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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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353 Squadron Crest
04.08.1944 353 Squadron Dakota FZ597, Fg Off. David Forman AFC

Operation: Mail delivery flight

Date: 4th August 1944 (Friday)

Unit No: 353 Squadron, South East Asia Command

Type: Douglas Dakota (DC3)

Serial: FZ597

Code: Y

Base: RAF Dum Dum, Calcutta, India

Location: En-Route Delhi, 50 miles East Varanasi, India

Pilot: Fg.Off. David Crawford Forman AFC 400366 RAAF Age 23. Killed

Nav: WO. Frederick Walter Handley 401375 RAAF Age 30. Killed

Flt Eng: Flt Sgt. Kenneth Martyn Anthony Sexton 1402643 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

WOp: Plt Off. John Beebar 403252 RAAF Age 22. Killed


Sgt. Charles Edward Church 1426432 RAFVR. A Flight Engineer serving with 353 Sqn. Age 24. Killed
Flt Sgt. Stanley Wilson 544707 RAF. Serving with 353 Sqn. Age 25. Killed
AC1. William John Lewis 1522390 RAFVR. Serving with 353 Sqn. Age 22. Killed
AC1. Oliver Taylor 1480296 RAFVR. Serving with 353 Sqn. Age? Killed
Fg Off. Frederick William Cawthorne 175610 RAFVR. A Wireless Operator serving with 194 Sqn. Age ? Killed
Flt Lt. Frederick Grant Jackson J6209 RCAF. A pilot serving with 273 Sqn. Age 26. Killed
Lt Col. Paul Evan Rodgers Dawson 45436 Royal Artillery. Commander of the 21 Mountain Regt, Royal Indian Artillery. Age 31. Killed
Lt Col. Robert Frank Courtney Weallens 33375 Royal Engineers. Age 39. Killed
Lt Col. Edward Ronald Pettit MC. 44155 Royal Armoured Corps. Serving member of the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers. Age? Killed
Maj. Ernest Hicks EC/16 Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Age? Killed
Maj. Gerald Francis Keen 199543 General List. Age 24. Killed
Maj. Thomas Atkinson Walton 58986 Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment). Age 31. Killed
Mr. Seth Drucquer was a Civil Servant of the Government of Bengal, Calcutta India. Age 33. Killed

Note: We welcome any additional details regarding this loss and the members of the crew - several variations exist on the passenger manifest, but we feel that we may have it correct.


The aircraft took off on a routine mail run with passengers to Delhi.

Some 2½ hours into the trip they flew into cumulonimbus clouds (associated with thunderstorms and atmospheric instability) and very heavy rain and severe turbulence. The pilot lost control and the aircraft broke up with an initial fracture of the port mainplane root fillet leading to a more general disintegration.

A report following the accident stated that in addition to the pilot being fatigued after flying over 130 hours in the previous month, the aircraft's artificial horizon was unserviceable which may have contributed to the pilots inability to maintain control. (see below for credits for this information)

The aircraft crashed some 50 miles East of Varanasi - killing all the crew and passengers.

Above Taken in England showing RAAF pilots who had trained on the No. 5 Course Empire Training Scheme L-R: Fg Off. David Forman, unidentified, Davies, Plt Off. Leslie Hancock 400368 RAAF killed whilst with 1651 Operational Training Unit. Flying Stirling I N6102 on an operation to Hamburg when the aircraft went missing. Fg Off. Horace Spencer Fordyce 400396 RAAF PoW on OADU flight to Malta on Wellington IC HX580 30th July 1942, Flt Lt. Harry Leggo 400370 RAAF (courtesy AWM)

353 Sqn personnel photograph circa 1945. It is not known if this image pre-dates or post-dates the loss of FZ597 (Courtesy of Michael Cowdrey)

Burial details:

The killed were initially buried at the scene of the crash in one common grave. In 1947 the bodies were interred at the Ranchi War Cemetery on the 13th of December 1947. Graves described below as Special Memorial - buried near this spot.

Images of a funeral parade which may have been held in the honour of the those that lost their lives in the loss of FZ597 (Courtesy of Michael Cowdrey)


Fg Off. David Crawford Forman AFC. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.5. Grave inscription reads: "HE THAT BELIEVETH IN ME, THOUGH HE WERE DEAD, YET SHALL HE LIVE". Born on the 2nd December 1920 at East Malvern, Victoria, the son of George and Florence May Forman, of Glen Iris, Victoria, Australia.

Fg Off. Forman was posthumously awarded the AFC, gazetted 1st January 1945

WO. Frederick Walter Handley. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.6. Grave inscription reads: "WELL DONE, THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT". Born on the 21st June 1914 at Melbourne, Victoria, the son of Walter and Amy Beatrice Handley, of East Malvern, Victoria, Australia.

WO. Kenneth Martyn Anthony Sexton. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.5. Grave inscription reads: "BIRD SONGS AT EVENTIDE" OVER THE QUIET HILLS SLOWLY THE SHADOWS FALL R.I.P". Son of Michael A. Sexton and Olive M. Sexton, of Maida Hill, London, England.

