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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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25th December 1941 67 Squadron Buffalo I W8248 Sgt. Hewitt

Operation: Interception

Date: 25th December 1941 (Thursday - Christmas Day)

Unit: No. 67 Squadron (motto: 'No odds too great'). 221 Group

Type: Buffalo I (339E)

Serial: W8248

Code: RD-?

Base: Mingaladon Airfield

Location: Mingaladon area, Burma

Pilot: Sgt. Edward Bertram Hewitt NZ/405269 RNZAF Age 19. Killed


On the 23rd and 25th December 1941, the Japanese Empire attacked Rangoon for the first time. Over 80 Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-21 bombers escorted by 30 Nakajima fighter planes flew from bases in Thailand and Indochina. They were confronted at 12,000 feet by the 'Flying Tigers' of US Army Col. Claire Lee Chennault (shown right) but managed to destroy much of the docks and kill hundreds of people. Tomahawk and Buffaloes planes of the Royal Air Force and the American 'Flying Tigers' attempted to incept the Japanese invasion force with only limited success.

The air strength of the 67 Squadron was sixteen obsolescent Brewster Buffalo fighters with a further 16 in reserve. They were supported by twenty Curtis P.40 Tomahawks of the 3rd Squadron American Volunteer Group 'The Flying Tigers'.

Sgt. Hewitt took off in the late afternoon to intercept the far superior Japanese Zeros and Nakajima Ki-27's, 60 of which were approaching Mingaladan airfield. He was flying in green section along with 19 year old, Sgt. McNabb NZ/404393 flying Buffalo W8206 and 23 year old, Fl/Lt. Lambert 40924 of the RAF, flying Buffalo W8220. Red section with 25 year old, Sgt. Macpherson NZ/41486 flying Buffalo AN216 accompanied them.

All four pilots were shot down and killed within minutes by Japanese Nakajima Ki-27 fighter aircraft nicknamed 'Nates'.

The Japanese used high explosive and incendiary bombs over and the entire downtown from Pazundaung to Ahlone, destroying most of all the wooden buildings in the area. Rangoon's docks, oil refinery and Mingaladon airfield were utterly destroyed, but much of the city itself was spared, unlike Mandalay which by May would be left a blackened ruin.

An estimated 2,000 civilians were believed killed, including many women and children and many more injured (out of a total population of around 400,000).

Burial and personal details of these 4 pilots:

The bodies of Sgt. Edward Hewitt and Sgt. John Macpherson were recovered and buried at the Mingaladon Cantonment Cemetery. However it proved impossible for the CWGC to maintain their graves which is why they are listed on the Taukkyan Memorial, along with 44 others.

Sgt. Edward Bertram Hewitt. Taukkyan Memorial, Mingaladon. Born on the 11th September 1922 at Opotiki. A student at H and S Bower's Engineering School in Auckland prior to service. Enlisted at Levin on the 22nd December 1940. Trained at Ground Training School, Levin , No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School and No. 6 Service Flying Training School. Awarded his pilots badge on the 05th May 1941 and promoted to sergeant on the 14th June 1941. Embarked for Singapore on the 02nd July 1941 and arrived 04th August 1941. Embarked with 67 squadron to Burma between 09th and 13th October 1941. Son of Gordon and Kathleen Iberia Hewitt (nee Nielsen), of Waimana, Auckland, New Zealand.

Sgt. Ronald Percy McNabb. Singapore Memorial. Column 411. Born on the 23rd May 1922 in Wellington. Worked as a garage assistant for W.C. Smith at Hunterville prior to service. Enlisted on the 24th November 1940 at Levin. Trained at Ground Training School, Levin , No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School and No. 6 Service Flying Training School. Injured on a practice landing accident on the 24th February 1941 and hospitalised/sick leave until the 23rd May 1941. Awarded his pilots badge and promoted to sergeant on the the 05th April 1941. Embarked for Singapore on the 22nd July 1941. Embarked with 67 squadron to Burma between 09th and 13th October 1941. Only son of Charles Percy McNabb (died 28th September 1978 age 78) and Maude Alexandra Ena McNabb (died 27th June 1982 age 80 - nee Sloss) and brother of June Maud.

Above: Macpherson family grave - courtesy Daisy, used with permission

Sgt. John Macpherson. Taukkyan Memorial, Mingaladon. Also remembered on his family grave at the Kelvin Grove Cemetery in Palmerston North (shown above). Born on the 21st January 1916 at Stanton. Worked as a survey chairman for Lands an Survey Department at Wellington prior to service. A member of the Middle District Aero Club and trained as a pilot. Enlisted on the 20th January 1941 at Levin. Trained at Ground Training School, Levin , No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School and No. 6 Service Flying Training School. Awarded his pilots badge and promoted to sergeant on the the 05th July 1941. Embarked for Singapore on the 22nd July 1941. Joined 67 squadron on the 15th August 1941. Embarked with 67 squadron to Burma between 09th and 13th October 1941. Son of Duncan (died 11th October 1954) and Isabella Ormond Macpherson (died 28th June1941, age 67), of Palmerston North, Wellington, New Zealand

Sgt. John Edward Lambert. Rangoon War Cemetery. 4. A. 11. Son of Edward William and Agnes Mary Lambert, of Kensington, London. Grave inscription: 'There Was Joy In His Laughter, Courage In All His Deeds'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Sonia Edwards 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, RAF Commands Forum, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 03-08-2021

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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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