LEST WE FORGET

Sergeant Arnold Eric CROSSLEY

Service No: 404633
Born: Childers QLD, 21 May 1917
Enlisted in the RAAF: 11 October 1940
Unit: No. 455 Squadron, RAF Station Leuchars
Died: Air Operations: (No. 455 Squadron Hampden aircraft P2078), North Sea, 11 December 1942, Aged 25 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Reginald Frederick and Pearl Emily Crossley, of Ashgrove, Queensland, Australia
Roll of Honour: Brisbane QLD
Remembered: Panel 112, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 106, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Hampden P2078 took off from Leuchars at 1050 hours on 11 December 1942 to carry out a shipping strike (Rover patrol) off the Norwegian coast. Four aircraft took part in the mission and P2078 failed to return. P2078 set course for Egero in formation with ‘S’ and ‘D’. It was last seen at 1309hrs by ‘S’ disappearing in fog towards the Norwegian coast. It was later established that two crew members had been taken prisoner and two were missing.

The crew members of P2078 were:

Sergeant Arnold Eric Crossley (404633) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Tom Alfred Edgoose (404814) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)
Pilot Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) Geoffrey Ian Gunton (403583) (Pilot) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 31 October 1945
Sergeant (later Flight Lieutenant) Douglas Frederick Thomas (402779) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 5 November 1945

In a 1945 statement the then Flight Lieutenant Gunton reported “I was detailed to do a shipping sweep between Egersund and Stavanger on morning of 11 November 1942. I was flying as No 2
to another Hampden. The weather was fairly thick and ideal for torpedo work. Visibility around 1000 to 1200 yards. The leading aircraft turned on ETA and flew north for the allotted 20 minutes then flew home. This was not as ordered as ships were certain to be in the leads around coast. We only sighted land once in form of several small island. After flying some 5 minutes homeward I broke away and returned to the coast, turned south and almost immediately got a perfect run on a large convoy. However the torpedo failed to come off (the Aircraft had electrical trouble before). On pressing home the second attack the torpedo again failed to come off. The flak was pretty good and the Aircraft was hit quite a few times. The port wing caught fire just outboard of motor. This engine I cut and used extinguisher. We were flying on one motor and maintaining height but fire was getting worse and I was about to ditch when fire broke through the wing and it broke off just beyond motor. As we were only at 50 feet the Aircraft turned immediately on back and hit water. I was knocked unconscious and remember nothing beyond that.”

In 1945 the then Flight Lieutenant Thomas reported “ Aircraft hit in port tank by shell from merchant ship. Tank fired and wing fell off. Crashed into water in Stavenger Bay Norway. Pilot
tried to slip fire out but it was hopeless. All happened too quickly for orders of any kind. The Pilot and I floated out but did not see Edgoose or Crossley again. They were either killed or drowned. Picked up by Norwegian fishermen who tried to put us ashore, but merchant vessel fired on us and we were handed over. Released by Russians May 1945.”

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 163/98/814

Bibliography:

Gordon, I. (Ian) Strike and Strike Again: 455 Squadron 1944-5, Banner Books Belconnen ACT 2616, 1995
Lawson, John Horwood Wightman (251634) The Story of No. 455 Squadron (RAAF), Wilke and Company, Melbourne VIC, 1951