LEST WE FORGET

Sergeant John BURNHAM

Service No: 413165
Born: Drummoyne NSW, 14 September 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 16 August 1941
Unit: No. 10 Squadron, RAF Station Mount Batten, Devon
Died: Air Operations (No. 10 Squadron Sunderland aircraft W3985), Plymouth, 30 June 1943, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Bath (Haycombe) Cemetery, Somerset
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Rupert Arthur Stanley and Elizabeth Mabel Burnham, of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Sydney NSW
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

At 1100 hours on the 30th June 1943, Sunderland W3985 while on a course of 050degT sighted a submarine dead ahead. The aircraft manoeuvred to make a bow attack but the submarine took evasive action making this impossible. A beam attack was made but not pressed home as violent evasive action by the submarine made a good attack impossible. Heavy anti-aircraft fire was encountered but neither hits nor casualties were suffered.

The aircraft then climbed and circled to make another attack once again trying to come in from the bow. This time the attack was from 70deg on the starboard bow. Once again heavy anti-aircraft fire was encountered. A stick of seven Depth Charges was dropped from 150 feet over-shooting slightly and falling ahead of the submarine. During this approach the aircraft sustained hits on both port and starboard wings and when almost over the submarine a cannon shell exploded in the tail turret severely wounding the tail gunner, Sergeant Burnham in the face, neck, hands and leg. Also the port elevator was badly damaged and the tail unit in general peppered. First aid was rendered to Sergeant Burnham immediately and he was made as comfortable as possible for the four and a half hour trip home. On reaching base, he was attended to immediately by the Station Medical officer and removed to hospital. Sergeant Burnham died while in hospital about 12 hours after being wounded.

The crew members of W3985 were:

Sergeant Alfred Ramsay Aldridge (5226) (Fitter 11A) Killed on Air Operations: 18 August 1943
Sergeant John Burnham (413165) (Tail Gunner)
Flying Officer Victor Denis William Collins (409027) (Third Pilot) Killed on Air Operations: 18 August 1943
Sergeant Walter Paul Greatz (19707) (Fitter 11B) Killed on Air Operations: 18 August 1943
Pilot Officer William Noel Hill (401820) (Navigator) Killed on Air Operations: 18 August 1943
Sergeant Keith Morwick Meldrum (404754) (Wireless Air Gunner) Killed on Air Operations: 18 August 1943
Sergeant Norman Henry Orford (51797) (Armourer) Killed on Air Operations: 18 August 1943
Flight Lieutenant Hickson William Skinner (407977) (Pilot) Killed on Air Operations: 18 August 1943
Sergeant Walter Slater (19194) (Flight Engineer) Killed on Air Operations: 18 August 1943
Flying Officer Ronald Ross Swinson (414966) (Second Pilot) Killed on Air Operations: 18 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 A705, 166/6/190
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