LEST WE FORGET

Sergeant Hugh Alexander BIRD

Service No: 410210
Born: Paddington NSW, 2 July 1917
Enlisted in the RAAF: 5 December 1941 (at Melbourne VIC)
Unit: No. 10 Squadron, RAF Station Mount Batten, Devon
Died: Air Operations: (No. 10 Squadron Sunderland aircraft DD852), Bay of Biscay, 3 August 1943, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Bath (Haycombe) Cemetery, Somerset
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Hugh and Mary Jane Bird, of Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Bellevue Hill NSW
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

On the 3rd August 1943, Sunderland DD 852 (J/10) was detailed to carry out an antisubmarine patrol Musketry 10-2 at 3,000 feet. It took off at 1500 hours from RAF Mount Batten and was down at 2215 hours. At 1816 hours flying at 3,000 feet on course 194T, J/10 sighted 3 unidentified aircraft about 8 miles away. J/10 altered course to 076T and turned into cloud, thus losing contact, and continued the patrol. At 1837 hours when on course 198T, 3 aircraft were sighted through binoculars 12 miles away dead flying at a height of 6,000 feet. J/10 turned on to a course of 006T for cloud but the enemy aircraft followed and came up to 20 deg on the starboard quarter., then split, one remaining while the other two passed on to the port quarter. Simultaneously another formation of three aircraft were sighted 500-1000 feet higher than the first formation, but 2-3 miles further away. At the same time a seventh aircraft appeared which came from the starboard bow
and made a head on attack breaking off about 100 yards and passing over the top of J/10.

In this attack J/10 used fixed front guns and nose turret, estimating hits on the enemy aircraft. The nose gunner of J/10 was probably killed in this attack. Then one aircraft from the first formation attacked from the starboard quarter hitting J with cannon and so breaking the nose and midship turret oil pipe lines and putting the inter-com out of action. This was followed by an attack from the port quarter by the remaining two aircraft of the first formation. From then on throughout the action which lasted approximately one hour, attacks were carried out continually by these aircraft from all directions. During these attacks the Depth charges were jettisoned, and instructions were passed to the Captain from the navigator by hand, but this method was not found to be particularly effective.

The gunners fired independently as targets presented themselves. During one attack from the beam, the mid-upper gunner fired a long burst into the enemy aircraft as it broke away over the top of J/10. Shortly after the navigator saw an aircraft on fire in the air and subsequently the Second Pilot saw burning wreckage on the water. The aircraft was not actually seen to crash. During another attack the tail gunner saw fragments breaking away from time to time but there was no evidence of damage. J attempted to make for cloud cover but owing to evasive tactics of continuous diving turns towards attackers, this proved rather difficult. Eventually J gained thin cloud cover at 3,500 feet but was continually attacked until entering a large cumulus cloud. I circled in this cloud emerging to find four enemy aircraft waiting. After waiting in this cloud for 30 minutes, J emerged to find no aircraft in sight and set course for base. The following signal was then sent to base: “Returning to Base, need ambulance and Doctor on arrival.”

The aircraft finally became waterborne at 2215 hours at Mount Batten, and was immediately brought up on deck. During the action J/10 sustained numerous bullet and cannon holes many on the hull, wings and main spar. Casualties were one killed, one badly wounded and three received superficial wounds.

The crew members of DD852 were:

Flight Lieutenant Raymond Carl Behrndt (416406) (Pilot) Killed on Air Operations: 17 November 1943
Sergeant Hugh Alexander Bird (410210) (Air Gunner) Killed
Flight Lieutenant Dorney (RAF) (Supernumerary) Safe
Sergeant George Leake Fry (406298) (Fitter IIE / Air Gunner) (406298) Discharged from the RAAF: 21 March 1946
Flying Officer Reginald William Stuart Gross DFC (205785) (Navigator) Discharged from the RAAF: 6 June 1947
Sergeant James Walter Vincent Guy (402705) (Wireless Operator Air) Discharged from the RAAF: 28 February 1946
Sergeant Angus Alfred McVinish (23629) Discharged from the RAAF: 19 February 1946
Flying Officer Alan James Murray (413880) (Second Pilot) Discharged from the RAAF: 10 September 1945
Sergeant William Cheseldon Henson Moser DFM (14611) (Armourer / Air Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 27 March 1946
Sergeant Rhys Frederick Owen DFM (62956) (Flight Engineer) Discharged from the RAAF: 3 May 1945
Sergeant Hugh Percival Pengilly (416991) (Wireless Air Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 7 November 1945
Sergeant Bartholomew William Simon (26885) (Wireless Maintenance Mechanic) Discharged from the RAAF: 2 May 1946
Flying Officer Basil Alfred Williams DFC (416164) (Third Pilot) Discharged from the RAAF: 21 June 1945

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 A705, 166/5/244
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

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