View Full Version : P/O Clive Henry Phillips, RAAF 402537

25th December 2014, 23:18
Did P/O Clive Henry Phillips, RAAF, sacrifice himself ? The following is gleaned from the service file of Flight Sergeant (later Flying Officer) Earl George Price, RCAF:

Halifax W1215 of No.158 Squadron was shot down on the night of 5/6 August 1942. The captain (P/O Clive Henry Phillips, RAAF) was killed. This was not immediately appreciated at the time, there being questions as to whether he had survived. In Stalag Luft III, Wing Commander Day (the Senior British Officer) obtained a statement from the navigator, P/O L.V. Harvey (RAAF), as follows:

"On the night of the 5th August, my aircraft was attacked and the rear gunner F/O [J.E.] Marshall was very badly wounded. As the aircraft was on fire the captain, P/O Phillips gave individual orders to abandon aircraft. These instructions were answered in the affirmative except by P/O Marshall, who stated that he could not move as he was hopelessly wounded and he asked the Captain to ‘abandon’, leaving him in the aircraft, but the Captain did not answer. The aircraft was by that time heavily on fire. Four of us managed to leave - Sergeant Thompson and Sergeant Furness from the rear escape hatch and the Wireless Operator, Sergeant Burn [sic - J. Byrne, who was mid-upper gunner] and myself from the front. All four of us landed safely and uninjured. The last impression I received was that the captain was still in his seat and seemed to have no intention of leaving, and Sergeant Price was ready to go but the flames were impassable and had reached the petrol tanks. As soon as I was clear of the aircraft it exploded and the starboard wing blew off. Three people were therefore trapped in the aircraft - P/O Phillips, P/O Marshall and Sergeant Price. The Germans confirmed that three bodies were found in the wreckage but they could only identify P/O Marshall. I was informed that they would be buried with military honours at Oldenbroek in Holland. The Burgomaster said that their graves would be marked and looked after by the Dutch people."

In fact, the bomb aimer. Flight Sergeant Earl George Price, had survived, evaded, been awarded the DFM and returned to Canada. Early in 1943 he provided a statement. While incorrect in his assertion that Phillips was probably alive, he did confirm the nature of the man - cool and confident.

"I baled out at approximately 13,000 feet, a few minutes after the starboard engine caught fire. The aircraft was, at that time, in a gentle dive. This dive was maintained until approximately 4,000 ot 5,000 feet when the starboard wing broke off.

"The escape hatches were all open and the pilot, Pilot Officer Phillips, was not wounded to the best of my knowledge. It is possible that enemy fighter made a second attack after I baled out, but this is not considered probable as I would have heard the action.

"In my opinion there is every possibility of Pilot Officer Phillips being alive, as he ws considered cool, collected and resourceful. I believe the possibility of his escape good. To support this contention the following information is submitted.

"The Mid Upper Gunner, who occupied a very difficult position so fat as breaking away is concerned (and in this case complicated matters for himself by panicking) managed to bale out and is now a prisoner of war. The pilot’s position is also much nearer to an escape hatch than the M.U.G.

"I consider that the aircraft was manageable and that the pilot’s seat should have been considered safe from fire for at least two or three minutes, and would have given ample time for the pilot to bale out.

"In consideration Pilot Officer Phillips was exceptionally cool and I firmly believe that he is alive today."

Phillips received no formal award, although it is conceivable that a Mention in Despatches might have been recommended.

26th December 2014, 01:19

Thanks for posting the information on AUS402537 P/O Clive Henry PHILLIPS RAAF. As you say, he received no recognition, nor awards, for his selfless sacrifice.

Brief details of the loss of W1215, can be viewed here:


See:p.126 of 320

Fate is often very cruel, as the following will show:

"Tin-pot end in Burma for POW hero."

An Australian war hero who was shot down over Holland and helped dig tunnels for "The Great Escape" was one of the victims killed in last week's air disaster in Burma.

Les "Skeets" Harvey, 66, and his wife, Anne, were among four Australians killed when the Burmese Airways Fokker Friendship* crashed mysteriously 500 km north of Rangoon.

"It's a terrible irony that a man who had survived so much should come to an end over a tin-pot Asian country." his son Ian, said yesterday.

"It was just about on the 45th anniversary of his being shot down in Europe."

Les was twice spared by fate during the war. An RAAF flight lieutenant, he flew dozens of missions in Halifax bombers, until his luck ran out one night in 1942.

"Dad's plane was hit by a fighter somewhere over Holland. he was the last one to make it out." Ian said.

The pilot, a good friend, ordered him to go. He told me that just after he jumped the plane blew up, and he knew the pilot was gone."

"Skeets" Harvey was captured by the Germans and transferred to the infamous POW camp Stalag III.

Soon after arriving he was visited by the victorious Messercshmidt [sic] fighter pilot who offered him a bottle of schnapps as a gift.


While imprisoned, Harvey was part of the second tunnelling team involved in "The Great Escape" - the story made famous by author Paul Brickhill and later turned into a Hollywood film starring Steve McQueen.

More than 50 prisoners broke out of Stalag III in the biggest Allied POW escape of the war. Most were recaptured and shot..

"Dad was set to go out with the rest of them, but he had some kind of eye infection, and had to stay. If he had gone, he'd probably have been shot as well."

"He told me about digging in the tunnels when the Germans threw snap inspections. The others had to seal him in. He hoped they wouldn't forget about him."

Les and a comrade walked out of Stalag III in 1945. They then walked backed to England.

"The war was virtually over but dad couldn't be bothered waiting for the paper work. You could say it was his first contact with bureaucracy."

After the war, Les was virtually responsible for establishing marriage guidance in Australia, and played a key role in the founding of the Family Court.

He was also involved in guiding the Vietnam Veteran's Counselling Service.

The crash in Burma followed a holiday in Europe where Les was researching a book on his war experiences.

He had just visited his daughter, Heather, who works in the Australian Embassy in Rangoon.

While in Stalag III, Les wrote a short poem about parachuting to safety from the burning Halifax. It was published in the Australian Women's Weekly.

The last four lines read:

"Come earth's swift upward rush;
Standing, taking unbelieving breath,
the earth is, silent, black as death." **

The Harvey's retired to Lismore in 1980, and a memorial service was held there last week.

This week another service will be held in Canberra.


The Sunday Press (Melbourne). October 18, 1987. p .29
Tin-pot end in Burma for POW hero.
From a special writer in Brisbane.


http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article55465420 note variation from original.

and Earl Price RCAF: http://www.cometeline.org/fiche050.html