12/13th July 1942 40 Squadron Wellington IC HX373 Sq/Ldr. Steel
Date: 12/13th July 1942 (Sunday/Monday)
Unit: No. 40 Squadron (motto: Hostem acolo expellere - 'To drive the enemy from the sky') 238 Wing. 205 Group.
Type: Wellington IC
Base: LG 213. Kabrit, Egypt
Location: Qattara Depression, Egypt
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Freeman Jesse Steel NZ/391370 RNZAF Survived (Later DFC)
Pilot: F/O. Kenneth Randal Holmes NZ/411898 RNZAF Survived
Pilot: F/O. Donald Arthur Adams NZ/41859 RNZAF Survived (Later MiD)
Obs: P/O. R. Sharp RAFVR
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. A. Aldersey RAFVR
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. G. Herford RAFVR
Air/Gnr: P/O. E. Procter RAFVR
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off to bomb the harbour at Tobruk.
However, due to the compass becoming unserviceable they failed to find the target so attempted to return to Shaluta base.
When they finally ran out of fuel due to the compass issue that were forced to crash land the Wellington on the salt pans of the Qattara Depression - all the crew survived this incident.
Sq/Ldr. Steel and P/O. Adams left the remainder of the crew at the crash site to seek assistance. Wellington HX373 was spotted by a recbonnasaince aircraft and the crew rescued.
Sq/Ldr. Steel and P/O. Adams assisted by Arabs walked for three days before being spotted an an Arab encampment at El Magra.
A 40 Squadron Wellington landed in the desert and rescued the two New Zealanders.
Sq/Ldr. Freeman Jesse Steel Born on the 7th July 1918 at Masterton, Wairarapa. Joined the RNZAF on the 20th November 1939. After war ended became a founding member of the Civil Aviation Authority from which he retired in 1977. He passed away on Monday the 12th July 2004 in Wellington, aged 86
Note; The publication by David Gunby 'Sweeping The Skies' covers this incident and much more on 40 Squadron. ISBN 978-1858211909. Published by The Pentland Press 1995.
None - all survived this incident.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of crew with thanks to Tracey Michele Steel 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, other sources as quoted below: