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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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62 Squadron
09.08.1942 62 Squadron Hudson III AE523, Fg Off. Kenneth M. White

Operation: Akyab (Sittwe), Burma (Myanmar)

Date: 9th September 1942 (Tuesday)

Unit No: 62 Squadron, 225 Group, SE Asia Command

Type: Hudson III

Serial No: AE523

Code: PT:T

Location: Near Akyab (Sittwe), Burma (Myanmar)

Base: Calcutta, India

Pilot: Fg Off. Kenneth McKellar White 402686 RAAF Age 23. PoW */Died (1)

Observer: WO2. Albert Abraham 'Happy' Margolis R60404 Age 28. MiA

Wireless Operator: Sgt. Neil 'Mac’ McNeil 1108880 RAFVR Age 22. MiA

Air Gunner: Plt Off. George Oliver Maughan DFM 50662 RAF Age 22. MiA

* Burma #5 (Moulmein & Rangoon Jail)


The loss of the aircraft was described in a complete report written by Fg Off. White, the captain of WO2. Margolis’s crew, prior to his death in a Rangoon jail. The following is an extract from that letter:

‘Ever since I have been here I have had the desire to put some of my thoughts down on paper, and I am now going to endeavour to do this and the method I have decided on is to put it in the form of a letter.

Whether this letter will ever reach its destination or not has yet to be decided but as the writing of it will give me a lot of pleasure and help to pass away the seemingly endless days, I shall persevere. It will undoubtedly appear disjointed for I am often assailed with many and troublesome thoughts and in any case all thoughts when diagnosed are pretty disjointed, so I must ask you to bear with me and try to understand the ideas or expressions I am going to attempt to convey.

The first thing I wish to write about is quite apart from the rest of this letter and it is the circumstances in which I became a prisoner and the rest of my crew lost their lives. My reason for writing this is that in the event of my not surviving my present circumstances and this comes into your possession you may be able to trace their families and put their minds at rest as to their fate.

We were engaged on a bombing raid on Akyab [Sittwe] a port on the western coast of Burma about 200 miles south of the Indian Border and flying in formations of three at a height of approximately 2000 ft. There was quite a lot of clouds about and unexpectedly we flew into one of these and I became separated from the other two machines in the formation and when we got out of the cloud I saw them a short distance ahead of me and it was then that our troubles began. I opened the engines to catch up with the other planes but the port motor instead of increasing its speed started coughing and cutting and no matter what did it kept gradually dying away.

In the midst of this Mac's (McNeil) voice came through to me on the telephone saying that there were two fighters up above us and were closing into attack. Mac was in the rear gun turret and immediately following this I heard the crackle of Mac firing his guns. Mac never spoke again. I again opened the motors and the port engine by this time was more or less useless and started twisting and turning the plane in order to dodge the Jap fighters. One of them came belting down in a dive on my starboard side and pulled up underneath me and a burst of cannon fire from its guns rocked the plane from one side to the other. The starboard motor was hit and stopped dead and burst into flames. Other cannon shells burst inside the plane and in the matter of seconds the whole of the front of the plane was a mass of flames and a choking white smoke. The smoke was so dense and [it was] hard to breathe [and] that in order to see where we were going and also to breath I was forced to hang out of the window and at the same time to try and keep control over the plane which was a pretty difficult job.

Even had I wanted to control the plane by the instruments I could not as they also had been hit and in any case the smoke was so thick that it was impossible to see them. All this had happened in a matter of a very few seconds and all the time I could hear Mac firing his guns, altho[ugh], as I said, he never spoke again. As the Jap fighters continued to attack us and, by this time the plane was almost beyond control, and we were diving at the ground at a terrific speed. Immediately after we were first hit "Happy" (Margolis, the Observer) came rushing back from his position in the nose with blood streaming down his face, he had been hit by shrapnel and started combating the fire with extinguishers and kept fighting the flames in the terrific heat and choking smoke until we crashed and when I got his body out later he was still grasping a fire extinguisher in his hand. Simultaneously George (Maughan) who was operating the wireless immediately commenced a message to air base telling them of our plight and advising them of the rough position of where we would crash. One of the last things I remember was the sound of George transmitting continuous S.O.S. and then we crashed. My own part was a frantic endeavour to try and control the plane and as both motors had gone and the plane on fire I quickly realised that a crash was inevitable and my only chance was to try and make a crash landing. As I said the smoke in the plane was choking and blinding and all I could achieve was to poke my head out of the window, get a very rough idea where we were going I could not see very much even so, as I was nearly blinded by the smoke and then come back in and try and get the plane out of a dive it had got into.

