LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant John Donald DAVIDSON

Service No: 5372
Born: Sydney NSW, 25 April 1909
Enlisted in the RAAF: 29 November 1939 (at RAAF Station Laverton VIC)
Unit: No. 455 Squadron
Died: Prisoner of War (Exposure) (PoW from the loss of No. 455 Squadron Hampden aircraft AT109 on 5 September 1942), Germany, 17 March 1945, Aged 36 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of James and Catherine Mary Davidson, of Horsham, Victoria. Australia
Roll of Honour: Horsham VIC
Remembered: Panel 284, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 106, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

A fitter by trade, Flight Sergeant Davidson had qualified for his air gunner’s badge and had flown operationally with No. 6 Squadron RAAF on Australian coastal patrols before joining No. 455 Squadron.

Flight Sergeant Davidson died on 17 March 1945. He died in Stalag POW Camp Bad Sulza after marching from Silesia. It was reported that he was buried by a Chaplain the Rev McIntyre at Bad Sulza Cemetery on 20 March 1945. It was recorded in 1950 that since it was not possible to visit Bad Sulza which was in the Russian Zone of Occupation, his name had been commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing, Runnymede, Surrey,

Hampden AT109 took off from RAF Sumburg at 2040 hours on the night of 4 September 1942 for Vaenja, Northern Russia, via Afrikanda (Operation Orator). The aircraft was one of 16 aircraft of the Squadron to take off for Vaenja. AT109 failed to arrive at its destination and all five crew members became Prisoners of War.

The crew members of AT109 were:

Flying Officer George Robert Anderson (400316) (Navigator / Bomb Aimer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 19 November 1945
Flight Sergeant Cecil William Francis Cameron (404632) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 3 November 1945
Squadron Leader James Catanach DFC MID (400364) (Pilot and Aircraft Captain) PoW, Executed 29 March 1944
Flight Sergeant John Donald Davidson (5372) (Fitter 11A) PoW, Died 17 March 1945
Sergeant John Richard Hayes (404462) (Second Wireless Operator Air Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 24 October 1945

In a 1945 report the then Flight Lieutenant Anderson stated: “The aircraft when proceeding to Russia was holed in the petrol tanks by ground fire. The Captain force landed without damage to aircraft or crew. The approximate position of the crash was near Kirkness (Northern Norway).
Squadron Leader Catanach was one of 50 Officers massacred at Gorlitz in March/April 1944 after his escape from a tunnel at the North Compound, Sagan. I was in the East Compound at the time. Flight Sergeant Davidson died as a result of the rigours of a march in early 1945. I have been told this since my return from Germany. Released by the Russians on 21 April 1945.”

Flight Lieutenant Anderson escaped from prison but was recaptured at Holzensalzer (Poland) after walking 26 miles over 3 days.

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 Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record a&05, 166/9/455

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