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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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461 Squadron Crest
12.08.1942 461 Squadron RAAF Sunderland T9090 UT-B Wg.Cdr. Halliday

Operation: Air Sea Rescue

Date: 12th August 1942 (Wednesday)

Unit: 461 Squadron RAAF

Type: Sunderland

Serial: T9090

Code: UT-B

Base: RAF Mount Batten, Devon

Location: North Atlantic Ocean off Brest

Pilot: Wg.Cdr. Neville Anthony Roy Halliday 26200 RAF Age 30. Missing - believed killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. John Wright 962564 RAFVR Age 26. Missing - believed killed

Nav: Fg.Off. Roger Phillip Barker 402483 RAAF Age 22. Missing - believed killed

Air/Bmr: Plt.Off. David Laurenti 407749 RAAF Age 25. Missing - believed killed

Sgt. William Alfred Ramsey 416064 RAAF Age 20. Missing - believed killed

Sgt. Charles Leonard Unsworth 405088 RAAF Age 26. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fg.Off. John Herbert Ferrier Watson 402193 Age 22. Survived

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Fletcher 647612 RAF Age 21. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles George Bentley 401361 Age 26. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Turner 624304 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Thomas Alfred Betts 550720 RAFVR Age 22. Missing - believed killed

(Crew positions not confirmed)


Wellington VIII BB503 WN-D Flown by Fg.Off. Allan William Russell Triggs, 400500, RAAF was over the North Atlantic when at 03:55 hrs, the tail gunner noticed excessive sparks coming from one of the engines. At the same time the starboard engine oil pressure dropped and the aircraft started losing height. The pilot had no option but to ditch the aircraft - which he did successfully at position shown on the map below.

The entire crew escaped injury and and settled on a wing. The pilot pulled the dinghy from its stowage area and inflated it which the six crew then climbed in: Plt.Off. Colin Badham, 403467 RAAF, Plt.Off. J.C. Devonshire J/7989 RCAF, Flt.Sgt. R.P. McLean, 966872 RAFVR, Flt.Sgt. A.S. Cartwright, 971501 RAFVR, Sgt. N.P. Walker, 13762396 RAFVR.

(Left: Courtesy of François Dutil) Photograph of Plt.Off. Devonshire, J/7989 RCAF, taken on the 28th September 1942.

They had reported their position and informed their base of the planned ditching. Sunderland T9090 on an anti-submarine patrol was directed to the area and that crew carried out a CLA (Creeping Line Ahead search pattern)

Finally at 19:15 hrs the tail gunner from the Sutherland reported seeing a Verey signal some two miles to starboard. Two dinghies were located and the wind surface was estimated to be 290/26 knots. The pilot flew away from the dinghies in order to jettison the depth charges they were still carrying and also to jettison some fuel. At 19:45 hrs the Sunderland carried out a first class approach but then hit the top of a wave breaking the step and bounced and hitting two more waves prior to coming to a halt.

As the aircraft stopped another wave hit the aircraft breaking the starboard outer engine propeller and the port float - the aircraft rapidly filled with water. According to sole survivor Wg.Cdr. Halliday and for others escaped the aircraft in a dinghy, Plt.Off. Laurenti and Fg.Off. Watson on the main float, Fg.Off. Barker, Sgt. Ramsey and Flt.Sgt. Betts were in the water. The dinghy developed a leak and deflated putting those five in the sea. All the crew then tried to swim to another dinghy some 100 metres away - Fg.Off. Watson was the only member to make it and after collapsing in it, he fell asleep waking up after dark.

Above: Left: Fg.Off. Roger Phillip Barker with right: L-R: Flt.Sgt. George Mallaby 402902 RAAF (see note), Fg.Off. Roger Phillip Barker, Jock Richie and Geoff Hall outside the Fish Hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel.

He drifted for a few days with several aircraft flying over not seeing his plight. He then noticed the other dinghy with the crew of the Wellington inside but failed to attract their attention.

