Warrant Officer Leonard Ancliff PEARCE

Service No: 401049
Born: Burnley VIC, 17 august 1909
Enlisted in the RAAF: 8 December 1940
Unit: No. 458 Squadron, Protville, Tunisia
Died: Air Operations: (No. 458 Squadron Wellington aircraft HZ536), off Sardinia, 23 June 1943, Aged 33 Years
Buried: Salerno War Cemetery, Italy
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Albert William and Martha Grace Pearce, of East Malvern, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 106, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Wellington HZ536 took off from RAF Protville, Tunisia, at 2052 hours on the night of 23/24th June 1943 fitted with a load of flares and it was detailed to locate and shadow then illuminate enemy shipping for a torpedo striking force to attack. Enemy ships had been sighted during the day and there was a possibility that they had not reached port by the time our night torpedo bombers arrived in the area. Nothing was seen or heard from HZ536 after take off and it did not return to base.

The crew members of HZ536 were:

Sergeant Frederick Ernest Baker (1295239) (RAFVR) (Special Equipment (Radar) Operator)
Flight Sergeant Roger Francis Wyman Clark (406389) (Wireless Operator Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 19 June 1946
Sergeant James McIlhatton (1388415) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Sergeant Colin Moncur (411431) (RNZAF) (Pilot) PoW
Warrant Officer Leonard Ancliff Pearce (401049) (Rear Gunner)
Sergeant Alvin Ivor Thompson (1382350) (RAFVR) (Second Pilot) PoW

The Operations Record Book records on 26 August 1943 that RAF ME Base Personnel had advised that the body of Warrant Officer Pearce had been recovered by an Italian patrol on 7 August 1943 and buried at Salerno War Cemetery, Italy and that Sergeant Thompson had been picked up and was a PoW in Germany.

In a later report the then Warrant Officer Clark stated “On 23 June 1943 we were detailed from Tunisia to go out and look for shipping. After approximately 5 hours we experienced engine trouble firstly our starboard engine stopped and a little while after our port engine went out. I believe there was a block in petrol line. I made my escape through the astro hatch and when I left the Nav, Rear Gunner and SE Operator were still in the aircraft. I think they were killed. The two Pilots are both alive. I was a POW for 22 months. I did 22 hours in a dinghy and was picked up by a German Motor Torpedo Boat and taken to Cagliari, Sardinia.”


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, 166/32/135


Alexander, P. (Peter) We Find and Destroy: history of No. 458 Squadron, The 458 Squadron Council, 1959

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