Plt Off. John Beebar. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.1. Grave inscription reads: "DEARLY LOVED, SADLY MISSED. WE CARRY YOU IN A LOCKET OF GOLD". Born on the 27th August 1921 at Paddington, New South Wales, the son of John A. Beebar and Barbara Beebar, of Kingsford, New South Wales, Australia.


Sgt. Charles Edward Church. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.2. Grave inscription reads: "IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR DEAR SON. ALWAYS IN OUR THOUGHTS. MUM AND DAD". Son of Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Church, of Hayes, Middlesex, England.

Flt Sgt. Stanley Wilson. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.7. Grave inscription reads: "AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER". Son of John and Nancy Wilson, of Stockport, Cheshire, England.

AC1. William John Lewis. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.1A. Son of Joseph and Annie Elizebeth Lewis, of Markham, Monmouthshire, Wales, husband of Pearl Christine Lewis.

AC1. Oliver Taylor. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.4. No further details, are you able to assist?

Fg Off. Frederick William Cawthorne. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.1A. No further details, are you able to assist?

Above: The parents grave at Alliston Union Cemetery, Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada

Flt Lt. Frederick Grant Jackson. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.1A. Born on the 2nd June 1918 in Hillandale, Ontario. Son of John Edgar and Esther (née Banting) Jackson, of Ballycroy, Ontario, Canada.

The family also lost his brother, Plt Off. Ross Banting Jackson J19031 RCAF who was killed on the 22nd October 1943 serving as an air gunner with 408 Sqn. See further details here.

Lt Col. Paul Evan Rodgers Dawson. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.3. Born on the 15th January 1907 in Brighton, Sussex. Son of William Rodgers and Frances Margaret (née Sykes) Dawson of Rousdon, Devon. Husband to Enid (née Pegge) Mason.

His brother Plt Off. Michael Anthony Rodgers Dawson 68858 RAFVR died on the 18th May 1942. He was serving with the Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) and died in the Gezira Sporting Club, Cairo, from a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head. He is buried in Heliopolis War Cemetery.

Lt Col. Robert Frank Courtney Weallens. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.6. Grave inscription reads: "I HAVE FOUGHT A GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED MY COURSE, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH". Son of Lt.Col. William Weallens, The Northamptonshire Regiment and of Helena Cicely Weallens (née West) of York Cottage, London Road, Camberley, Surrey, England.

Lt Col. Edward Ronald Pettit MC. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.2. Son of Colonel Hubert Ronald Pettit, D.L., J.P., and Isobel Margaret Pettit, J.P and husband of Margaret Godfrey Pettit, of Castle Weir, Lyonshall, Herefordshire, England.

The Military Cross (MC) was awarded to Captain (Temporary Major) Edward Ronald Pettit (44155), 9th Queen's Royal Lancers (attached to the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales's Dragoon Guards)), Royal Armoured Corps. London Gazette 6th February 1945

Maj. Ernest Hicks. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.7. No further details, are you able to assist?

Maj. Gerald Francis Keen. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.1. Grave inscription reads: "IN PROUD AND VERY PRECIOUS MEMORY OF OUR DARLING BOY. AU REVOIR, GERRY DEAR". Son of Wilfred George and Frances Keen, of Barford St. Martin, Wiltshire, England.

Above Maj. Thomas Atkinson Walton (Courtesy of Tony Stafford)

Maj. Thomas Atkinson Walton. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.5. Grave inscription reads: "TO LIVE IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE LEFT BEHIND IS NOT TO DIE". Son of Thomas and Ethel Agusta Walton and husband of Phyllis Mary Walton, of Duffield, Derbyshire. A.C.A.

Mr. Seth Drucquer. Buried or Commemorated at the Undivided India Cemetery, United Provinces. Born in the 3rd Qtr of 1911 in Willesden, Middlesex. Son of His Honour Judge Maurice Nathaniel Drucquer and Doris Marguerite (née Levy) Drucquer of Barons Court, London. (his mother predeceased in March 1916).

Researched for the family of Flt Lt. Frederick Grant Jackson, who also supplied some of the photographs. Dedicated to relatives of the crew and passengers. For further details our thanks to Colin Cummins author of 'Though Without Anger' - published by Nimbus ISBN: 978-0-9526619-6-2. With thanks to 'Closet Skeleton Genealogical Society'. Copyrighted Image of the family grave for the Jackson's, used with Permission. Thanks to Sqn Ldr. Mike Cowdrey RAF (retd) for the image of the Funeral and Squadron personnel. (His father R A Cowdrey 954947 served as a Wireless Operator on 353 Squadron at the time of the loss of FZ597). Thanks to Tony Stafford for the image of his uncle, Maj. Walton (Nov 2022). Update to Next of Kin details for Seth Drucquer (Aug 2023).

Other sources listed below:

RS 15.11.2022 - Addition of image for Maj. Walton and update of narrative

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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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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