On the last occasion, I looked out I caught a sudden glimpse of the ground rushing up to meet us and I just had time to get my head inside and shout through the telephone to the others to hang on and to make a last attempt to get the plane out of the dive, which was successful and we then hit the ground with a terrific crash and I remember no more. Events after this I cannot bring myself to write about, the result was that "Happy" and George were killed instantly and Mac died in my arms a couple of hours later. That I did not lose my life is nothing short of a miracle and although I was pretty badly cracked up I do not think that I have any permanent disability and am firmly of the conviction that it was not God's will for me to die then. Then and again later have I faced death and very narrowly escaped and I now know that my job in this world is not yet done and as I have in these times of peril and of course at other times resorted to prayers and these have been answered so whatever my ultimate fate is to be I know that it will be Hjs will and that He is with me.

As I said at the beginning of this somewhat long winded narrative my object in writing this story is that you may be able to inform their people and the story itself brings out how well they all did their job even when faced with death and how they actually gave their lives doing their duty. The three of them were the best friends any man could ever have and the fact that I, who the only one who could even attempt to avoid this catastrophe, should have been the only one to survive makes me feel responsible for their lives and wonder whether I did my part as well as they. My conscience is quite clear but nevertheless there are times when I wonder’.

(1) The circumstances leading to the death of Fg Off. White were determined by a British Military Court convened in Rangoon, Burma between the 3rd and 21st May 1946.

The following four members of the Imperial Japanese Army were before the court:

Capt. (Rikugun-tai-i) NAGAHARA Kenso who was the former Commanding Officer (CO) of Futo Buntai, Rangoon, Burma and also the CO of the Futo Buntai prison;

Capt. (Rikugun-tai-i) YAMAZAKI Kaname was the Medical Officer (MO) of the prison;

2nd Lt. (Rikugun-Shōi) YOKOTA Masao;

Cpl. (Rikugun-Jōtō-Hei) NODA Masami.

Note: the Japanese word Rikugun preceding a rank indicates that it relates to the army.All were also members of or attached to the Kempeitai who were the military police of the Imperial Japanese Army and functioned much like the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

On the first count all four accused were charged with committing a war crime in that between the 1st August 1943 and 1st April 1945, when members of staff of the New Law Courts Jail, Rangoon, Burma, were responsible for the well-being of the persons interned there, and in violation of the laws and usages of war, were together concerned as parties to the ill-treatment causing a physical suffering to PoWs interned there.

On the second count Capt. NAGAHARA, Capt. YAMAZAK and 2nd Lt. YOKOTA were also charged that between the 1st April 1943 and the 1st April 1944, they were concerned with the ill-treatment leading to the deaths of 1st Lt. Robert F. Angell, 2nd Lt. Royal D. Butterfield, 1st Lt. Joseph F. Zizlavsky, Fg Off. Kenneth E. Herbert and Fg Off. White.

Capt. NAGAHARA was in post at the Futo Buntai prison, also known as the New Law Courts Jail Annex, from 1st January 1945 and the 1st April 1945.

During the period they were in charge a number of American and British airmen were incarcerated in the Annex where they were kept in confinement under harsh and oppressive regulations without proper or adequate food, covering, sanitation facilities and medical attention.

On the first count Capt. NAGAHARA and 2nd Lt. YOKOTA were found guilty and sentenced to four and two years imprisonment respectively. Capt. YAMAZAKI was found not guilty.

On the second count all three of the accused were found not guilty.

Burial Details

It assumed that Fg Off. White was initially buried in the Rangoon Cantonment Cemetery. The remains for WO2. Margolis, Sgt. McNeil and Plt Off. Maughan were never found and they are remembered on the Singapore Memorial.

Above Grave marker for Fg Off. Kenneth M. White from his Service Record.

Fg Off. Kenneth McKellar White. Recovered and laid to rest at the Rangoon War Cemetery, Collective grave 6.E.1-6. Inscription: ‘DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI’. Born on the 29th January 1920 in Adelaide, South Australia. Son of Stanley McKellar White and Florence Amy White; husband of Liliane Yvonne White, of Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia.

Note: Inscription translation: "IT IS SWEET AND PROPER TO DIE FOR ONE'S COUNTRY."

Also remembered on the Roll of Honour Gordon Kuringai.

WO2. Albert Abraham 'Happy' Margolis. Singapore Memorial Colum 420. Born on the 29th July 1914 in Calgary, Alberta. Son of Benjamin Max and Tillie (née Rassack) Margolis of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Sgt. Neil 'Mac’ McNeil. Singapore Memorial Column 415. Born circa 1922 in Kinning Park, Glasgow. Son of Daniel and Mary McNeil, of Croftfoot, Glasgow, Scotland.

Also remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Scottish National War memorial

Plt Off. George Oliver Maughan DFM. Singapore Memorial Column 413. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Maughan, of Darlington, County Durham, England.

The DFM was awarded to 631605 Sgt. Maughan whilst with 102 Sqn. London Gazette 11th February 1941.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.

Other sources listed below:

RS & TV 03.10.2023 - Initial Upload

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