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No. 99 Sqn RAF

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3 years 1 month ago #4834 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: No. 99 Sqn RAF
I noticed that Jasek posted a photo of W.T. Watson on his Facebook page. I can\'t seem to post it here for some reason.

Here are even more goodies served up on a silver platter for you, from various documents and a book:

Collision between KG974 and KH254
(both of RAF 99 Squadron)
21 January 1945

Liberator KG974:

1378229 W/O Sayer, Percy Norman (age unk) Pilot
1623984 F/Sgt Ireton, Michael Victor, 21 2nd pilot
1490462 F/Sgt Haile, Philip Bellerby, 22 Bomb aimer
RAAF 424665 F/O Woolford, Colin Leonard, 28 Navigator
1602975 F/Sgt Burrows, William Charles, 22 1st W/Op/AG
1372356 Sgt Fergie, Roy Cooper, 24 2nd W/Op/AG
1305035 F/Sgt Trice, Mervyn Harcourt, 23 Front gunner
2209607 F/Sgt Watson, William Thomson, 20 Mid-upper gunner
1610129 F/Sgt Baker, George, 23 Ball gunner
1322064 F/Sgt Aspinwall, Gilbert John, 22 Flight engineer
1691748 F/Sgt Watchman, William, 22 Rear gunner


Liberator KH254:

RAAF 410044 P/O Biccard, Noel Thalman, 23 Pilot
1543863 Sgt Wright, Frederick Joseph, 24 2nd pilot
130500 F/Lt Simpson, Maurice Thompson, 23 Bomb aimer
SAAF 542789V Lt Spafford, Alan Leonard, 31 Navigator
1549565 F/Sgt Kay, Arthur, 23 1st W/Op/AG
1802330 F/Sgt Rose, Henry Raymond John, 21 2nd W/Op/AG
2206379 F/Sgt Candlish, Clifford, 34 Front gunner
RAAF 428016 F/Sgt Geeves, Bruce Colin, 31 Mid-upper gunner
1688240 F/Sgt Lineton, Thomas James Arthur, 24 Ball gunner
1627512 F/Sgt Reader, Peter Alexander (age unk) Flight engineer
1896854 F/Sgt Dixon, Robert Henry (age unk) Rear gunner
1167652 W/O McKee, John Laing, 22 Passenger, Parent Unit 3 FPU (Trade: Nav. B.)

Crew position/trades are as listed in a casualty document found as page 44 in N.T. Biccard’s on-line RAAF A705 casualty file, held by the National Archives of Australia.

All other details are per the on-line Debt of Honour Register, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The ages of three men are not listed.

NOTE: there are discrepancies between these sources. For example, the CWGC entry is for Gilbert John ASPINWALL, but the pg 44 casualty documents lists this casualty as ASPINALL, J.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The colliding bombers were not “in circuit at Dhubalia”, as has been reported, but instead were 175 miles east-southeast of Dhubalia, where 99 Sqn’s Libs were in a formation-forming circuit. They were on a combined op with other Liberator squadrons to Kyauktalon on Ramree Island, Burma (south of Akyab, Burma) in support of the British 14th Army’s landing at Akyab.

Sixteen Liberators of 99 Sqn took off between 0530 and 0600 in darkness, with a planned dawn rendezvous to join up in a tight bombing formation at 5000 feet over an island at the northeast corner of the Bay of Bengal at 22°48’ N, 90°48’ E. Time of collision between KG974 and KH254: 0706 hrs.

The weather at this time was good, except for some haze aggrevated by the cross light of the rising sun. Some clouds on the eastern horizon intensified the glow of the sun as it rose, making it difficult to see in that direction.

In his book “Survival of the Fortunate” 99 Sqn pilot John McCredie wrote:

\"The first aircraft to reach the rendez-vous was to circle in a wide orbit over a specified point on the Bengal coast, and at a specified height. Others approaching the rendez-vous were to do so from a height five hundred feet above gradually lowering ourselves until we could take our place on the tail of one of the circling aircraft. As soon as the whole Squadron was in the circle we were to form up and head for the target. . . One moment there was an aircraft orbiting, about two ahead of us and perhaps a kilometer distant; the next, an enormous expansion of red, turning gold and then black and a tremendous shuddering of King Kong’s manly frame. Then we were flying through all that was left of two Liberators and their eleven men crews; little bits of black flotsam seemingly suspended in the air. . . \"

Heading directly toward one another, neither KG974 nor KH254 took evasive action until almost the last moment, when each Lib climbed frantically to avoid impact. They appeared to be almost stalling when they hit. Based on the ferocity of the explosion, it was believed that bombs exploded in the collision, resulting in disintegration of both aircraft and probable instant death to the 23 airmen aboard.

