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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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453 Squadron Crest
28.08.1942 No. 453 Squasron Spitfire BM647 FU-D Sgt. Steele

Operation: Training

Date: 28th August 1942 (Friday)

Unit: No. 453 Squadron RAAF (motto: 'Ready to strike')

Type: Spitfire Vb

Serial: BM647

Code: FU-D

Base: RAF Drem, East Lothian, Scotland

Location: Spartleton Edge, Lammermuir Hills, East Lothian

Pilot: Sgt. David Hayward Steele AUS/416291 RAAF Age 20. Killed


Taking off at 14:45 hrs. with one other to carry out turns, dives and dog fights at 30,000 ft. Weather reported to be ground haze with visibility of 4,000 yards, clear sky with no clouds.

The other pilot detailed to take part in this operation had been 20 year old, Fl/Sgt. Colin Russell Leith AUS/411790 RAAF (born in Labasa, Fiji, but on enlistment of 6 Salisbury Road, Rose Bay, NSW, Australia). Later awarded the DFC and became an instructor. Worked for CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining Company) as an accountant before and after the war. Died in 2010 age 87 of cancer.

At 15:45 hrs the aircraft dived into the ground at high speed and from a great height. Reasons unknown. There was no evidence that any part of the aircraft failed and caused the accident, neither was evidence available that the pilot tried to bale out of the Spitfire.

At the investigation of the accident 12 witnesses submitted statements (available from us) as to work carried out on the aircraft prior to the flight. Of particular interest had been the work carried out on the oxygen system - despite it being found to be faulty on the day of the flight it was replaced and checked by another senior ground crew member, all working to required standard and form 700 signed off..

The weather report again described with favourable conditions. The cause of the accident was not established, very little remained of the aircraft following impact and subsequent explosion..

Above: Pilots of No. 453 Squadron RAAF, based at an RAF Station at Drem. L-R: Sq/Ldr. Francis Victor Morello 39256, Fl/Lt. Ronald Clyde Ford 403046, Sgt David Hayward Steele 416291 (lost on training exercise, Scotland on 28th August 1942), W/Cdr. John Richard Ratten 405111 (died of illness in the United Kingdom on 27 February 1945), Fl/Lt. Daniel Joseph Reid DFC 401666, P/O. Bennett Thomas Nossiter 403278 (lost on operations off the United Kingdom on 11 October 1942), F/O. Soliecki, Fl/Lt. Richard Joseph Darcey 408172 (accidentally killed over Manus Island on 6 October 1944). (Ranks shown were as at end of war - not at the time of this photograph)

Burial details:

Above: As described (courtesy Spidge)

Sgt. David Hayward Steele. Dirleton Cemetery. Sec. E. Grave 1036. Born on the 20th April 1933 at College Town, South Australia, the son of Robert Moore Steele and Florence Muriel Steele, of Heathpool, South Australia. A total of 89.45 hours dual flying with 167.20 hrs. solo. Trained on the Tiger Moth DH.60 and 80. Harvard II and III, Spitfire I, II and Vb. Grave inscription: "Pro Deo Et Patria". (For God and Country)

For further details our thanks the Australian Archives, Spidge and to the following sources.

KTY 08.09.2019

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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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