12.09.1944 No. 19 Squadron (SAAF) Beaufighter VI.F KV930 Lt. R.A. Geater
Date: 12th September 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 19 Squadron (SAAF)
Type: Beaufighter VIF
Base: Biferno, Italy
Location: Ionian Sea - North of Ithaca Island, Greece
Pilot: Lt. R.A. Geater 15879V SAAF Survived - evaded
Nav: F/O. Stanley W.G. Dellow 153915 RAFVR PoW. Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (1)
We would like to appeal for relatives of this crew to contact us in order to provide us with photographs and information. We we will also place them in contact with our Greek researcher friends.
Update January 2015 - relative of both crew now found and contacted!
REASON FOR LOSS:
During an attack on a Siebel Ferry (2) they were hit by flak in the starboard engine, which then caught fire. The pilot was forced to ditch the aircraft at 17.05 hrs where both of the crew escaped into their dingy. After awhile they were picked up by Greek partisans who took them ashore, fed and looked after them, treating the two as heroes.
Later at night the partisans tried to smuggle them onto a fishing boat to take them both back to the Italian mainland. They were shot at from the shore, a German patrol boat arrived alongside to pick them up. The pilot, Lt. Geater decided to jump off and swim to the shore. Together with the assistance from the locals on the Island, he managed to evade and return to his unit within a fortnight.
The observer due to his inability to swim remained in the fishing boat when he was picked up by the German patrol boat. He remained a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft 3 until war end. Lt. Geater survived the war as a Major.
KV930 - It is thought that recently a professional diving team have discovered the wreck of this aircraft off the Northern coast of Ithaca Island, Greece (courtesy Mr. Makis Sotiropoulos, owner of the Diving School and commercial survey team - Aquatic Greece - see credits)
(1) Stan W.G. Dellow died at the early age of 52 in 1973.
(2) The Siebel Ferry was a twin pontoon boat designed by the German Aircraft engineer, Fritz Siebel. Armed with usually 1 x 8.8cm gun and 2 further 2 cm guns. Used to transport troops, vehicles and supplies.
Siebel Ferry (courtesy Bundesarchive and our own archives)
The following details have been sent to us by the Granddaughter of the Pilot via the son of Sgt. Dellow. It shows extracts from his diary at the time:
12 September 1944 - 15.45 (approx) Attacked Siebel Ferry of Ithacca Island the West of Atokos Island. Starboard engine was shot to pieces before I opened fire. Opened fire scoring hits on bows due to yow of aircraft, attempted to spray as well as possible with some success. Having passed the Siebel Ferry feathered the starboard propeller, by that time the port motor which had also been hit was only giving about 2,300 revs., the oil pressure was fluctuating and the dropped, smoke was issuing forth so I decided to ditch.
Frankly, I was not too pleased about the whole situation at first, but fortunately everything was in our favour so things went according to plan. Having set her down, I tried to get out, forgetting completely about my harness, phew! Did I perspire even with the inrushing water up to my neck. By the time I got out with my dinghy etc., Stan was already comfortably seated. Clambered aboard and settled down to a smoke, the first for some time! V floated for approximately 20 secs., and that was plenty time even with all the blunders I had made.
We destroyed all papers etc., and waited to be picked up by some small fishing boats which were on their way out to pick us up. After about an hour and a half we were taken aboard after a lot of haggling amongst the occupants of the three boats as to who were to rescue us. The ultimate victors very nearly succeeded in drowning us by capsizing the ship which righted itself only in the nick of time.
On reaching the shore, we were welcomed by partisans who informed us that the Huns had left the island a week previous. Boy, did we feel relieved! I’ll say! Immediately Stan and I proceeded to guzzle the grog some very understanding joker brought for us. Then started the tramp to the nearby village and arrived heroes amongst the multitudes but we didn’t feel a thing as by that time we were nicely poegeyed! Changed our wet outfit for dry civvies which would have been a decent fitting for me some 12 or 14 years back. The pants incidentally nearly ruined me, so tight were they.
After a few more spots we were on our way downtown on exhibition and something to eat. On every street were crowds who cheered and clapped for us as we came through, hell, did I feel spar. For supper that night we had spaghetti, a plate full of the stuff – never seen anything quite so full! Some wine, chicken and some wine, fruit and some wine, and then to finish off we had some wine, phew!
After supper news came through that S.F was on the rocks and that the Huns were ashore about three miles up the coast, so the partisans promptly rushed us up into the hills fearing a raid and that the Huns would catch us. Anyway, nothing like that happened, the Huns themselves were so scared that they stayed in the vicinity of their disabled boat and fired their rifles and machine guns periodically through the night fearing an attack from the “boys” (what a buch of cut-throats) very little rest that night owing to mosquitoes and bed bugs.
13 September 1944 - 09:00 Had breakfast which consisted of brown bread and fig jam and some milk and sugar which our hosted had been saving for months from red cross parcels. Somehow the people can’t do enough for us, from all over they arrived with absolute luxuries such as salt, tinned milk, sugar etc. The conditions under which these people are existing is something to be marvelled at. The most pitiful of cases are those of small children, poor little mites don’t know what is going on, hungry and ill-clad, I feel absolute heel every time I look at them. This morning’s recce showed the S.F. still on the rocks with the Huns burying their dead and patching up the wounded. The “boys” report that of the 200 plus from the boat over 20 were killed and as many wounded. Jerry tried to get the boat off by all standing on the stern and shovelling on the coal, but no go she’s as firm as the rock of Gibraltar.
13:00 Lunch downtown with some people who had lived 20 years in South Africa, afterwards back to the hills for a sleep.
16:00 A tug which had been sent from (Levras) Angios Petros to tow the S.F. off the rocks was intercepted by the “boys” and captured after a little resistance. Two out of the tug’s crew were wounded.
18:00 Tug with victorious crew aboard arrived in port ‘A’ where we were waiting for a boat to take us to port ‘B’. Naturally it being about the biggest thing that’s happened for the past four years, the whole town turned out and much cheering and singing gave out. The four Jerries were transferred to our boat which was a fishing affair with several red crosses painted about its hull. At about 19:00 hours we set sail for town ‘B’ from where we were to catch another ship to the mainland.
Left: Shown on right: Lt. R.A. Geater 15879V SAAF
At 19:25 precisely Stan gave the badly wounded Hun a shot of morphia. By now it was getting dark and about 10 min. Stan asked the time were hailed by someone on a boat which I could barely see although it was 50’ away, and bugger me if it wasn’t a Hun ‘R’ boat, damn my bloody luck. Our engine was immediately stopped and the ‘boys’ began to slide silently into the water. By this time our boat had drifted to within 20’ of the ‘R’ boat and it was only then that I realised what was going on, so I was on my bicycle and did I peddle or rather paddle; I’m convinced it wasn’t phosphorous in the water but just the way I burned it up. Stan remained on the boat as he is unable to swim. He didn’t take a Mae Vest for some unknown reason. The next thing to happen was the appearance of the tug bearing down on me at 10 knots, suddenly it altered course to port approximately 15 deg., and as it came in between the ‘R’ boat and I the Huns let the tug have it – we got what missed. The tug then began a sweeping starboard turn with the ‘R’ boat following and firing all the time. Again we were in the line of fire this time being the two. I really thought my number was up because at night shooting is not as accurate as it might be and bullets were splashing amongst the boys and I. To make matters worse the ‘R’ boat came our way at ‘C’ and at one time was less that 2 from me. One of the partisans was actually chopped up by the propeller. The tug sank at ‘F’ and after a spot of indiscriminate spraying in our direction the Huns sank the fishing boat at ‘G’ strafed some houses at ‘I’ and went and bombarded the Port ‘A’ making a huge hole in the wall of the house where we had had our supper the night before. Must have been a pretty big gun our 40mm. Anyway. It took me 3 ½ hours to reach the shore and all except one partisan and I were hit. I landed at ‘D’ and never before has a hunk of solid rock felt so good; clung a while and I was feeling pretty slapped. The mountain arose out of the sea at an angle of about 50 deg., and together with the dense undergrowth and rocks I decided to spend the night at ‘E’ which was not at all comfortable, bloody uncomfortable in fact sitting up all night in wet clothes. During the night I heard the Ju 52’s overhead, also the wailing of the wounded partisans about which I could do nothing.
