HOWARD Oliver Lawrence 406654

LEST WE FORGET

Flying Officer Oliver Lawrence Ismay HOWARD

Service No: 406654
Born: Sydney NSW, 16 October 1917
Enlisted in the RAAF: 3 March 1941 (at Perth WA)
Unit: No. 461 Squadron, Pembroke Dock, Wales
Died: Air Operations: (No. 461 Squadron Sunderland aircraft ML 740), Atlantic Ocean, 23 March 1944, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Mrs. F. M. Howard, of Denmark, Western Australia; husband of J. M. Howard, of Edinburgh
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 257, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 108, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

Two Sunderlands of No. 461 were hotly beset on 23rd March; one crew survived six attacks by four Ju-88’s ; Flying Officer Bunce (424550) had to face nine enemy fighters, and although one of them was probably shot down, Bunce had to land in the open sea when a cannon shell exploded
in a port fuel tank and set his mainplane afire Seven members of this crew were rescued two days later by the mine-laying destroyer, Saladin, after Sunderlands from Nos. 10 and 461 had found and maintained patrol round the dinghy.

Extract from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Page 634

After months when no enemy aircraft were sighted by No 461 Squadron, thirteen were encountered in one day, 2300 March 1944. Flying Officer F Bunce and crew in Sunderland ML740 (UT-M) were attacked by nine Ju-88s (German aircraft type) in a cloudless sky, but, by skilful tactics, managed, initially, to evade them, and probably destroyed one Ju-88. Twenty minutes after the action began, an explosive shell struck the port centre fuel tank. Petrol was set alight and the fire spread rapidly. There was little choice left to the pilot; unless he ditched in the sea in which a twenty foot swell was running, the aircraft would explode in midair. Bunce brought the Sunderland down amidst waves as tall as houses, in a raging thirty five knot wind. As the flying-boat hit the sea, the captain and the first pilot, Flying Officer O. Howard, were flung through the shattered windscreen, twenty yards ahead of the wrecked aircraft. Water surged through, washing some of the crew into the sea. Three managed to clamber into a dinghy, and another four, including the captain, while trying desperately to swim towards it, struck another dinghy pack which had floated from the aircraft. The remaining five members of the crew drowned in the raging seas.

The seven survivors managed to huddle together in the larger dinghy and waited for rescue, cramped, sick and chilled. Flight Sergeant R Thompson, the tail-gunner, had cut a main artery in the forearm during the crash and was bleeding profusely. The men spent about 48 hours in the dinghy, while aircraft could be heard overhead searching for them without success. At last they were seen by a Catalina, and one of No 461 Squadron’s own Sunderlands, Flight Lieutenant N McKeough and crew in Sunderland ML746 (UT-R), dropped them food, a dinghy and a radio. McKeough recalls that on this flight his aircraft was loaded with maximum fuel and extra air sea rescue equipment, but no depth charges. The aircraft took-off at over the maximum allowable all up weight and was airborne for a record 16 and a half hours. On 24th March two destroyers sailed from Plymouth through submarine infested waters to follow up the shadowing aircraft, and eventually the survivors were taken aboard the mine-laying destroyer HMS Saladin. During the two days when the Sunderland crew floated in the dinghy, more than 50 aircraft were routed through the area, or detailed on air-sea rescue duties. To this epic rescue, RAF and Allied Air Forces aircraft and ships of the Royal Navy all made a gallant contribution.

Extract from Ashworth, N. (Norman) The ANZAC Squadron: A history of No. 461 Squadron RAAF 1942-5, Hesperian Press Victoria Park WA 6100, 1994 – Pages 145-6

The crew members of ML 740 were:

Sergeant Keith George Angus (422023) (Wireless Air Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 4 December 1945
Flying Officer Frederick Henry Bunce DFC (424550) (Pilot) Discharged from the RAAF: 10 September 1945
Sergeant Duke (547698) (RAF) (First Engineer) Rescued
Flying Officer Malcolm George Jack Fuller (416757) (Navigator) Discharged from the RAAF: 7 December 1945
Flying Officer Oliver Lawrence Ismay Howard (406654) (First Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Desmond Ronald Molan (425955) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Sergeant Reed (419357) (RAF) (Second Engineer) Rescued
Flight Sergeant Reid (654587) (RAF) (Wireless Mechanic / Air Gunner) Rescued
Warrant Officer Norman Alfred Royal (414837) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Jack Herbert Smith (429299) (Second Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Ray Alexander Smyth (426186) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Richard Norman Thompson (410585) (Tail Gunner) Discharged from the RAAF: 4 March 1946

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 A9186, 148 (No. 461 Squadron Operations Record Book)
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

Baff, K.C (Kevin), Maritime is Number Ten, K.C. Baff Netley SA, 1983
Gaston, Bruce DFC (406646), Harry Horner DFC OAM (406595), Raymond Storer (406666) (Editors), Aircrew for the Duration: of and by members of RAAF EATS Courses 10, 11, 12 & 13, Gaston Horner and Storer, Nedlands WA, 1990
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