of Sri Lanka (near Batticaloa south of Trincomalee) found a strange piece of wreckage in his fishing net. I got to know about this and contacted him and he provided me the location where he found it. After conducting a sonar scan I found a signature and dived the site. I was amazed to see wreckage of an aircraft. There two wings, two engines and propellers and two wheels. I am now reasonably sure that this is a consolidated Catalina.
I am doing research on Catalina crashes trying to see if any Catalina was reported down in the location when I came across flight Lieutenant Thomas's incident. Would anyone know the location of the crash?

pictures of the wreckage can be seen at www.facebook.com/divesrilanka

dharshana jayawardena

David Duxbury
11th October 2014, 06:11
It is a bit of a worry that you found two wheels - this very early Catalina was a pure flying boat in that it had no wheels (although beaching units with large dual wheels were attached to these aircraft for towing them ashore up slipways should this be necessary for major repairs or routine major inspections). These beaching unit wheels were quite large, but were definitely NOT carried aboard Catalinas as a matter of course because of their size and weight. Thus if the wheels you have found are of any great size, then it is most likely that what you have found is NOT a Catalina (or if it is, it is a much later amphibious Catalina which had permanent land undercarriage units). I think further investigation is required into this wreck, firstly to confirm that it is NOT a Catalina, than the difficult task of trying to identify just exactly what it is! This could take some time, depending on the state of disintegration of the wreck. Identification of engines and propellers is always a good start, as this can usually identify the nationality, but be warned - certain types of engines and propellers were produced under license in foreign countries, such as American Hamilton Standard props, which were widely produced in the UK and Japan, and much the same comments apply to a great deal of other hardwear such as guns, instruments, autopilots, starter motors and generators, carburettors, etc.
David D

12th October 2014, 06:45
Hi David,
thank you for the valuable information. Will do more research based on your input.
The wheel is not large and it is identical in shape, design to that found in this picture.
Also on every other spoke there is a protrusion(or nut) that is also seen in Catalina wheels.

12th October 2014, 10:10

Could I suggest you try posting your photos and story on the Key Publishing forum at http://forum.keypublishing.com/forumdisplay.php?4-Historic-Aviation . The forum is well-known for this type of query and I'm sure they could add to the advice offered by David. However, it might be useful if you could include a more general photo of the scene (visibility permitting) to give some idea of the size of the wreckage and, if any are visible through the marine growth, any reference numbers of metal fittings (probably wishful thinking on my part).


12th October 2014, 14:09
Thank you Brian and everyone else. Will pursue that avenue as well.

Just for your viewing - here is a small video I shot at the scene. (this was my first dive there, and I was so surprised to find an aircraft, I wasn't really looking through the view finder, just holding the camera while I was swimming.
So the footage is not very good).


Also note what appears to be the frame for an engine bay and also other parts which can also be found in some old catalina pictures- Especially this.

Rob Stuart
12th October 2014, 23:50

If the aircraft you found proves to be a Catalina, it's certainly not the one lost on 9 April 1942, since that one was shot down in the vicinity of the Japanese carrier task force, which was about 180 NM east of Trincomalee at the time. Your wreck is too close to the shore to be the same one.


Rob Stuart
13th October 2014, 00:36

I'm just wondering if your wreck might be the XI Squadron Blenheim Mark IV, serial number V5592, of Squadron Leader Ault. He led the nine Blenheims which attacked the Japanese task force to the east of Trincomalee on 9 April 1942. Four of the nine Blenheims were shot down by Zeros in the vicinity of the Japanese ships. The other five Blenheims got away but four of them then ran into three of the Zeros which had been escorting the dive-bombers which sank Hermes off Batticaloa and Ault was shot down, out of sight of the other Blenheims. A straight line course from the location of the Japanese task force to Colombo, where XI Squadron was based, passes close to Batticaloa. Also, in the illustration at http://users.skynet.be/lostplanes.net/The%20bristol%20blenheim_bestanden/image002.gif of a Blenheim the wheel and tire look similar to the one in your video.

Anyone else think it might be a Blenheim?

Rob Stuart
13th October 2014, 00:53
Hello again Dharshana,

Were you by any chance able to estimate the wingspan of your wreck or the length of the fuselage? For our two candidate types the figures are as follows:

Blenheim: wingspan 56 ft 4 in (17.17 m), length 42 ft 7 in (12.98 m)

PBY-5A: wingspan: 104 ft 0 in (31.70 m), length: 63 ft 10 in (19.46 m)

As you can see, there is a big difference in size between the two, with the wingspan of the PBY being almost twice that of a Blenheim.

