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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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19.08.1942 Aircraft Delivery Unit Blenheim V BA597 F/Sgt. Frederick Britain Borrett


Operation: Delivery flight

Date: 19 August 1942

Unit: Aircraft Delivery Unit

Type: Bristol Blenheim V

Serial: BA597

Code: Unknown

Base: RAF Takoradi, Gold Coast (now Ghana) West Africa

Location: About 7 miles north of Ogbomosho, Nigeria

Pilot: F/Sgt. Frederick Britain Borrett Aus/402104 RAAF Age 27- Killed

Obs: F/Sgt. John Alexander Bowditch Aus/403253 RAAF Age 26 - Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Robert Fordell (Bunny) Henderson Aus/405192 Age 22 - Killed


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INTRODUCTION

Following the declaration of war by Italy on June 10 1940 and the ensuing offensive in North Africa by Italian and German troops, by the late spring of 1941 British held sea ports in the Mediterranean were being so badly mauled by Axis air attacks that the supply of British forces in the Middle East was becoming extremely difficult if not nigh impossible. The only other sea route for such supply was the far longer voyage via the Cape of Good Hope and as time was of the essence another quicker alternative was urgently required.

It was decided to develop an air route from Takoradi in the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to Cairo, Egypt. The 3700 mile journey was made over six days with rest and refuelling stops at Lagos, Kano and Maiduguri in Nigeria and El Geneina, El Fasher, Khartoum and Wadi Haifa in the Sudan before continuing to Abu Sueir in Egypt. Initially Hurricanes and Blenheims were transported in crates by boat to Takoradi where they were assembled and made air-worthy prior to being ferried to Egypt. The first delivery flight to Cairo left Takoradi on September 20, 1940 and by October 1943 over 5200 aircraft had been erected and flown along the West African Reinforcement Route (WARR) to the North African and Mediterranean theatres, with a further 1,000 aircraft erected and retained for service in West Africa.


REASON FOR LOSS

Blenheim BA597 took off from RAF Takoradi with Convoy No. 474 and following the palm-fringed coast made the 378 mile flight to Lagos. In an area subject to sudden squalls the convoy took off from Lagos on 19 August 1942 on the next leg of its journey. Nearing Oshogbo some 125 miles north east of Lagos the leader of the formation noticed that a line squall was running roughly from a northwest direction to south east, and moving westward. He decided that the convoy should return to Lagos to avoid the storm and signalled the necessary instructions. All the other aircraft responded with the exception of Sgt. Borrett's whose aircraft headed straight for the storm and disappeared into cloud. Wreckage of the aircraft and remains of the crew were found about 7 miles north of Ogbomosho a town about 30 miles north-west of Oshogbo. It was believed that the accident resulted from the fact that the pilot was unable to keep control of the aircraft when caught by the squall. The three crew members were buried at Oshogbo Cemetery on 21 August 1942



BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW


(1) F/Sgt. Frederick Britain Borrett was born on 16 November 1914 at Bunbury, Western Australia the son of Harry Britain Borrett and Emily Eliza Borrett later of 17 Wasley Street, Mount Lawley, Perth, Western Australia. His father died on 14 November 1938 at Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia.

He enlisted at 2 RC Sydney on 27 May 1940 and embarked for the UK on 16 April 1941.

On 25 January 1942 he was injured when his aircraft, Blenheim V5899 was shot down and crashed near Mechili Landing Ground, Libya. His Wireless Operator was also injured but his Observer sadly lost his life in the crash. For details of the crash see www.aircrewremembered.com/borrett-frederick.html

His brother Arnold Harvey Borrett Aus/406769, the rear gunner of the crew of Stirling BF378 of No. 15 Squadron died aged 25 when his aircraft was shot down over Holland on an operation to bomb Wilhelmshaven. He lies in Vredenhof Cemetery on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog. For details of the incident see www.aircrewremembered.com/crawford-bernard.html

Frederick Britain Borrett and his brother Arnold Harvey Borrett are both commemorated on the Australian War Memorial, Canberra - Panel 119 and on the War Memorial at Perth, Western Australia.


(2) F/Sgt. John Alexander Bowditch was born on 2 October 1915 at Dulwich Hill, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia the son of Walter Edward Bowditch and Ethel Alice Bowditch nee Gates later of Albury, New South Wales, Australia. He had four brothers and three sisters.

Prior to enlisting at Sydney he was employed as a Clerk.

He is commemorated on the Hornsby, NSW War Memorial and the Australian War memorial at Canberra - Panel 119




(3) Sgt. Robert Fordell (Bunny) Henderson was born on 8 September 1919 at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia the son of Robert Henderson and Jessie Blanche Henderson nee Philp of Toowong, Queensland, Australia. He had three sisters.

He was educated at Brisbane Boys College from 1931 to 1938 and afterward studied Agriculture at the University of Queensland from 1939 until enlisting at No. 3 RAAF Recruiting Centre, Brisbane on 2 February 1941. On enlistment he was described as being 5'11½" tall weighing 132lbs with brown eyes, dark brown hair and a fair complexion. He stated that he played tennis, cricket and golf, athletics, swimming and rowing.

After coming 2nd in his course at No. 3 Initial Training School at RAAF Sandgate he was posted to No. 1 Air Observer School at RAAF Cootamundra on 1 May 1941 where he was achieved a distinguished pass. On 28 July he was posted to No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School at RAAF Evans Head followed by No 1 Air Navigation School at RAAF Parkes scoring above average marks at both establishments. He was awarded his Air Gunners Badge on 17 October 1941 and promoted to sergeant. He embarked for the Middle East at Sydney on 2 November disembarked in Egypt on 24 November and was posted to 103 Maintenance Unit. On 23 January 1943 he was posted to Middle East Pool and to the Air Delivery Unit on 27 March 1943.

He is commemorated on the Australian War Memorial at Canberra , Panel 123 and on the Brisbane War Memorial.


BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS


(1) F/Sgt. Frederick Britain Borrett was buried at the Oshogbo Cemetery, Nigeria - Plot 1. Row B. Grave 5.

Epitaph reads:

Peace, perfect peace

"Freddie"

You died that we might live

(2) F/Sgt.John Alexander Bowditch was buried at the Oshogbo Cemetery, Nigeria - Plot 1. Row B. Grave 4.

No epitaph

(3) Sgt. Robert Fordell (Bunny) Henderson was buried at the Oshogbo Cemetery, Nigeria - Plot 2. Row B. Grave 1.

Epitaph reads:

He was so much to so many




Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - September 2016

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 28.09.2016

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 28 September 2016, 20:03

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