During his time in the dinghy he witnessed a Whitley searching for the crews coming down in the sea. Whitley V Z9300 from 10 Operational Training Unit suffered engine failure in the port engine and were forced to ditch on the 13th August 1942 at 16:10 hrs. Sgt. F. Boyd, Sgt. W.G. Wishart, Sgt. T. Parker, Sgt. R.F. Crouch and Sgt. A.J. Hendry on a 7.5 hour air sea rescue patrol took to their dinghy - all the crew safely picked up some 3 days later by a Royal Navy destroyer.

The Giant Plane That Wrecked U-boats (Courtesy DarkSkies via YouTube)

On the 16th August at 18:00 hrs he finally made contact with the Wellington crew and they tied their dinghies together. They were then sighted by Beaufighters who guided an ASR Hudson to their position - on the 17th August they were picked up by boat and taken to Newlyn in Cornwall, England.

Note: Fg.Off. John Herbert Ferrier Watson of Langley Woodhurst Park, Surrey, England, later married Mrs. Marion Helen Leitch (née Lobban) in 1947 at St. Stephen's Church, Macquarie Street, Sydney, Australia - widow of Fg.Off. James Westwood Leitch DFC 409060 RAAF of 7 Sqn. Fg.Off. Leitch was lost on an operation to Leipzig on the 20/21st October 1943 on Lancaster III JA907 MG-U.

Note: 20 year old Plt.Off. George Gilmour Mallaby was one of 7 crew missing - believed killed on the 15th July 1942 on a 159 Squadron Liberator II AL566 on an operation to Benghazi. Commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Column 265.

Burial details:

Wg.Cdr. Neville Anthony Roy Halliday. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 64. Commanding Officer of the Squadron since May 1942. Son of Lionel Edward and Constance M. T. Halliday, of Liphook, Hampshire, England.

Sgt. John Wright. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 97. Son of Alice Wright, of Bournemouth, Hampshire, England.

Fg.Off. Roger Phillip Barker. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 109. Born on the 05th February 1920 at Hunters Hill, New South Wales, the son of Edwin Roy and Meta Beatrice Barker, of South Yarra, Victoria, Australia.

Plt.Off. David Laurenti. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 110. Born on the 17th January 1917 at Mount Gambier, the son of Hubert Rundle Laurenti and Muriel Laurenti, of Brighton, South Australia.

Sgt. William Alfred Ramsey. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 113. Born on the 15th June 1922 at Norwood, South Australia, the son of Alfred Mercer Ramsey and Florence Lily Ramsey, of McLaren Vale, South Australia.

Sgt. Charles Leonard Unsworth. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 113. Born on the 27th November 1915 at Brisbane, Queensland, the son of Leonard and Elizabeth Florence Unsworth; husband of Annie Mavis Unsworth, of Lytton, Queensland, Australia.

Sgt. Ronald Fletcher. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 83. Son of Henry William and Edith Beatrice Fletcher, of Llwynypia, Glamorgan, Wales.

Sgt. Charles George Bentley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 111. Born on the 09th December 1915 at South Melbourne, Victoria, the son of Charles John and Emily Olive Bentley and husband of Mary Theresa Bentley, of West Richmond, Victoria, Australia.

Sgt. George Turner. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 95. Son of John James Turner and Hannah Turner, Stakeford, Choppinton, Northumberland, England.

Flt.Sgt. Thomas Alfred Betts. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 73. Son of William and Clara Betts and husband of Mary Gertrude Betts, of Hilgay, Norfolk, England.

We are indebted to Ross McNeill the leading researcher for Coastal Command Losses and others, to the Australian National Archives, for their tremendous input into this page of remembrance. It has been researched for Sally Gaunt and the family of Fg.Off. Roger Phillip Barker. Dedicated to the relatives of all those missing - believed killed. Thanks to François Dutil for the photograph of Plt.Off. Devonshire.

RS 10.02.2020 - Inclusion of Plt.Off. Devonshire photograph

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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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