201 Sqn Sunderland W4025 + Convoy WS21 Friendly fire

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by skyhawk, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. skyhawk

    skyhawk Senior Member

    31st July 1942.
    The Squadron and Group ORBs both give a take off time and date of 08:55 hrs on 31st from Castle Archdale.
    The Sunderland appeared without warning and was shot down by AA fire from HMS Hawkins in poor visibility while escorting convoy WS21 at 10:25 hrs. HMS Ledbury was immediately on the scene and rescued Sgt Wheatley - the only survivor i believe.
    I understand they were escorting shipping into the Clyde Approaches that had been joining what was to become WS21 in a few days time.


    HMS Hawkins

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    HMS Ledbury

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    Crew of 201 Sqn Sunderland W4025:killed.
    Rank Name Service F/Lt. James Robert Traill, RAF F/Lt. Walter Harry Wakefield, RAF P/O. John Allen. RAF F/Sgt. James Andrew Collins, RAF F/Sgt. Maurice John Tomley, RAF Sgt. William Bluck, RAF Sgt. John Robert Goodings, RAF Sgt. Harry Scarce, RAF Sgt. Norman Williams. RAF. Sgt. Clifford Gurnet Fort, RAAF. Sgt. Vivian Lewis. RAAF.

    Official Documents.
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    On the 1 August 1942 a second 201 squadron sunderland W4000 from Castle Archdale was blown up by one of its own depth charges after ditching near convoy WS21

    Crew:
    Rank Name Service F/Lt. Wilfred Leonard Cox, RAF P/O Arthur Alfred Webster, RAF P/O Robert William Wilkins, RAF F/Sgt. Harold Abbott, RAF F/Sgt. Leonard Battersby, RAF Sgt Arthur Corfield Somerset Clive-Davies, RAF Sgt. Frank Henry William Gurnett, RAF Sgt. Donald Kenyon, RAF Sgt. William Jack Mansbridge, RAF Sgt. George Falconer Muir, RAF Sgt. Philip Ralph Field. RAF.

    A 201 Sqn sunderland over a convoy later in the war.

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    The attachments below also relate to Sunderland W4025 friendly fire 31st July 1942.
     

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    James S likes this.
  2. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Thats an awful tragedy but given the visibility may its more understandable. Was it a common occurence I wonder? especially over the North Atlantic in bad conditions.
     
  3. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    I have (somewhere) the reports from the navy for the day in question showing the plan of the convoy and the naval view of what took place.
    Two aircraft on the same convoy , the primers for the charges were still in situ when the aircraft sank , when the reached the perscribed depths they went off under the crew who had made it out and into their life rafts.
    Will see if I can look them out.
    Good one Skyhawk :)
     
  4. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I have (somewhere) the reports from the navy for the day in question showing the plan of the convoy and the naval view of what took place.
    Two aircraft on the same convoy , the primeers for the charges were still in situ when the aircraft sank , when the reached the perscribed depths they went off under the crew who had made it out and into their life rafts.
    Will see if I can look them out.
    Good one Skyhawk :)
    Thats awful for them. they thought they had made it and then fate had a cruel surprise waiting. God love them :(
     
  5. skyhawk

    skyhawk Senior Member

    Seems that there might have been some confusion about the possible number of survivors from the crash. Theese are linked with a Sgt Clifford Gurnet Fort who later was notified as being killed.

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    James S likes this.
  6. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The Squadron ORB for the dates in question.

    31/07/42.
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    1/8/42
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    31/7/42 Crew list and details.
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    1/8/42 Crew list and details.
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    Form 1180 W4000.
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    Some the men mentioned.
    Spink - his crew saw Hood being sunk in Denmark Strait battle - little he could do but watch.
    Harvey - Tom Harvey later a Group Captain , has taken part in many post war documenteries on flying boats.
     
  7. Emma18

    Emma18 Junior Member

    31st July 1942.
    The Sunderland appeared without warning and was shot down by AA fire from HMS Hawkins in poor visibility while escorting convoy WS21 at 10:25 hrs. HMS Ledbury was immediately on the scene and rescued Sgt Wheatley - the only survivor i believe.


    Hello. I'm Sgt Wheatley's grand-daughter! I just 'googled' 31 July 1942 (the date my darling Grandad's Sunderland came down) and found your post! Wow! I'm so proud of him and to see his name on these documents and in this forum is amazing! He only told me about the crash a couple of years ago - he doesn't like to talk about it much, but he visited the RAF Memorial in Runnymede a few years ago to see his comrades names and remember them (not that he or I ever forget!):poppy:.
     
    James S likes this.
  8. Roxy

    Roxy Senior Member

    Welcome aboard, Emma!

    Roxy
     
  9. RAF1

    RAF1 Member

    Hi skyhawk,
    Could you please confirm the Sunderland W4025 crewman listed as F/Sgt Harry Scarce.
    I cannot find his name on the CWGC site.
    Regards
    TK
     
  10. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    Hi Emma - welcome to the forum :)

    Just to add to the incident information, according to Archie Munro in "The Winston Specials" Ledbury was in a collision around 0500 on July 31 and returned to base.

    (The source of his information, noted as Chapter Note "4", is from PRO/ADM 199/1211, Report of Commodore WS 21)

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    James S likes this.
  11. Emma18

    Emma18 Junior Member

    Hi RosyRedd - thank you for that information - I'm keen to find out as much as I can about my Grandad's time in the RAF. He's told me snippets over the years about where he was based etc. I believe that this was the second plane crash he was involved in, but I don't have any details about the first. I know that after this one, he didn't fly again due to the psychological repercussions. After a 'recuperation' spell he was posted to Augustus as a Flight Controller.

