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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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1839 Squadron Crest
24.01.1945 No. 1839 Squadron Hellcat II JX757 Lt. Haberfield

Operation: 'Meridian 1'

Date: 24th January 1945 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 1839 Squadron. Fleet Air Arm

Type: Grumman Hellcat II

Serial: JX757

Code: -

Base: HMS Indomitable

Location: Near Lake Ranau, Sumatra

Pilot: Lt. John Kerle Tipaho Haberfield RNZNVR Age 25. Missing (1)


Taking off shortly after 06:15 hrs as middle cover on the strike against the Pladjoe oil refinery at Palemang.

Hiss aircraft was hit and damaged by flak or enemy fighter over the target.

The New Zealand pilot managed to nurse his aircraft towards the south coast and was last seen going down near Lake Ramau. The lake was a prearranged area for an air-sea rescue Walrus to call some days later to pick up and crew who came down on the raids of Sumatra.

The Walrus did indeed land on the Lake on the 29th January, but no survivors were found.

(1) Lt. Haberfield with at least eight others were picked up by the Japanese and then sent to Singapore Outram Road jail.

Records show that they were then taken on or about the 31st July 1945 (some sources state that it was on or about the 15th August - after VJ day!) by lorry to a beach at the northernmost end of Changi and beheaded. Their weighted bodies placed in a boat and then taken out to sea for burial.

At the end of the war the allies investigated the reports of the murder and two senior Japanese officers sought and traced.

There was no trial before the execution of the prisoners. The two Japanese particularly concerned were Captain Toshio Kataoka, who was the senior officer, and a Captain Ikeda. Both men committed suicide on the 26th December 1945..

Kataoka, in a will made before his suicide, said:

'We took nine prisoners from Outram Road in a lorry to the beach at the northernmost end of Changi and executed them with Japanese swords. The bodies were put in a boat prepared beforehand and sunk in the sea with weights attached. Now that the responsibility must be borne out publicly, I hereby pay for my deeds with suicide'.

In January 2015 RNAS Culdross marked the 70th Anniversary of one of the most important actions of their distinguished history. The following is an extract from that day (courtesy Royal Navy):

In January 1945 as the Allies closed in on Japan, Naval aircraft from the British Pacific Fleet launched raids on the Japanese held oil refineries at Palembang in Sumatra, part of what is now modern day Indonesia.

The strikes on Palembang code-named Operation Meridian were the largest operations the Fleet Air Arm has ever been involved in as a stand-alone force and are estimated to have destroyed as much as two thirds of Japan’s supply of aviation fuel.

The attacks took place from four Aircraft Carriers, HMS Indomitable, Victorious, Illustrious and Indefatigable.

Avenger bombers of 820, 849, 854 and 857 Naval Air Squadrons, each armed with four 500 lb. bombs, attacked the refineries.

This strike force was escorted by Corsair and Hellcat fighters, whilst Fairey Firefly aircraft would dual role as escort fighters and an additional strike element with 60 lb. rockets.

Additional Corsairs conducted ‘Ramrods’ – offensive fighter sweeps – ahead of the force over the Japanese airfields within range of the attacks.

A secondary raid was also planned against the coastal town of Mana and, with Hellcats flying photo reconnaissance and two Walrus amphibious aircraft on standby for Search and Rescue of downed aircrews.

The total strike force totalled a staggering 244 Royal Naval aircraft.

The cost was high - 41 aircraft were lost (16 to enemy action, 11 ditched and 14 deck crashes with 34 aircrew killed) in training for and carrying out the attacks.

The air group also accounted for 140 enemy aircraft, plus a large oil tanker and several merchant ships.

Of the two refineries attacked one’s output was halved for three months and its oil storage facility destroyed, the other refinery was stopped completely.

The effect of the shortages on the fighting in Burma, the Philippines, China and Okinawa are incalculable, but it is probable that the strikes were the British Pacific Fleet’s greatest contribution to the ultimate victory of World War Two.

Commander Jason Phillips, who is in charge of flying at RNAS Culdrose, believes the strikes from the British Aircraft Carriers played a crucial role in the war against Japan in the Far East.


Lt. John Kerle Tipaho Haberfield. New Zealand Naval Memorial, Devonport, Auckland. Panel 8. Born on the 25th November 1919 at Greenhills, the son of William Isaac and Frances Mercy Haberfield (formerly Spencer, née Bailey), of Greenhills, Southland. New Zealand. A Fireman prior to enlisting in the RN/FAA on the 28th August 1941.

He is commemorated on the New Zealand Naval Memorial, Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand Panel 8.

The other eight:

Lt. Evan John Baxter. Pilot. RNZNVR. 1839 Squadron. Age 23. HMS. Illustrious. Flying Corsair JT578.

