GASKIN Frederick Walter 16645

LEST WE FORGET

Corporal Frederick Walter GASKIN

Service No: 16645
Born: London England, 15 April 1902
Enlisted in the RAAF: 1 June 1940 (at Perth WA)
Unit: No. 13 Squadron, Laha
Died: Prisoner of War (Executed): Ambon, Netherlands East Indies, 6 February 1942, Aged 39 Years
Buried: Ambon War Cemetery, Indonesia
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Sydney Gaskin and Alice Amy Gaskin, of Ilford, Essex, England.
Roll of Honour: Goomalling WA
Remembered: Panel 100, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

On the evening of the 30th January 1942 two Hudsons remained at Ambon, detained by Wing Commander Ernest Dallas Scott (250101) so that he would have “last minute” reconnaissance reports of the enemy invasion force, but the time had come for the last act of evacuation, and the Hudsons were being refuelled for the flight to Darwin. The pilots, Flying Officer Jack Haythorn (260722) and Flying Officer William Vyner Duckett White (260624) were discussing the loading when a stream of petrol was seen coming from the main fuel line of White’s aircraft; the line had been shattered by an enemy bullet and the fuel was running from the tank side of the main fuel cock, which meant that all tanks would be drained. Twenty-eight officers and other ranks were waiting on the airfield to fly to Darwin. Scott revised his plans and ordered 17 of them on boar d the serviceable Hudson. That left eight besides the pilot, co-pilot—Flying Officer Francis Norman Meyer (290745) —and himself. Haythorn took his aircraft off about midnight and Scott’s party went to work on the damaged aircraft. The task was beyond them with the equipment they had. Scott, who earlier had been in telephone communication with Halong while Flight Lieutenant Hampshire’s (1) (No. 11 Squadron) flying-boat was embarking the last of the staff there, had told him to take off and said that he and the remainder of the Laha party would fly out in White’s Hudson. Now he sent a radio message to Hampshire asking him whether he could return and take his party out. But the flying-boat was half-way to Darwin, and lacked the fuel to cover the additional distance. Hampshire knew also that to attempt a night landing in the mine-sown waters off Laha would be to take a very grave risk of losing his flying-boat and everyone in it. He had no course but to fly on. Earlier it had been arranged that if a RAAF party should be left behind they would endeavour to go by native boat across Piru Bay from the north side of Ambon, to Geser Island off the south-east tip of Ceram.

Wing Commander Scott’s last signal, sent on the 31st, read: “All cyphers burned. Demolition completed. Known Japanese landing at Leahari and Hukurila (about 3 miles apart on the east coast of the island and 5 to 6 miles from the town). Japanese have reached Laha from overland and engagement proceeding. Will call whenever possible.” A signal received in Darwin at 1 am on the 31st announced that Laha radio station was about to be demolished. Just before the evacuation Scott
had been using a portable transceiver to communicate with Darwin and Namlea. This equipment, concealed in a camouflaged tent, was manned by a radio operator, Leading Aircraftman Laurence Douglas Walker (27521) for 24 hours after the last Hudson had taken off and until its batteries were exhausted. By that time the landing places of the invasion forces, their approximate strength, and details of the RAAF staff left behind had all been transmitted to Darwin.

Hampshire kept the emergency rendezvous off Geser Island in his flying boat on 12th February and again on the 15th, but without success. Scott and his party of ten were eventually posted missing. Later it was learned that the party had made their way across the hills to the north of Ambon
Island with the intention of crossing by boat to Ceram, but in doing so were intercepted in Piru Bay by a Japanese patrol boat and taken prisoner.

(1) Wing Commander John MacLean Hampshire DFC (256) was discharged from the RAAF on 28 August 1945.

Extract from Gillison, D.N. (Douglas Napier) (254475) Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962 – Pages 376-7

Left behind at Laha were pilot Flight Lieutenant Bill White, 13 Squadron pilot Flying Officer Meyer, Wing Commander Dallas Scott and eight others. One of those remaining was Cpl. Eric (sic) Gaskin, an armourer who volunteered to carry out demolition work, but who also was believed to have offered to substitute for a youngster, saying that his own life had been a bit of a mess anyway.

Extract from Grantham, S.R. (Sidney Richard) (6590) The 13 Squadron Story, S.R. Grantham, Dee Why NSW 2099, 1991 – Page 52

The eleven RAAF Members taken prisoner were:

Squadron Leader Jack Fallow Anderson (253) (Headquarters RAAF Station Darwin)
Sergeant James Baker (402700) (No. 2 Squadron)
Aircraftman Class 1 Frederick Arthur Evans (37304) (Headquarters RAAF Station Darwin)
Corporal Frederick Walter Gaskin (16645) (No. 13 Squadron)
Aircraftman Class 1 John Allan Harris (24987) (Headquarters RAAF Station Darwin)
Flying Officer Francis Norman Meyer (290745) (No. 13 Squadron)
Sergeant Isaac Wood Read (406222) (No. 2 Squadron)
Wing Commander Ernest Dallas Scott AFC (250101) (Headquarters RAAF Station Darwin)
Flying Officer Harold George Verey (261029) (Headquarters RAAF Station Darwin)
Leading Aircraftman Laurence Douglas Walker (27521) (Headquarters RAAF Station Darwin)
Flying Officer William Vyner Duckett White DFC (260624) (No. 2 Squadron)

All eleven Members were executed with dates of death recorded as 6 or 20 February 1942. About 300 Australian Army Members of Gull Force were similarly massacred around Laha at this time.

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 A9301, 16645

Bibliography:

Bennett, J. (John William) Highest Traditions: the history of No. 2 Squadron RAAF, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1995
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Anson, Hudson and Sunderland in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1992