    I want to ensure my children are aware of what their great-granddad experienced, as well as all the other servicemen and women, both then and now.

    I'm sure my dad will also be joining this forum when we get him set up with internet! He will spend HOURS reading on this website! Fascinating!:)
     
  12. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    I'm pleased it was of interest to you Emma :) It must be tricky trying to find stuff out from your Grandad. We've stopped asking my Great Aunt anything about the war now, because it seems to upset her.
     
  13. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Emma I am in the process of moving house at the moment but I have somewhere the reports from the convoy which detail the loss of the two 201 Squadron aircraft.
    From my recollection the reports do not give a great deal more than is mentioned in this thread, but a diagram did show the position of the ships in the convoy.

    I regard these two days as being among the hardest for 201 - two crews lost in as many days and to have one crew lost to what we now call "friendly fire" and the other to be killed by their own depth charges having made it into life rafts is hard beyond measure.

    When you mention the psychological strain on your grandfather , I can quite understand it , another man from 423 RCAF was in the same position in Sept 1944 when his aircraft ditched in the sea off Donegal's West Coast.
    Sgt Voyce was only survivor.... found adrift in life raft.
    So very similar........


    js
     
  14. AdHollis

    AdHollis Junior Member

    Good evening everyone.

    I am writing this on behalf of my friend. My friend is the cousin of P/O Arthur Webster who was flying aboard W4000 and killed during the action on the 1st August 1942.

    Although the 'Official' story say's that their aircraft, for some unknown reason, ditched into the sea next to the convoy, sank, and blew up due to fused depth charges, it has since been found out, by my friend, that this was not the case.

    In very similar circumstances to the friendly fire incident that happened to W4025, Sunderland W4000 took off from its base in Ireland, to escort the convoy WS21. Due to the bad weather, the convoy was told not to expect any air cover that day. Over the convoy, there was a thick cloud layer, and upon hearing the sound of aircraft engines, apparently, the convoy opened up with AA fire. Shortly afterwards, a Sunderland was seen, crashing/ditching into the sea to the side of the convoy. The crew apparently made an escape, and two ships, one of them being HMS Grenville, captained by Roger Hill, made their way over to the aircraft to rescue the crew. Unfortunately, the aircraft sank, and an explosion occured, killing the crew waiting to be rescued. I am unsure as to how many survivors (if any) there were.

    My friend was reading a book I believe that Roger Hill had written. It describes this unfortunate event, and it prompted my friend to learn more. He has confirmation that this event did actually happen, and spoke with Roger before he died in 1996. He still had his war diaries and this event was logged in them.

    My friend has tried to make this known on many occasions, but the 'experts' have refused to believe it. The MOD files show it as the Sunderland ditched on the water 'for an unknown reason'. Could this have been because of the losses happening close together due to friendly fire?
     
  15. Emma18

    Emma18 Junior Member

    AdHollis - such a tragedy - such a waste of life......

    On a separate note - I wanted to let those interested in this thread that my dear Grandad - (Sgt) Peter Wheatley passed away last week, on 17 July 2012, aged 89 years. I miss him so much already - but can only be thankful that fate that day in 1942 meant he was spared.

    By sheer co-incidence his funeral is to be held on Tuesday 31st July 2012 - the 70th anniversary of the crash. We will pay tribute to him and his crew during the service.

    Love you Grandad - Rest in Peace
    xx
     
    James S likes this.
  16. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    Hi Emma - I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your Grandad. It's sad news.
    May he rest in peace :poppy:
     
  17. AdHollis

    AdHollis Junior Member

    Emma, RIP to your grandad and another of our nations heroes. My heart and respect goes out to you all
     
  18. Emma18

    Emma18 Junior Member

    Thank you both
     
  19. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Emma , my first time back to this thread in a while as I have just found the papers I was looking for , moving house (bit by bit) and moved two large boxes of papers and correspondence going back to the 90's, amongst them a report from Commodore E.C. Denison S.S. "Narkunda" , Convoy WS31. this was dated 2nd August 1942 ADM199/1211.

    31st July S.S. Aorangi
    "The aircraft appeared suddenly out of the mist on the starboard bow having been heard only just prior to being sighted.
    The aircraft was engaged by a Bren gun on the starboard side of the forecastle, and was not recognised as friendly until it had turned to starboard and flown across the bows of the ship. Some witnesses state that they observed bullets entering the port wing others that they saw the bullets miss underneath: about 30 rounds were fired.
    When first sighted the aircraft appeared to be coming towards the ship in a shallow dive from a height of about 150 feet as if about to attack. No recognition signals were observed but two aircraftsmen first class saw a yellow light flash once.
    No warning was received of any friendly aircraft in the vicinity."
    :poppy:

    Will add details of the 1st August tomorrow.:poppy:

    The report consists of a summary from all ships in the convoy ( on both 31st July and 1st August ) and an overview from the Commodore, a diagram shows the position of the merchant ships in relation to each other.


    Skyhawk's info from 201 ORB in which the Sunderland was misidentified as an ME109 really does (!!!) make you wonder !
     
  20. Emma18

    Emma18 Junior Member

    Thank you James
     

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