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    Hi, Pel.

    First off, thanks for your wonderful book (with David Gunby) on RAF bomber losses in the ME and Med, 1939-42. This one helped solve a few Liberator mysteries for me. "Mr. B-24", Al Blue -- the dean of Liberator researchers and a hell of a nice guy -- was unaware of the book until I pointed it out to him earlier this year, and he is thrilled, being a huge Lib II fan, in particular.

    I concentrate on RAF Lib research, mainly in the Far East, but 159 and 160 Sqns, in particular, spill over to the Middle East. I've been compiling a list of errors/additional info to James Oughton's noteworthy Air-Britain book "The Liberator in RAF and Commonwealth Service", and I noticed a problem with AL520 vs AL553, when compared to your entry for a Lib incident on 15 June 1942 tentatively linked to AL553. I don't have the final solution, but I do think that you have confused AL553, at least in part, with AL520.

    My e-mail is feb2944 AT (replace AT with @, remove spaces). If you can reply, I'd prefer a direct e-mail rather than a message via RAF Commands. I'm curious to know if you have learned anything else about that Middle East prang, such as its definite serial number. If not, I'd like to post a query on the RAF Commands Forum -- in a way that is respectful to you and your book and to James Oughton.

    Here are my comments in reference to James Oughton's AL553 entry. This is preliminary...I have to review my analysis and the National Archives file of W.J. Wilson again...the search engine apparently is down at the moment.

    Cheers from Maryland, USA, and again thanks for your fantastic book.

    Matt Poole
    Pg 105: AL553: Major discrepancy with another source: "Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean, Volume 1: 1939-1942" (David Gunby & Pelham Temple). I think the Oughton's AL553 entry is likely correct and Gunby & Temple are in error, but there are unresolved questions. Per Gunby & Temple, possibly AL553 crashed short of Fayid, Egypt runway returning from convoy escort duty, 159 Squadron, 15 June 1942 (killing one unspecified crewman). Skipper: Sgt W.J. Wilson RAAF. This date conflicts with the AL553 history in the Oughton book, including chronology. Further details from Gunby & Temple: "Took off, Fayid, and on return from escorting a convoy from Alexandria to Malta, crash-landed short of Fayid, one gunner, not yet identified, being reported killed. No verification of this loss has been found by AHB [UK Ministry of Defence Air Historical Branch], but the aircraft may be AL553, SOC on 31 July." Note that Oughton says the Struck Off Charge date was 31 July 1944, not 1942. An Air-Britain serial reference to AL553, however, says it was SOC 31 July 1942!

    I believe Gunby & Temple confused an Egypt crash aircraft identification unclear with a very similar incident involving AL520 in Coastal Command on either 31 May or 1 June 1942, in which the second pilot was listed as being a Sgt Wilson -- who I believe is the J.W. Wilson mentioned as pilot in the Gunby & Temple book. This one is correctly mentioned in the AL520 individual aircraft listing on pg 100 of Oughton's book. Further details from the 160 Sqn Operations Record Book (with a discrepancy in the date!):

    Form 540, May 1942: "31.5.42. AL520 W.O. Adam and crew carried out convoy escort. Aircraft fired on by convoy. Sgt O'Shea killed. Aircraft returned to Tiree [Scotland] damaged. Casualties signals and letters sent in respect of Sgt O'Shea."

    Form 541, June 1942: "1st June 1942. Liberator AL520. Crew: W.O. Adam [pilot], Sgt Wilson [2nd pilot], [six more crew listed, including Sgt O'Shea, who is next-to-last (usually an air gunner's position in listings)]. Convoy escort. Time up: 0500. Time down: 1345. Remarks: Carried out convoy escort. Aircraft fired on by convoy. Sgt O'Shea killed. Aircraft returned to Tiree. Damaged."

    Form 540, June 1942: "2.6.42. W/O Adam and crew returned by Hudson from Tiree. 3.6.42. W/Cdr McNair and Squadron Engineer Officer proceeded to Tiree by Hudson to examine AL520. 4.6.42. Sgt. O'Shea's body delivered by Hudson from Tiree. 5.6.42. Sgt O'Shea was buried at Glenavy.

    Note that there is nothing about a crash, only about damage and a dead crewman. The CWGC lists the casualty as 1382776 Sgt Thomas O'Shea, 160 Sqn air gunner, died 1 June 1942, buried in Glenavy.

    Note, also, that Wilson is second pilot, not skipper in the ORB. The W.J. Wilson mentioned in the Gunby & Temple book, upon further research, was 404125 F/Lt William James Wilson DFM.
    His scanned A9300 RAAF personnel file can be viewed on the National Archives of Australia website, via , by searching on the service number and hitting the "View digital copy" icon. Wilson was definitely a Liberator pilot whose postings & movements were: 160 Sqn N. Ireland 20.5.42 followed by 160 Sqn Middle East 16.7.42. Apparently, then, he was in 160 Squadron -- on detachment with 120 Squadron, which was dispersed in Northern Ireland and Scotland. He was not in the Middle East at the time of the alleged 15 June 1942 Lib crash.

    Furthermore, the citation for his DFM is given: "Citation: June 1942 was pilot of aircraft engaged convoy escort duties. In course of task aircraft damaged by Wilson flew it safely back and effected masterly landing in circumstances of great difficulty. Skill mainly responsible for saving valuable aircraft and crew." Unfortunately, the info is vague: no day of the month, no aircraft type, no serial number, no further detail on damage, death, or injuries. The National Archives of Australia does not hold an A705 RAAF Casualty File for Wilson; the incident apparently did not warrant the creation of such a file. The National Archives of Australia does hold an RAAF biographical file on "WILSON William James 404125", but it has not yet been digitized and, thus, cannot be viewed on-line. Possibly there is additional info in this file concerning the damaged aircraft he brought back from the June 1942 convoy escort op.

    Note that the citation says he was pilot, not co-pilot. This conflicts with the 160 Squadron ORB info!

    Conclusion: It seems that Gunby & Temple mixed up two separate incidents: the known AL520 convoy incident with a crewman killed and the aircraft damaged, and an unresolved Liberator? crash short of Fayid, Egypt aerodrome 15 days later. Did the latter even happen? If so, what was the serial number? Per Oughton's chronology, AL553 was in India, not the Middle East, at the time of the alleged 15 June 1942 incident.
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About P.H.Temple

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About P.H.Temple
Married, Retired BT Manager, Co Author of RAF Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Upminster, Essex.
Research for our Books, Travel, Collecting diecast Aircraft Models.


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