14 September 1944 - Dozed off just before dawn and awoke at 05:45 and started to climb the mountain working on the assumption that there must be a road of sorts running from North to South. Rowing boats came from port ‘B’ to pick up the ‘boys’ but I lay low thinking the Huns were still somewhere around and in that case the mountains were the best place for me. I’ve had ships as a means of conveyance anyway!
After a climb lasting nearly three hours I found the road and at this stage I was very near exhausted. At about 07.30 I saw 2 S.F. going in an East South East direction towards the mainland.
10.00 came across some shepherds who by shouting to one another informed the people of a mountain village that I was on my way in; they in turn came out to meet me with all sorts of things to eat and drink. Being very thirsty I took a swig at what I thought was lemon squash but turned out to be pure undulated locally-made gin with a hell-of-a-kick. I was taken to some house and after eating at least 2 lbs. Of grapes, 3 pears, 4 plumbs and drinking quantities of wine I was then brought some breakfast which consisted of three eggs and tomatoes, a separate plate of chips and some bread, I was then prepared to lay down to sleep, which I did in an Australian women’s house. There’s defiantly no rest for the wicked though, within an hour I was on my way again, this time to the monastery were the captain of the ‘boys’ was lying fatally wounded.
17.00 From the Monday I witnessed an attack by 3 Wellingtons on two enemy ships at ‘K’ described later by the Greeks as torpedo ships, tugs or something. The wimps got direct hits one which blew up, and split in two and sunk, the other damaged.
Spent the night at the monastery and was treated by the Monks as a lord.
15 September 1944 - 06.00 Had coffee and water and set out in the company of some of the ‘boys’ for port ‘B’ arriving there at 09.00 in time to see formation of about 84 Libs. Pass over in an S.S.E direction. Met some of the locals of whom a good percentage can speak English. One greeted me with “Wragtie ou swaer”. Another said “Hi jah, I heard about your ship coming down, where’s your buddy?”
13.00 Had grub and did I nearly throw a cat, eggs fried in olive oil I ask you! In the afternoon my host and I strolled around the town. First Englishman on the Island since the war started so I was told, so everyone wanted to see me.
11.00 Had supper and went to bed
16 September 1944 - Done nothing all day. The ‘boys’ I believe are going to see if the coast is clear before they attempt to get me off the Island. I was told that once before and they slipped up badly, nuff said!
17h00 People report aircraft flying low over sea. Beaus. I think. The guy I’m staying with has quite a decent sister-in-law but I’m making no headway on account of the language system. Confound it!
The old boy has been worrying me all day to go downtown with him again but I’ve had that racket. I’m no movie-star! Only been here four days now and am known one end of the island to the other.
17 September 1944 - Monday 11.00 Mounted horseback with my guide on a donkey (what a donkey)! We left for a small village on the west coast. Journey took us 4 hours instead of three due to the donkey letting us down so often when he was tired. Turned out to be very pretty village. Staying with a Greek Intelligence chap who is staying with a family with two very reasonable young things who must think I’m a god or something. Boy does it feel good. Think I’ll stay here indefinitely. Have met the chief woman partisan of the Island. My first inclination was to duck when I saw her paw come out to shake hands, a hand that enveloped mine with a bit to spare. She’s no peanut!
Had a good nights rest for a change.
19 September 1944
- Tuesday. Left Ithacca for Cepholonia by boat - saw flying fish fly a distance of about 40 feet. Journeyed up the mountain by Fiat – had tea, bread and jam at a village in the hills and met some paratroops. Taken by Ford – 4 to Cryostolion, accompanied by above mentioned, one trip I never want to cover again, absolutely nipping straws over the escarpment.
Right: F/O. Stanley W.G. Dellow 153915 RAFVR
15.00 Had message sent to base. Seems quite a good spot, sort of hot at that! Apparently 12 days ago there was a furious battle here between the Huns and Ities who had sides of 3 000 and 17 000 respectively. The Ities killed off the Huns with the exception of a few who escaped by boats with a loss of 9 000 of there own troops. For all that there are only 800 Ities left now and there’s big trouble between them and the Guerrillas who want their arms. They also want the scalps of the dozen or so Hun prisoners. What a job these Greek boys have on there hands. After looking the town over, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Hun is an absolute bastard.