One seemingly scorched parachute was seen, with wisps of smoke coming from whatever was on the end of it. Per John McCredie: “. . .and the greatest irony, there wafting gently down ahead of us was a small red parachute with the emergency kit which we carried for dropping to any crew which might have crashed.”

Wreckage was scattered over a wide area measuring roughly one square mile, much of it embedded in soft ground. The crash site was recorded as map references RR0728 (Ordinance Survey) / OK5557 (Seafog), near Noakhali, Bengal.

Guided by Police and Bengal Home Guard, RAF searchers collected nine bodies, of which seven were positively identified: three men from KG974 and four from KH254. In a service led by a Catholic priest, the men were buried on 21 Jan 1945 in separate graves, under uninscribed bamboo crosses, near Char Mahammadpur, Bengal at map references RR074281 (Ord. Survey) / OK554557 (Seafog).

In July 1955, with the evidence of the seven individually identified airmen apparently lost, a British Army Graves Service unit recovered the remains of these nine and reburied them in Maynamati War Cemetery, Comilla, (then in Pakistan, now Bangladesh). They were interred in Collective Grave 3.D.19. The Collective Grave, in fact, is for all 23 casualties, though only nine were recovered.

Thus, the chance to give seven of the men a verifiable, identified gravesite was lost. Official 1955 documents state that IDs were not possible at that time.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Gary, kemp42

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3 years 1 month ago #4843 by jasek
jasek replied the topic: No. 99 Sqn RAF
Many thanks to everyone, the whole picture is now coming together. I know this is a shot in the dark, but does anyone know if photos exist of KG 974 and/or of the crew 1944/45? if they do, would you know where I could find them?

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3 years 1 month ago #4844 by Matt_Poole
Matt_Poole replied the topic: No. 99 Sqn RAF
Jasek,

Sorry, I have no photos of aircraft or crew.

I know you have a photo of Watson, from his kin. Does she have any other crew photos?

Your best bet may be to track down kin of the crew.

Starting with the Aussie, Woolford, I know that his A705 casualty file and his personnel file aren\'t scanned yet and put on the web, but you can request one or the other to be scanned by the National Archives of Australia, for a reasonable fee. I\'d go with the A705 file. There will definitely be clear evidence of his next-of-kin, and maybe some key info to help you track down kin.

Come to think of it, I realized that NOK info, with wartime addresses, can be found on pages 58 and 59 of Bicard’s A705 casualty file – WITH typographical errors. Be forewarned. I’ll post these names/addresses of NOK from both crews, from these two pages.

Using hometowns, go to the British Telecom residential phone book, found in a google search. Search on surnames in the hometown locations, or thereabouts. I bet you’ll find some hits worth investigating.

Aussie and Tasmania phone lookup websites can be consulted, too.

This applies to both crews – you never know what kin have, in terms of photos, letters, telegrams, news cuttings, etc. The two Libs were from the same squadron, so there might be a photo around where you can read the serial number on the fuselage.

Googling on the names and/or service numbers of the men sometimes brings surprise results. Give it a try.

I know the 99 Sqn Operations Record Book is almost worthless for its lack of detail in 1945, and maybe earlier. I haven’t seen it, though. Held at Kew, at the UK Nat’l Archives.

Good luck – it’s hard work from here.

Matt

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3 years 1 month ago #4845 by jasek
jasek replied the topic: No. 99 Sqn RAF
The only other photos I have of Watson are from Britain during his training, as i\'m led to believe. The photo i\'ve attached is Flt Sgt Watson, just after completing training and just before he embarked for India. Many thanks though for all the help. It\'s very much appreciated. Jase
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3 years 3 weeks ago #4851 by jasek
jasek replied the topic: No. 99 Sqn RAF
Ian, I will gladly take your help. Here is the email address of the lady i\'ve been helping with research: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you could contact her ref the headstones she would be very grateful.

Many thanks

Jase

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3 years 3 weeks ago #4852 by kemp42
kemp42 replied the topic: No. 99 Sqn RAF
Will do - thanks
The following user(s) said Thank You: jasek

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