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ANZAC DAY


Allan's Hudson over Nile Delta 14 May 1942
Photograph:Ray Heathwood 459 Sqn
Peter Muir, Friday, 21 April 2017

Snapshot of an Airman's Story. Editor thanks 459 Squadron & AWM for the insight.

Allan, was the squadron’s youngest pilot at just 20 years; that and his baby face lead to his call sign “Babe”. He and his crew Gordon "Bomber" Marsh WOP/AG, Mervyn "Griff" Griffiths Navigator, Noel "Dagwood" Lynch WOP/AG (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner). Following training at 1 OTU (Operational Training Unit) Silloth England they were posted to 459 Squadron in the Middle East (Egypt), flying on their own unescourted by way of Gibralta, Malta and onward to Berg-El-Arab.

The following is an extract from Ray Heathwood’s illegal WWII diary:

Thursday 14th May 1942 – Egypt: location above River Nile.

‘We were at 2,000 feet above the Nile Delta heading west towards our airfield in the Sahara Desert. We sight another Hudson on a parallel course (there were not many Hudsons in the Middle East then). We veer across to investigate – we “natter” on the radio and learn it is “Babe” Proctor and crew, just arriving from England. They are also en route to our airfield. We are terrifically delighted to see such old friends. We will lead the way.’

‘Soon, like us, they will become accustomed to sleeping on the sand on straw pillows plentifully equipped with fleas. Sand, heat, dust storms, scanty supplies of poor tasting water, a diet of bully beef and hard biscuits will cause them to dream about Mum’s cooking.’

Below is an extract from Navigator Merv. Griffiths’ Log Book:

Date                 Aircraft      From       Take-Off     Attack         Landed Back   Duration

8th Sept.1942  I – 266       LG* 266   0400          About 0645   0940           5 hrs 40 min

 (after 1st light)           Night: 3:00hrs             Day: 2:40hrs

*Landing Ground (‘base’).

Mervyn Griffiths (who was later awarded a DFC with 267 SQN) also gave the following personal account of the attack on enemy Merchant Vessel (about 6,000 tons) which was on its way to Tobruk with vital supplies.

‘The take-off was delayed due to some obstruction on the take-off strip, so we arrived in the target area later than anticipated.’

‘The journey to the target area was very stressful for Allan, as he had to keep very low (about 50 feet above the ocean) in order to avoid appearing on enemy radar (and also to keep clear of the coast and any high ground). 203 Squadron reconnaissance aircraft had reported Enemy sea transport making south towards Tobruk and the idea was we should arrive at first light to find target and attack with the element of surprise. Owing to the delay in takeoff, it was a bit lighter than desirable, but we spotted a wisp of smoke on the horizon, later identified as our enemy Merchant Vessel (MV).’

‘As an element of surprise, we decided to approach from the direction of a nearby German airfield, which they might not expect, and which gave us a little extra time free from anti-aircraft fire. Allan came in low and straddled the MV with 4 bombs at about 40 to 50 feet, starting fire and explosions. We made a quick recce [reconnoitre] and as the MV started to sink, we quickly set course for LG266, home airfield.’

 

Remember what you were doing & responsibility as a twenty year old.

"Lest We Forget"

 

 


The Crew at Berg-El-Arab Egypt L-R Bomber, Griff, Dagwood & Babe

Allan William Proctor DFC

Allan Bombing Up 1942

459 Squadron Plaque

Attacked by Hudson

Pilot Training

Allan with Squadron Mascot

Mosquitos 87 Squadron Coomalie Creek Darwin

A spot of leave
 
 
 


BViT