LEST WE FORGET
Pilot Officer Walter Edward ATKINSON
Service No: 422530
Born: Bathurst NSW, 27 August 1919
Enlisted in the RAAF: 22 May 1942
Unit: No. 456 Squadron, RAF Station Ford, West Sussex
Died: Air Operations (No. 456 Squadron Mosquito aircraft HK312), North Sea, 12 July 1944, Aged 24 Years
Buried: Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Septimus Edward and Emma Burdett Atkinson, of Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia.
Roll of Honour: Bathurst NSW
Remembered: Panel 106, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Pilot Officer Atkinson was a QANTAS staff member serving with the RAAF.
The Mosquitos of No. 456 were not fast enough to overtake the missiles in straight and level flight, so it was necessary to gather speed by diving from a height well above the target. Only the most skilful pilots were able to coordinate accurately the essential loss in height and the turn-in for a perfect interception. Finally the lethal nature of the target required that it be detonated at a sufficiently safe distance from the attacker. This meant in practice that a much smaller target had to be hit from a longer range than ever would happen in a normal attack on a conventional aircraft—and all this in a much briefer space of time. When the cloud base was low the work of the night fighters was almost entirely frustrated. The pilots of No. 456 were disappointed by their lack of success during June, but crews rapidly learned to improve their technique; for the moment the problems posed by the flying bomb became almost a personal challenge.
No. 456 Squadron continued its night patrols over the English Channel but it was not until 9th July that Flight Lieutenant Roediger (1) made the first definite “kill” for the unit. By the end of July the squadron had destroyed 10; 14 more were shot down in August, and in addition pilots often scored strikes on flying bombs but could make no claims as they were not always able at night to observe the final crash of a bomb. Roediger was outstanding for, assisted by his navigator Flight Lieutenant Dobson (2), he accounted for 9 out of the unit tally of 24 confirmed victories. His brilliant and intrepid airmanship overcame the special difficulties the task presented for the ordinary night-fighter-type Mosquito, which lacked the speed of the Tempests and specially-powered Mosquitos that operated in the landward zone.
These successes were not gained, however, without risk. One crew from No. 456 – Pilot Officer Walter Edward Atkinson (422530) and Flying Officer Edward Charles Radford (415549) – failed to return from patrol on the night of 12th-13th July.
(1) Flight Lieutenant Keith Alexander Roediger (415277) was discharged from the RAAF on 7 January 1946.
(2) Flight Lieutenant Robert James Henry Dobson (413179) was discharged from the RAAF on 15 November 1946.
Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 173, 185
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 A705, 166/4/142
Bennett, J. (John William) Fighter Nights: 456 Squadron RAAF, Banner Books Belconnen ACT 2617, 1995
Vincent, D. (David) Mosquito Monograph: A history of Mosquitoes in Australia and RAAF operations, David Vincent Highbury SA 5089, 1982