LEST WE FORGET
Sergeant Harold Victor LEWIS
Service No: 406146
Born: Brisbane QLD, 27 January 1909
Enlisted in the RAAF: 15 August 1940 (at Perth WA)
Unit: No. 211 Squadron (RAF), Palembang, Sumatra
Died: Prisoner of War, (Presumed Drowned) (Tamahoko Maru, torpedoed by the submarine USS Tang), off Nagasaki Japan, 24 June 1944, Aged 35 Years
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Thomas and Ethel Lewis; husband of Dulcie Estelle Lewis, of Leederville, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Perth WA
Remembered: Column 444, Singapore Memorial, Singapore
Remembered: Panel 125, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA
Nos. 84 (RAF) and 211 (RAF) Squadrons flew from the Middle East to Sumatra about the middle of January 1942 to join in operations against the Japanese. In Burma crews of No. 84 Squadron aircraft received some dubious briefings which resulted in disastrous results. Aircraft were instructed that, after leaving Mingaladon, the aerodrome for Rangoon, they were to head for Northern Sumatra and land at Dobingawan for which the map reference was given. Some crews were told not to land at Thakaga unless the aerodrome at Dobingawan could not be found. The map reference proved to be a rugged spot in the hills 50 kilometres south of Thakaga with no aerodrome, and old inhabitants of Sumatra assured the aircrews that there was no such place as Dobingawan.
The false briefing, which led to the belief that it may have been sabotage and due to enemy activities, was the direct cause of the destruction of two Blenheims and endangered many others, since the distance covered left them short of fuel by the time they reached the area. Three aircraft, one of No. 84 Squadron with Sergeant Hough (1) as Observer and one with Flight Lieutenant Clutterbuck (2) RAF of No. 211 Squadron, reached the place indicated by the map reference and, not able to see any aerodrome, flew many kilometres down the north-west coast of Sumatra. Not finding an aerodrome they turned back and Clutterbuck reached Thakaga with 20 litres of fuel left. The two other aircraft of the flight, having followed Clutterbuck and turned when he did, were short of fuel and crash landed in paddy fields, completely destroying their aircraft.
(1) Flying Officer Herbert James Hough (412009) was discharged from the RAAF on 26 February 1946.
(2) Flight Lieutenant Julian Dennes William Hugh Clutterbuck (42300) (RAF) Killed on Air Operations: 12 February 1942
Extract from Hall, E.R. (Eldred Rayner) (O3341) Glory in Chaos, Sembawang Association West Coburg VIC, 1989 – Page 409
Sergeant Lewis was a Wireless Operator Air Gunner attached to No. 211 Squadron and is believed to have become a Prisoner of War on or about 17 January 1942 at the result of the loss of one of the Blenheims near Thakaga.
Sergeant Lewis was lost at sea on 24 June 1944 when the Japanese transport ship Tamahoko Maru carrying 772 Prisoners of War including 17 RAAF members was torpedoed off the Japanese coast about 60 miles from Nagasaki. Only 212 Prisoners survived the sinking. In a statement by Warrant Officer Barnes (3) a survivor from the sunken ship he reported “at approximately 1155 pm on 24 June 1944 en route to Japan from Java via Singapore, the Japanese transport ship of 6,000 tons was torpedoed and sank in 2 minutes.
On 24 June 1944, 14 RAAF members from various units were lost with the Tamahoko Maru:
Leading Aircraftman Neil Arlie Binnie (33659) (No. 1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Ronald Edward Brown (17047) (No. 1 Squadron)
Aircraftman Class 1 Maxwell Henry Buchhorn (8594) (RAF Air Headquarters Far East)
Corporal Bruce Addison Gibbins (3353) (No. 1 Squadron)
Warrant Officer John Joseph Green (400951) (No. 36 Squadron (RAF))
Warrant Officer Dudley Reed Hooper (404280) (No. 84 Squadron (RAF))
Leading Aircraftman Robert Edmondson Joel (8814) (No. 1 Squadron)
Warrant Officer James William Landsberg (404759) (No. 1 Squadron)
Sergeant Harold Victor Lewis (406146) (Wireless Air Gunner) (No. 211 Squadron (RAF))
Corporal George Norman McKean (5651) (No. 1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman James Leslie Pittendrigh (15398) (No. 1 Squadron)
Aircraftman Class 1 Charles Dudley Potts (39872) (No. 8 Squadron)
Aircraftman Class 1 Ernest Frederick Stanford (27978) (No. 1 Squadron)
Warrant Officer Brian Aloysius Toohey (402758) (No. 100 Squadron (RAF))
In addition to the 14 members of the RAAF, two members of the RAN and 169 members of the Australian Army were lost.
Three RAAF members survived:
Leading Aircraftman Richard Bowie Downie (34225) Discharged from the RAAF: 8 February 1946
(3) Warrant Officer James Dawson Barnes (405034) Discharged from the RAAF: 18 December 1945
Sergeant Frederick John Johnson (A3872) Discharged from the RAAF: 23 January 1965
In addition to the 3 members of the RAAF, eight members of the RAN and 71 members of the Australian Army survived.
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 A705, 166/24/590
Wall, Donald (NX36620), Heroes at Sea, D Wall, Mona Vale NSW 2103, 1991