05.11.1942 N0. 223 Squadron Baltimore III AG966 F/O. Bertram Arnold Kirkham
Operation: Army Co-operation
Date: 5 November 1942 (Thursday)
Unit: No. 223 Squadron Motto: "Alæ defendunt Africam" ("Wings defend Africa").
Badge: A lion statant. The squadron served in Kenya during the late 1930's and the lion in the badge commemorates this fact. Authority: King George VI, August 1937.
Type: Martin Baltimore III
Code: Not known
Base: Landing Ground 86, Bir Abo Ogos II, Egypt
Location: Daba Matruh Road near Maaten Baggush, Egypt
Pilot: F/O. Bertram Arnold Kirkham 116908 RAFVR 28 - Killed (1)
Obs: F/O. Donald Frederick Rowe Aus/402403 RAAF Age 23 - Killed (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Eldon Beatty (Skid) Skuce R/74182 RCAF Age 21 - Pow No. 7327 Camp: Stalag Lamsdorf-344 (3)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Canavan 1331767 RAFVR Age 20 - Killed (4)
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REASON FOR LOSS
Took off at 14:14 as part of a formation engaged on an operation to bomb retreating enemy motor transport at the road and rail crossing south of Maaten Baggush some 35 miles east of Mersa Matruh, Egypt. Intense and accurate heavy and light anti aircraft fire was encountered whilst approaching and over the target area. Whilst over the target, Baltimore AG966 and Baltimore AG941 were seen to collide.
Four members from the two crews were seen to bale out but it was not known from which aircraft. Three parachutes were seen to open and the fourth apparently failed to open. Both aircraft were seen to burst into flames upon hitting the ground. The aircraft are reported to have crashed at 3.15 p.m. about 200 yards from the left hand side of the Daba Matruh Road.
It was later reported that on 7 November 1942 four bodies were found by the First Armoured Division and these were buried at map reference 770326 (770826?) beside the spot where they were found i.e. 200 yards on left side of the Daba Matruh Road. It was reported that one body, identified by his identity disc was that of Sgt. R.H. Stevens, the Air Gunner of Baltimore AG941 and another, identified by his helmet was that of Pilot Officer Donald Rowe. The other two bodies were not identifiable.
On 23 January 1943 a Vatican broadcast announced that F/Sgt. Arthur John (Bill) Newman, the Pilot of Baltimore AG941 was a prisoner of war and this was confirmed by the Red Cross on 2 February 1943, adding that he was held in Italy. The Red Cross also reported on 4 April 1943 that he had been held at Camp PG 86 PM3450, a transit camp at Tuturano near Brindisi, since 24 November the previous year. On 31 December 1943 the Red Cross learned from German sources that he had been transferred to Stalag VIIIb (later renamed Stalag 344) Lamsdorf in Silesia and was PoW No. 33668.
Then in March 1943 it was learned by the Red Cross that Sgt. Eldon Beatty Skuce was also a prisoner of war. He too was later held at Stalag VIIIb and was PoW No. 7327
Also in March 1943 a letter from F/Sgt Newman stated that he was the only member of the crew of AG941 who managed to bale out and that the other three members had definitely been killed. On 28 February 1945 he was reported to have been liberated and was safe in the UK.
Eldon (Skid) Skuce was liberated from Stalag Kopernikus - 357 on 16 April 1945.
Newspaper cutting courtesy Mary Ann Carss
The question of the whereabouts of the remains of the dead crew members was the subject of more enquiry and much correspondence after which it was concluded that the remains of all six deceased members had been recovered from the graves near the crash. The remains of F/O. Donald Rowe as stated had been identified but it was later concluded that those of F/Sgt. Harold Paull Stanfield Annells, the Observer of Baltimore AG941 were identifiable by virtue of his identity disc. These two were interred in separate graves whilst it was concluded that the other four including Sgt Stevens were unidentifiable and therefore interred in a collective grave.
For details of the crew of Baltimore AG941 see www.aircrewremembered.com/newman-arthur.html
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/O. Bertram Arnold Kirkham was born on June 21, 1914, in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, Jamaica, the son of Bertram Kirkham and Edith Irene Tate Kirkham.