Born on the 28th September 1921 at Auckland, the son of Joseph John and May Suter Baxter (née Evans), of Ellerslie, Auckland, New Zealand. Prior to enlisting in the RNZN on the 01st October 1941 he worked as a clerk for John W. Andrews Motor Dealers.

He is commemorated on the New Zealand Naval Memorial, Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand Panel 8.

Sub/Lt. Reginald James Anthony Shaw. Pilot. 1833 Squadron. RNVR. Age 23 HMS. Illustrious. Flying Corsair.

Born on 8 May 1922 at Lambeth London the son of Lionel John Robert Shaw ( an Insurance Agent) and Edith Edna Shaw nee Alford. He had one sibling: Dennis J. G. Shaw born 1923. In 1939 the family lived at 43 Crown Dale, Lambeth. Prior to joining the RNVR Reginald Shaw was a Junior Commercial Clerk.

He is commemorated on the Lee-On-Solent Memorial. Bay 6. Panel 5.

Lt. Kenneth Morgan Burrenston. Aircrew. 849 Squadron. RNVR. HMS. Victorious. Grumman Avenger.

Born 1921 at Cardiff, Wales the son of Ernest Burrenston (a Civil Servant - Ministry of Health Audit Dept) and Mary Maria Burrenston nee Thomas. He had one sibling: Mary E. Burrenston born 1923. In 1939 the family lived at 17 Laytonia Avenue, Cardiff.

He is commemorated on the Lee-On-Solent Memorial. Bay 6. Panel 2.

Sub/Lt. John Robert Burns. Aircrew. 849 Squadron. RNVR. Age 23. HMS. Victorious. Grumman Avenger.

Born in 1922 at Neath, Glamorgan, Wales the son of John Burns (a Plumber) and Olive Burns nee Aston. He had one sibling: David J. A. Burns born 1920. In 1939 the family lived at 24 Margam Road, Port Talbot, Glamorgan

He is commemorated on the Lee-On-Solent Memorial. Bay 6. Panel 3.

Sub/Lt. Donald Vivian Roebuck. Observer. 849 Squadron. RNVR. Age 23. RNVR. HMS. Victorious. Grumman Avenger.

Born in 1921 at Halifax the only child of Frank Roebuck (a Hotel Manager) and Doris Mildred Roebuck nee Fletcher of Grenoside Yorkshire. In 1939 the family lived at The Rose and Crown Hotel in Penistone

In 1943 Donald Roebuck married Constance Mary Brown at Penistone, West Riding of Yorkshire. Their daughter Vivienne F.L. Roebuck was born the following year.

He is commemorated on the Lee-On-Solent Memorial. Bay 6. Panel 4.

Sub/Lt. William Edwin Lintern. Observer. 849 Squadron. RNVR. HMS. Victorious. Grumman Avenger.

Born on 13 November 1920 at Axbridge, Somerset the son of Walter Edwin Lintern (an Inn Keeper) and Adelaid M. Lintern nee Bellringer. He had two siblings: Audrey V. M. Lntern born 1927 and Brian P. R. Lintern born 1930In 1939 the family lived at East Lambrook, Langport. Prior to joining the RNVR William Lintern was a Clerk

He is commemorated on the war memorial at at St Martin's Parish Church, Kingsbury Episcopi, Somerset and the Lee-On-Solent Memorial. Bay 6. Panel 4.

Petty Officer Airman Ivor Barker FAA/FX. 86731 RN. Air Gunner. 849 Squadron. RN. Age 23. HMS. Victorious. Grumman Avenger.

Born in 1924 at Eckington Derbyshire the son of Henry Barker (a Clerk - Public Works) and Minnie Barker nee Bolam of Gleadless, Sheffield West Riding of Yorkshire. He had seven siblings Henry Hodgson Barker born 1909, Leslie Barker born 1910 Marjorie Barker born 1913, Stanley E. Barker born 1916, Gwenyth Barker born 1919, Maurice S. Barker born 1922 and Frank G. Barker born 1928. In 1939 the family lived at 510 Ridgway Road, Gleadless Sheffield.

He is commemorated on the Gleadless, Hollinsend and Intake War Memorial, Sheffield and the Lee-On-Solent Memorial. Bay 6. Panel 1.

Petty Officer Airman William James Smith (Jim) McRae FAA/FX. 96155 RN. Air Gunner. 849 Squadron RN. Age 21. HMS. Victorious. Grumman Avenger.

Born in 1924 at Echt, Aberdeenshire, Scotland age 21 son of William McRae and Barbara Jeannie Mcrae nee Smith

In 1944 he married Joyce Mavis Reed at York. Their son Ian J. McRae was born later the same year.

He is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland and the Lee-On-Solent Memorial. Bay 6. Panel 1.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, the Royal Navy, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 19.01.2020

RW 22.01.2020 Further biographical details added

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