20 September 1944 - Wednesday. Hell if something doesn’t happen soon I am going to feel very sorry for my self. Ities have been ordered to defend themselves against Guerrillas who are intent on getting their arms to fight Communism. Itie Captain refuses to fire on Guerrillas so all is calm once again. I’ve never been so scared in all my life! What a hell of a mess things are in now. Greek people are scared stiff of the Guerrillas and it looks as if there is going to be a hell of a revolt in the very near future if the British continue to make blunders and let the Communistic party get at all powerful. Ities have surrendered their arms to the comms.
21 September 1944 - Thursday. Still in this place – sooner I get out the better! Good news at last, the British are sending over a few reps., illas will stop at nothing to obtain their goal. Guerrillas have now been ordered to return their arms to the Ities. Went for a spin around the coast and saw what remains of the Huns defences. Everything has been destroyed including five 105mm naval guns and three 88mm guns. Bags of ammo. Lying around and a few booby traps I expect. Met a very charming Greek woman who was born in Rhodesia and so speaks English perfectly.
22nd and 23rd Saturday. Still no news of a ship and the boys are showing signs of being worried again because the Guerrillas have begun a bit of a purge quite a few people arresting all the police. The mission chaps are not too popular with the Guerrillas so they have a feeling they are to be next – hence my anxiety. I’m staying with them anyway there’s definitely serious trouble if the British authorities don’t get their bloody fingers out – sit back in Cairo and send stupid messages all day long.
24 September 1944
- Awakened and told of two British ships at the entrance of the harbour but by 09.00 they left without anyone coming ashore. 12.45 Four Mustangs fitted with long range fuel tanks flew over mations of 28 each passed overhead at about 12.00 – some poor bastards are going to cop it.
19.00. Left for the north end of the island to catch a caique for Italy. On arriving there we found the not so ready so had to come back again. Just as well because we have now found out that those BB were Germans.
Monday 25 September 1944 - Mooned around on my motor-bike all day and I’ve just been informed we’ll be leaving at 23h00 tonight by caique for Italy. I can think of dozens of things I’d much rather be doing than sailing the seas in a caique with them ships sailing around. Well, I’m buggered all the way to the North end again only to find nothing prepared and the chaps we’re supposed to be going with in bed.
26 September 1944 - Tuesday. It’s now decided to abandon the idea of going by caique and wait for a sub. Or something. These bloody Greeks are the world’s worst organisers. Anymore of this and I’ll be a raving lunatic, especially if I even get into a motor-car with one of them again. More trouble with the authorities – they’ve imprisoned all the police etc. And have taken over the town completely.
27 September 1944 – Wednesday
28 September 1944 - Thursday
29 September 1944 – Friday. Went for my daily spin on my motor bike this morning and got soaked through. Good news at last, the navy are sending a ship within the next few days to pick up Ities and have instructions to take me along as well. Here’s hoping it is not another false alarm.
30 September 1944 – 12.50 thought I heard a sea-plane but it turned out to be a Lysander. Like to know what it is doing over here. Roll on that bloody ship.
01 October 1944 - Sunday. Have just learned that the above mentioned ship should be here on Thursday morning with a bit of luck. Authorities are arresting people left, right and centre, including British agents so if that ship does not roll up soon I’ve had it.
02 October 1944 – Monday
03 October 1944 – Tuesday
04 October 1944 – Wednesday. 12.00 At last! Two British LLI arrived and half the population of the Island turned out to welcome them.
05 October 1944 – Played for the Navy against local team. Lost 2-0
06 October 1944 – Left Captolonia for Italy
07 October 1944 – 12.00 Arrived Brindisi and left for Bari arriving 18.00hrs.
None - both crew survived.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Antonelos Athanasios who lives on the nearby Island of Kethalonia and is researching WW2 losses near his home. Also to Makis Sotiropoulos and his team at Aquatic Greece. With thanks to the SAAF website and the SAAF pilots website. Links shortly to be updated once replies from them is received.