He had four sisters and one brother: Edith Magaret 1909, Winnifred Evelyn 1910, Bertam Audrey 1912, Marie Elaine 1917 and George Lawrence King Kirkham born 1919.
Canadian immigration records show that he arrived at Montreal Quebec on 5 August 1934.
Bertram Kirkham named his sister Marie Elaine Scammell of Abbey Lodge, 60 Lensford Road, St. Albans, Hertfordshire as his next of kin.
(2) F/O. Donald Frederick Rowe was born on 18 January 1919 at Kings Cross, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, the son of Frederick Schilling Rowe and Margaret May Rowe of 11 Hampden Road, Five Dock, Sydney. He was the husband of Daphne Rowe, nee Cumberland of "Del Monte" Kangaroo Point Road, Kangaroo Point, Sylvania, Sydney and later of Grandview Avenue, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Prior to enlisting in the RAAF he was a Bank Clerk. He enlisted on 9 August 1940 and embarked for the UK on 27 June 1941.In February 1944 he was promoted retrospectively with effect from 30 September 1942 to Flying Officer.
He is commemorated on the Drummoyne Roll of Honour, Sydney and the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Panel 129.
(3) W/O Eldon Beatty (Skid) Skuce was born on 14 August 1921 at Ottawa, Ontario, Canada the son of George Orval Skuce and Bessie Graham Skuce nee Beatty. He had four siblings, Daniel, Lloyd, Margaret and Kenya.
Educated at Britannia Consolidated School, Nepean High School and the Technical High School he was a well known athlete having played basketball, tennis and hockey for high school teams.
He enlisted in August 1940 and trained at Calgary and Dafoe, Saskatchewan where he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge. He embarked for the UK on his 20th birthday, 15 August 1941. He served in the Middle East from February 1942 and prior to being shot down and taken prisoner had made more than 40 flights over enemy territory. Whilst a prisoner of war he was promoted first to Flight Sergeant and later to Warrant Officer. He was liberated on 16 April 1945 and returned to the UK.
He returned to Canada where on 10 April 1948, he married Audrey Augusta Mary Kritsch. They went on to have 8 children.
Eldon Beatty (Skid) Skuce died on 1 September 1986 aged 65. His death notice in the Ottawa Citizen of 3 September 1986 read:
Skuce, Eldon B. (Skid). In hospital at Carleton Place, Ontario on Monday, September 1, 1986, age 65 years, beloved husband of Audrey Mary Kritsch. Dear father of Mark and Matthew, both of Calgary, Dean of Ottawa, Rosemary, Cecily and Pamela. Predeceased by Leslie and Baby Skuce. Son of Bessie Skuce and the late George Orval Skuce. Grandfather of Nathaniel and Megan. Brother of Lloyd, Vancouver, Daniel, Toronto and Margaret Johnston of Bala, Ontario. Retired RCAF and a prisoner of war, 1942. Friends may call at Hulse and Playfair, West Chapel, 1098 Byron Avenue (west of Woodroffe) Wednesday 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 pm. Funeral service at St. Stephen's Anglican Church, 930 Watson Avenue, Ottawa, Thursday 11 am. Interment Beechwood Cemetery. Donations may be sent to World Vision of Canada, P.O. Box 2500, Streetsville, Mississauga, Ontario.
On behalf of Aircrew Remembered, Roy Wilcock would like to thank Mary Ann Carss for the above biographical details and newspaper reports appertaining to her relative Eldon Beatty (Skid) Skuce.
(4) Sgt. James Canavan was born c1922 in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1942 his father lived at 18 Holmesdale Road, Highgate, London N6. James Canavan is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland.
BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS
F/O. Bertram Arnold Kirkham was reburied on 17 October 1943 at the El Alamein War Cemetery in Plot 3. Row C. Collective Grave 18-21 (1)
F/O. Donald Frederick Rowe was reburied on 27 March 1945 at the El Alamein War Cemetery in Plot A4. Row F. Grave 10 (2)
Lived to cheer other lives:
Died to save them.
Loved by all
Sgt. James Canavan was reburied on 17 October 1943 at the El Alamein War Cemetery in Plot 3. Row C. Collective Grave 18-21 (4)
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - September 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.