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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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485 Squadron crest
09.01.1942 No. 458 Squadron Wellington IV R1785 F/O. Hickey

Operation: Cherbourg

Date: 09th January 1942 (Friday)

Unit: No. 458 Squadron RAAF

Type: Wellington IV

Serial: R1785

Code: FU-?

Base: RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor

Location: Golleville, Normandy

Pilot: F/O. Bernard Peter Hickey AUS/404431 RAAF Age 28. Killed

Pilot: Sgt. Victor William Johnstone AUS/400716 RAAF Age 24. Killed

Obs: P/O. Robert Birnie NZ/403773 RNZAF Age 24. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Albert Sydney Austin 1159702 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Wallace Forgan AUS/407639 RAAF Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Fred Hinton 752964 RAFVR Age 24. Killed


Taking off at 04:35 hrs on the morning of the 09th January 1942 to attack target at Cherbourg - 31 aircraft taking part of these, 4 were lost, the others as described below:

12 Squadron Wellington II W5356 Flown by 20 year old, Sgt. Douglas Butterworth 1061600 RAFVR killed with 2 other crew on return, 3 others injured with one of these, P/O. Wilfred Henry Burnham NZ/404478 RNZAF succumbing to his injuries 2 days later.

61 Squadron Wellington I R5789 Flown by 23 year old P/O. Douglas Spencer Matthews DFM 45522 RAF killed with his co-pilot - the remainder bailed out safely.

458 Squadron Wellington IV Z1312 Flown by 23 year old Sgt. Herbert Reginald Garland AUS/404456 RAAF seriously injured along with his co-pilot 26 year old, Sgt. Ian Thomas Higlett AUS/404454 RAAF - the remaining 4 Australian crew members killed.

Above the crew L-R: Sgt. Fred Hinton, P/O. Robert Birnie, F/O. Bernard Hickey, Sgt. Albert Austin, Sgt. Victor Johnstone and Sgt. William Forgan.

It is thought that Wellington R1785 was hit by flak and crashed at location shown at 07:23 hrs - killing all the crew.

It wasn't until March 1946 that the team of section 4 of the No. 1 MREU led by Sq/Ldr. J.E. Foster identified where the crew were buried and that the family could find some form of closure.

Webmaster note: We understand that a memorial has since been placed to this crew in 2008 - rather than use images from other websites we would appreciate further details of this and any supporting original photographs - credits placed of course.

In November 2018 Mr. Robert Forgan (nephew of Sgt. William Forgan) contacted us and sent the above series of photographs.

Note: On the 22/23rd October 1941, three of this crew (F/O. Bernard Hickey, P/O. Robert Birnie, Sgt. Albert Austin) had a lucky escape. During an operation to Le Havre on Wellington IV R1765 when they were hit by flak. On the return flight damage to the engine and ailerons made the aircraft uncontrollable. The pilot, Fl/Lt J.A.H. Sargeaunt, had no option but to order the crew to abandon the aircraft. 5 complied and landed in the area of Aldershot in Hampshire, England. The rear gunner remained in the aircraft - possibly due to intercom failure or was killed by the flak. 21 year old, Sgt. Raymond John Hobbs 645079 RAF was buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery (details shown below) Another member of this crew 24 year old Fl/Sgt. Morris William Shapir AUS/400357 RAAF (shown right) was later listed as missing believed killed on the 15th August 1942 (details shown below)

Burial details:

F/O. Bernard Peter Hickey. Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery. Plot 6. Row C. Grave 3. Son of Patrick John and Marcella Hickey, of York Hotel, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Sgt. Victor William Johnstone. Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery. Plot 6. Row C. Grave 4. Son of John and Elizabeth Ann Johnstone, of Lockington, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Loved Son Of Mr. and Mrs. J. Johnstone Of Lockington, Victoria".

P/O. Robert Birnie. Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery. Plot 6. Row C. Joint grave 1-2. Son of George and Irene Birnie, of Murray's Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.

Sgt. Albert Sydney Austin. Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery. Plot 6. Row C. Joint grave 1-2. Thought to be from Birmingham, England. If you are able to assist with any further information please contact us.

Sgt. William Wallace Forgan. Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery. Plot 6. Row C. Grave 6. Son of William Wilson Forgan and Esther Mabel Forgan, of Crystal Brook, South Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This That He Lay Down His Life".

Sgt. Fred Hinton. Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery. Plot 6. Row C. Grave 5. Understood to be from the Leicester area, England. If you are able to assist with any further information please contact us.


Sgt. Raymond John Hobbs. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 21.A.12. Son of John and Minnie Hobbs, of Merton Park and husband of Mary Monica Hobbs, of Merton Park, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: "At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Him".

Fl/Sgt. Morris William Shapir. Alamein Memorial. Column 265. Born on the 09th September 1917 at Melbourne, the son of Eleazer and Rosetta Blanche Shapir, of 37 Almond Street, Caulfield, Victoria, Australia.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, also to Robert Forgan who contacted us in November 2018, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 04.09.2018

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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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