View Full Version : Wellington Down - Indian Ocean

17th November 2009, 03:21
In adding to a data base entry I encountered a press release which may explain the background to a Mention in Despatches. However, the document does not identify date, squadron or any other details. Does anyone recognize an incident which matches that involving Warrant Officer Forsythe ?

FORSYTHE, WO Kenneth Maxworth (R117274) - Mention in Despatches - Overseas - Award effective 14 June 1945 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 1600/45 dated 12 October 1945. Born 15 January 1916. Home Rockwood, Ontario; enlisted in North Bay, 1 August 1941 and immediately posted to No.1 Manning Depot. To No.1 ITS , 13 September 1941; promoted LAC, 8 November 1941 and posted that date to No.10 EFTS. Ceased training and posted elsewhere, 11 December 1941; to No.1 AOS, 31 January 1942; graduated 9 May 1942 and posted to No.1 BGS; to No.1 CNS, 20 June 1942; promoted Sergeant, 4 August 1942; to "Y" Depot, Halifax, 5 August 1942; to No.31 GRS, 25 September 1942; to "Y" Depot again, 7 November 1942; to RAF overseas, 22 November 1942. Repatriated to Canada, 2 August 1945; released 17 September 1945.

RCAF Press Release 4827 issued 14 December 1944 read as follows:

WITH RCAF IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Warrant Officer K.M. "Maxie" Forsythe of Rockwood, Ontario, a navigator, was a member of a Wellington crew that ditched in the Indian Ocean. When their large dinghy was accidentally punctured, a small type dinghy was inflated and the crew members were all night in a sea that ran to waves 30 feet high. Of the eight men who clung to the dinghy, only four survived the night.

Throughout it all, Warrant Officer Forsythe had much to do with saving the lives of the men who were finally rescued.

Their Wellington was on a routine flight over the Indian Ocean when an oil leak developed in one engine. They were about 100 miles from the nearest land when they were forced down in the heavy seas.

One of the men found the strain too great and allowed himself to float away from the little dinghy to drown.

"Maxie swam out and dragged him back several times," one survivor said, "but finally there just wasn't a thing you could do about it."

Then another man cracked under the strain and tried to take off his Mae West but "Maxie" and the others fought and argued with him and kept putting it back on. Finally the second man did slip away and was drowned. Two more men died the next morning.

"That left four of us," Forsythe commented. "We would take turns sitting in the dinghy; one would sit and the other three hang on." They had signalled their position to base before their crash and had been sighted once but they had several bad moments the following morning when an aircraft failed to spot them in a rough sea.

"We just about gave up", Warrant Officer Forsythe commented, "when a ship passed us a couple of times without seeing us."

Finally, they were sighted and the rescue boat came toward them. But, just prior to their being sighted, they noticed that several sharks were starting to gather round.

Despite this, Warrant Officer Forsythe swam away from the dinghy to haul back one of the men who was floating away, even with the immediate help at hand.

Forsythe spent a month in hospital recuperating from severe sunburn and from numerous cuts and scratches which, although unnoticed at the time, had become septic.

"It was a remarkable feat of courage and endurance," one observer remarked. "Forsythe had a lot to do with saving the lives of those who did come through. Apparently he more or less took responsibility in the water; certainly he put up a marvellous show."

Forsythe, a tall and strongly-built young man with brown eyes and a slow and pleasant manner of speech, has since finished his operational tour in the Indian Ocean area and been posted elsewhere. Before the war he worked underground in a mine in the Sudbury district.

17th November 2009, 08:08

With the meagre morsels provided, might I offer the following:

I think the unit involved might be No.621 Squadron. 621 Squadron lost a Wellington on September 6, 1944, that had to ditch with the loss of four lives:

182565 P/O George Gaston ATKINSON RAFVR +
177601 P/O William Geoffrey MUSGRAVE RAFVR +
1566713 Sgt Walter John Donald SMITH RAFVR +
1537663 LAC Alfred SWALLOW RAFVR +
(All commemorated on the Alamein Memorial)

I have no further details on this incident, and I am not sure if this is the aircraft involved.

Over to the Forum.


17th November 2009, 11:39
Hi Hugh,

I have e-mailed you a clipping from the Toronto Star of 11 Jan 1945. Doesn't add much, except quotes from him and his mother. In it he says the worst thing about the experience was the sun. They were dressed in tropical kit and were very badly sunburned.

The story says they flew out of Aden on a submarine and coastal patrol. The story also quotes Forsythe's letter to his parents and notes that one of the four who were rescued, died later.

621 Sqn flew out of Aden and was equipped with Wellingtons, so Col's suggestion looks good so far.

Henk Welting
17th November 2009, 14:39
Hello Gents,
Must have been Wellington XIII serial JA315; ditched NNW of Socrota.

17th November 2009, 15:12

If there was a later death caused by the accident on 6-9-1944, then I'm afraid my theory does'nt hold water. I've checked the 621 Sqn aircraft losses post 6-9-1944, and there are apparently only two (2). One on 21-12-1944 (6 deaths), and one on 6-11-1945 (5 deaths). It all depends on what is mean't by, 'died later'.


17th November 2009, 15:24
It's not clear what later meant. Here's an extract of the article in the Star:

Only two others of the eight-man crew survived the ordeal of sun and salt water. Forsythe was the only Canadian on a Wellington bomber which left Aden on a submarine and coastal patrol. The bomber developed an oil leak and was forced to crash into 30-foot seas 100 miles from shore.

"The four remaining fliers, including my son, were rescued by a British merchant ship 24 hours after their crash," said Mrs. Forsythe. "One of the four died later...."

The headline, picking up on a quote by Forsythe, who said they had only shorts and their Mae Wests, read:

Adrift On Indian Ocean
Baked to Crisp by Sun

Socotra was the location of a detachment from 621 Sqn but I'm not sure for how long.

21st November 2009, 15:38
I am indebted to those who have assisted so thoroughly and promptly to my query (my regrets at not having acknowleded this help sooner). It is all further proof of the efficiency of this board.

12th November 2012, 06:21
Hello, I am the son of W.O. Kenneth Maxworth Forsythe, the subject of this thread. I would love to see a copy of the Toronto Star clipping, as well as any pointers on how to find out more about his war record. He unfortunately succumbed to Alzheimers some years ago, and we never got him to talk much about the war. My mother was thrilled to read this thread, which I just found yesterday; I would love to find more surprises for her. Thanks in advance for any help with this.

12th November 2012, 11:34
Hello Keen,

If you send me a personal message through the board with your e-mail address, I will send you a copy of the clipping.

As for your father's service record, you can get that through Library and Archives Canada. Details at link below.