461SQN 430602 EJ134

LEST WE FORGET

Air Operations (No. 461 Sunderland aircraft EJ134), North Atlantic, 2 June 1943

On 2nd June a Sunderland of No. 461 captained by Walker was intercepted in the centre of the “Derange” area by eight Ju-88s. At 7 p.m. the tail gunner, Warrant Officer Goode, reported the enemy formation six miles away and immediately the navigator, Flying Officer Simpson, took up the fire controller’s position in the astrodome. The crew members off watch manned the guns firing through the galley hatches, which had recently been installed as a special modification by No. 461. The depth-charges were jettisoned and an enemy-report message sent to base while the Ju-88 ‘s disposed themselves three to port, three to starboard and one on each beam . As one fighter came in from each beam Walker screwed the Sunderland steeply down to the right and then over to the left but his port-outer engine was set afire. Incendiary bullets shot away the compass which threw burning alcohol over Walker. The fires were extinguished but the engine failed, and thereafter two pilots heaved at the controls for three-quarters of an hour while the enemy made twenty separate attacks. Simpson, though wounded, remained in the astrodome calmly directing the pilots and gunners as each attack developed, and even when the radio and inter-communication systems had been wrecked he contrived to pass notes by hand. In the third attack one enemy aircraft was shot down by the midships gunner. The Sunderland, however, continued to receive heavy punishment although Walker and Flying Officer Dowling were taking such violent evasive action that the hull became strained and all the doors jammed. The rear gunner was rendered unconscious by an attack directed against his turret but he later recovered to work the turret by hand. The starboard galley gunner was mortally wounded but was soon replaced by the second engineer.

This desperate defence was maintained until the nightmare ended with only two enemy fighters in view. These made a last half-hearted approach but broke away without firing and flew off. Three Ju-88s were seen to crash into the sea and two others had received extensive damage, but this
moral and physical victory left the Sunderland riddled with approximately 500 holes, its bridge a shambles with all radio and some flying instruments shot away, four men wounded and one dying on the bomb room floor. For 300 miles Walker struggled back towards Pembroke Dock, but finally was forced to put down near the shore off Cornwall.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 439-440

The crew members of EJ134 were:

Flying Officer James Collier Amiss (411112) Discharged from the RAAF: 23 July 1945
Pilot Officer Wilbur James Dowling (400788) (Second Pilot) Killed on Air Operations: 13 August 1943
Flight Sergeant Alfred Eric Fuller DFM (576061) (RAF) (Midships Gunner) Killed on Air Operations: 13 August 1943
Sergeant Ray Marston Goode DFM (407499) (Tail Gunner) Killed on Air Operations: 13 August 1943
Sergeant Albert Lane (414701) (Wireless Air Gunner) Killed on Air Operations: 13 August 1943
Flight Sergeant Harold Arthur Miller (405083) (Wireless Air Gunner) Killed on Air Operations: 13 August 1943
Pilot Officer Edward Charles Ernest Mills (52035) (RAF) (Third Pilot)
Flying Officer Kenneth McDonald Simpson DFC (403778) (Observer) Killed on Air Operations: 13 August 1943
Sergeant Phillip Kelvin Turner (26697) (Flight Engineer) Killed on Air Operations: 13 August 1943
Flight Lieutenant Colin Braidwood Walker DSO (404610) (Pilot) Discharged from the RAAF: 14 September 1945
Sergeant Louis Stanley Watson (26588) (Flight Mechanic / Air Gunner) Killed on Air Operations: 13 August 1943

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9186, 148 (No. 461 Squadron Operations Record Book)

Bibliography:

Ashworth, N. (Norman) The ANZAC Squadron: A history of No. 461 Squadron RAAF 1942-5, Hesperian Press Victoria Park WA 6100, 1994
Baff, K.C (Kevin), Maritime is Number Ten, K.C. Baff Netley SA, 1983
Joubert, P.B. (Sir Phillip Bennet) Birds and Fishes: the story of Coastal Command, Hutchinson and Company London, 1960
Southall, I.F. (Ivan Francis) (418900) They Shall Not Pass Unseen, Angus and Robertson Sydney NSW, 1956
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Anson, Hudson and Sunderland in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1992