LEITHHEAD Vivian Charles 406858

LEST WE FORGET

Flying Officer Vivian Charles LEITHHEAD

Service No: 406858
Born: Subiaco WA, 23 January 1921
Enlisted in the RAAF: 28 April 1941
Unit: No. 31 Squadron, Coomalie Creek NT
Died: Air Operations: (No. 31 Squadron Beaufighter aircraft A19-63) Taberfane, 21 August 1943, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Alexander Charles and Lillian Josephine Leithhead, of Waroona, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Column 8, Ambon Memorial, Indonesia
Remembered: Panel 102, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

Flying Officer Leithhead previously evaded capture on Timor while serving with No. 2 Squadron following the loss of Hudson A16-159 (Sergeant Herbert Frederick Hearle (406758) (Wireless Air Gunner)) on 13 April 1942.

The Beaufighters’ victory (four enemy aircraft destroyed without loss) on this day (17 August) was followed by a disaster a few days later, when on 21st August six of them were ordered to attack Taberfane again. They destroyed two Rufes (Japanese aircraft type) and damaged two Petes (Japanese aircraft type) on this day. Competition among crews for “kills ” was keen and two of the Beaufighters (A19-47 and A19-63), which had been acting as top cover, dived together from 2,500 feet to attack a Pete which was just taking off from the float-plane beach. Their machines were seen by other pilots converging towards the Pete. Evidently the two pilots, eager to attack and concentrating on their quarry, did not notice each other and they collided. The force of the impact tore off the mainplanes of both Beaufighters, the port engines caught fire and both crashed burning into the bay 400 yards off Taberfane village. The machines then disappeared below the water and none of the four men in the crews came to the surface.

Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 109

The crew members of A19-63 were:

Flying Officer Robert Stanley Graves (41326) (Navigator)
Flying Officer Vivian Charles Leithhead (406858) (Pilot)

The crew members of A19-47 were:

Flight Lieutenant Francis Joseph Gardiner (407575) (Pilot)
Flying Officer Lewis John Lyne (13986) (Navigator)

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 A9845, 179

Bibliography:

Parnell, N.M. (Neville M.) Whispering Death: A history of the RAAF’s Beaufighter Squadrons, AH & AW Reed Terry Hills NSW, 1980
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1990