LEST WE FORGET

Flying Officer Frank Ronald POCKNEE

Service No: 401663
Born: Tatura VIC, 29 February 1912
Enlisted in the RAAF: 28 March 1941
Unit: No.11 Squadron
Died: Prisoner of War (Air Raid) (from the loss of No. 11 Squadron Catalina aircraft A24-34 on 8 February 1944), New Britain, 5 March 1944, Aged 32 Years
Buried: Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery, PNG
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Charles Henry and Sarah Pocknee; husband of Amy Frances Pocknee, of Burramine South, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Dandenong VIC
Remembered: Panel 100, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Australian Catalinas again played a part in the operation by carrying out night harassing raids on Kavieng. From early February single Catalinas from Nos. 11 and 20 Squadrons were engaged in this task. On the night of 7th February one of the Catalinas on this mission radioed an SOS message stating that the aircraft was on fire. The Catalina, captained by Squadron Leader Todd, did not
return to its base, and, although wide searches were made for it by aircraft of No. 9 Group, its whereabouts and the fate of its crew were not discovered until some time later. It was then learned that, after bombing Kavieng, the Catalina was returning to base when a reconnaissance flare exploded inside it setting it on fire. The crew failed to get the flames under control and the captain made a forced landing at Jacquinot Bay. All the crew were able to leave the aircraft and reached the shore near Malakua. When challenged by Japanese, four of them escaped into the bush and eventually reached safety. The remaining six were taken prisoner and one of them, Flight Lieutenant Stacy, survived the war. Todd died of illness while a prisoner, and the Japanese said that the four remaining members of the crew were killed in an Allied bombing attack while imprisoned at Talili.

Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Pages 131-2

The crew members of A24-34 were:

Sergeant Richard Murray Howard (47149) (Fitter IIA) Evaded capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 25 January 1945
Sergeant Harold Francis Jones (71534) (Armourer) Evaded capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 31 January 1946
Sergeant Ernest Hubert Kraehe (Flight Engineer) (27791) PoW, Died 5 March 1944
Pilot Officer Alan Bernard Liedel (426624) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) Evaded capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 19 November1945
Flight Sergeant Henry Laurence Murphy (412621 (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)) POW, Died 5 March 1944
Flying Officer Frank Ronald Pocknee (401663) (Navigator) PoW, Died 5 March 1944
Flying Officer Ian Douglas Vaughan Ralfe (405501) (Third Pilot) Evaded capture, Discharged from the RAAF: 12 February 1946
Flight Lieutenant Brian Paul Stacey (406446) (Second Pilot) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 14 January 1946
Squadron Leader John Elevyn Todd (271707) (Pilot) PoW, Died 22 July 1944
Sergeant Fred Woolley (43098) (Flight Engineer) PoW, Died 5 March 1944

Eight RAAF members were killed in an air raid on Rabual on 5 March 1944 in which the Prisoner of War Camp was hit. These members are:

Corporal John Fenwick (22532) (No. 11 Squadron)
Flight Sergeant Donald Clarence Kirkwood (21714) (No. 30 Squadron)
Sergeant Ernest Hubert Kraehe (27791) (No. 11 Squadron)
Flight Sergeant Henry Laurence Murphy (412621) (No. 11 squadron)
Flying Officer Frank Ronald Pocknee (401663) (No. 11 Squadron)
Flight Sergeant Gordon Ronald Thomas (417011) (No. 22 Squadron)
Flight Sergeant Colin Esbert Wein (414975) (No. 30 Squadron)
Sergeant Fred Woolley (43098) (No. 11 Squadron)

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, 146

Bibliography:

McFarlane, C.C. (Cyrus C.) Tojo’s Fate: Australia’s secret war, Sid Harta Publishers Glen Waverley VIC 3150, 2009
McMillan A. (Andrew) Catalina Dreaming: rescues exciting missions and other stories about the famous Australian flying boats of WWII, Duffy and Snellgrove Potts Point NSW, 2002
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Catalina, Neptune and Orion in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1991