13th October 2014, 06:56
Hello All,

That certainly looks like a PBY-5A mainwheel.


13th October 2014, 08:26
Hi Rob,
I counted "imaginary" feet while I was swimming and came up with about 50 feet on one side. Also I didn't start dead center of the wing, from more twoards the wing tip. However, this is not very scientific and I will try measuring with a reel the next time. However, the engine doesn't seem a match. I counted 14 pistons, 7 overlayed on another 7. The Blenheim seem to have only 9 pistons. Also the wheel doesn't seem to match with fewer spokes. The Catalina wheel matches very well both inside and out to the wheels found at the wreck.
Kind Regards

Rob Stuart
13th October 2014, 13:37

The Blenheim had the Bristol Mercury nine-cylinder single-row radial and the Catalina had the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp two-row 14-cylinder radial, so it’s not a Blenheim. The Twin Wasp was used by a variety of other twin-enginged aircraft (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratt_%26_Whitney_R-1830_Twin_Wasp), including the Beaufort, some of which were based in Ceylon for a while (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_Beaufort), but the Beaufort’s wingspan was only a foot and a half greater than the Blenheim’s, so your wreck is probably too small to be a Beaufort.

Since your wreck is probably not Ault’s Blenheim, it might be the Dutch Navy PBY-5A Y-78, lost on 9 December 1943 due to engine failure. (Sources: http://www.aeroflight.co.uk/waf/neth/mld/types/catalina.htm, http://kw.jonker.co/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=713:consolidated-pby-55a-catalina-uk&catid=84&Itemid=546&showall=&limitstart=2&lang=en and

There is also the following in Dutch, from http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/321_Dutch_Squadron_RAF:

De Y-78 amphibie verloor men in november 1943. Het vliegtuig steeg op van Minneriya, een R.A.F.-station in het midden van Ceylon, voor een verkenningsvlucht van achttien uren. Ongeveer anderhalf uur na de start weigerde één der motoren. Het vliegtuig vloog toen vrij laag boven het water en de piloot moest, midden in de nacht, een noodlanding uitvoeren. Ondanks deze beroerde omstandigheden zette hij zijn "Cat" op het water, zonder persoonlijke ongelukken te maken. Na een uur zonk evenwel de Y-78. De bemanning was ernstig gehandicapt, want zij moest gebruik maken van één "dinghy" (rubberboot) - met elf man. De andere "dinghy" was namelijk tijdens de landing overboord geraakt en verdwenen. Tachtig kilometer ten Zuiden van China Bay, bij Batticaloa, bereikte men ten slotte veilig de kust.

Google Translate gives us the following rough translation:

The Y-78 amphibian lost one in November 1943, the plane took off from Minneriya, an RAF station in the middle of Ceylon, for a reconnaissance flight of eighteen hours. Approximately one and a half hours after the start refused one of the engines. The plane flew quite low over the water and the pilot had to, perform an emergency landing in the middle of the night. Despite these appalling conditions he put his "Cat" on the water without making. Personal risk However, after one hour sank the Y-78. The crew was severely handicapped because they had to use a "dinghy" (dinghy) - with eleven men. The other "dinghy" was in fact lost overboard during landing and disappeared. Eighty kilometers south of China Bay, near Batticaloa, they finally reached the shore safely.

So maybe it’s Y-78.

14th October 2014, 07:23
Hi Rob,

Your information is amazing and valuable. This is indeed a high probability since the air craft is actually a PBY-5A and also the wreck I found is about 80 KM south east of China Bay, Trincomalee!
I am very glad that there were not casualties too.

"For the dinghy to be lost overboard during landing" - I guess that would indicate a very rough landing that could damage or crack the plane seriously?
It could explain the quite strange crash site where the wings, engines, propeller and the undercarriage is in one location of the sea and the body somewhere else yet to be found. I hope to find that soon as soon as the sea is calm enough.

November is indeed the startof the monsoon in the East Coast where the wreck is. A sea landing in November could have been very very rough again explaining

Thank you again - you have been tremendously helpful.
I will see if there is any evidence in the wreck to point to this direction.