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KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945

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10 years 4 weeks ago #526 by MartinB
MartinB replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Hi Matt

"...and the nose art was of a cartoonish bird holding a bomb"

I have some nose art photos, one of which is an insect-alike holding a machine gun and a bomb, the other is definitely a cartoon-ish bird holding a bomb.

They're both on 99 Libs in the Cocos. If you check out Crew 12 on my website, Cocos Islands bit, you'll see what I mean.

Not entirely sure that this is terribly helpful...:rolleyes::rolleyes:

MartinB

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10 years 4 weeks ago #527 by Gary
Gary replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
I like to be thorough so I thought I'd give you both squadrons, honest :rolleyes:

Summary of Events
17th May: On the 17th May nine of our aircraft were detailed to bomb Port Blair (bomb load 6000 lbs). All aircraft took off and set course on time. The target was reached and a dummy run made to ascertain what shipping was in the harbour. No ships of significant size worth bombing were sighted. The weather forced aircraft down and bombing had to be carried out from approximately 2000 ft. Flak was heavy and accurate - most aircraft being hit. One aircraft was seen to be hit on its dummy run. Smoke was pouring out of number two engine.

This aircraft was seen to turn around, bomb the target and then gradually lose height until it crashed in to the ground. One person was seen to bale out. This was aircraft

'Yea, Though I Fly Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Shall Fear No Evil. For I am at 50,000 Feet and Climbing.'

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10 years 4 weeks ago #528 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Gary,

I can't thank you enough for both the 355 and 356 Sqn ORB excerpts - just what I was looking for. Your thoroughness is greatly appreciated. I was hoping that the ORB would get just a little more specific on the crash site, but I guess this was left to the official Circumstantial Report on the loss of KH250; a Circ. Report was written by the squadron as the first official summary document of details known at the time. Basic info, usually a lat/long which could be general, or it could be specific. These documents varied tremendously, depending on known evidence. Since KH250 was lost in a daylight op, the Circ. Report might contain a bit more. Almost certainly the Air Historical Branch has access to this, and the Totham family is awaiting the AHB's reply to their request for info.

MARTIN -- thanks for the heads-up on the other images. Will check them out soon. I think I know the insect-with-machine gun image; it is in the Oughton book, but I have a vague recollection of it being the wrong serial identity. Will check on that soon. And when I check out your "cartoonish bird holding a bomb", I'll soon know if it is the same artwork as applied to KH250...which did include the word HAWKEYE in all-caps.

Cheers for now,

Matt

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10 years 3 weeks ago #538 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
Peter Caldwell told me that the copies he held of the actual ORB pages were given to Duxford in the last two weeks, so my timing is slightly off here. So I still don't know if the 355 Sqn Appendices hold a Sortie Report which would give more details.

If any of our curious gang (curious about history, that is) is headed to Kew and would not mind peeking at the ORB for this 17 May 1945 Appendix info, I'd be most grateful. Peter has a hunch that there is no additional info.

Matt

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10 years 3 weeks ago #539 by Gary
Gary replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
That's a bugger, I had offered to pay to have them shipped to NZ instead of given to Duxford where they won't see light of day again. Mike's records were pretty good to be honest though.
Gary

'Yea, Though I Fly Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Shall Fear No Evil. For I am at 50,000 Feet and Climbing.'

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9 years 6 months ago #810 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: KH250 H, lost on Port Blair op, 355 Sqn, 17 May 1945
An update on the KH250 investigation...

It took about three months, but the kin of skipper Rowland Totham did receive a very revealing summary report from the MoD Air Historical Branch. The Lib did, indeed, crash on land...actually, in the tidal marsh at the head of a creek across the harbor from the main port. The Japanese retrieved remains from the wreck, but not immediately. The timeframe of "not immediately" was not given, though. The remains were buried near a named village at that time.

Then, when the British reoccupied the Port Blair area in early Oct 1945, they were taken to this gravesite, and they actually marked it with a stone and a plaque.

And then not only did the British abandon the graves (the remains were never exhumed; the men are still officially missing!!), but they failed to notify the next-of-kin that there was a communal grave. This is another case of neglect...and it happened on a number of Liberator wrecks in this theater that I've investigated, where human remains were buried, and found by the British, but abandoned, never to be exhumed and reinterred in a war cemetery.

What is baffling is the fact that the remains of Sgt Wynne, the KH250 air gunner who baled out and was captured, and who died in Japanese hands on S. Andaman Island, were exhumed at some point and moved to Kirkee War Cemetery in Pune, India. I'd guess that the KH250 communal crew grave was no more than five miles from Wynne's gravesite. It's just bleedin' negligence...collecting one grave for reburial and forgetting the others.

Thankfully, the AHB did reveal the truth when the family of Rowland Totham asked. Whether the gravesite can be rediscovered is the new mystery. The burial site is in an area originally settled by Muslim convicts brought to the famous (that is, notorious, for its abuses) Cellular Jail in Port Blair and then released. There aren't very many buildings there. It was hit by the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, so most likely the gravesite was swamped at that time. It would not have felt the full brunt of the tsunami, being inside a port and up a meandering creek. Hopefully the flooding was not too severe at this specific location, though the S. Andaman Island area did get hit hard, with permanent subsidence resulting from the massive quake which triggered the tsunami. I'm hoping that the gravesite isn't permanently under water now...

The editor of one of the local newspapers, to whom I wrote, has pledged his assistance. He is going out to the village on Saturday to meet with Muslim elders and to discuss this case. Certainly if there are any seniors in the village still, there is a good chance that they will remember the crash of the Liberator and maybe the initial retrieval and burial of the crew. But will the grave be found??? Stay tuned... It's a long shot, but...

Cheers,

Matt

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