Flying Officer Basil James SHEEHY

Service No: 411957
Born: Kensington NSW, 24 June 1919
Enlisted in the RAAF: 21 June 1941
Unit: No. 37 Squadron (RAF)
Died: Injuries as Prisoner of War: (loss of No. 37 Squadron Wellington aircraft HF723 on 20 June 1943: Invasion of Sicily), Sicily, 21 June 1943, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Catania War Cemetery, Italy
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Patrick and Margaret Sheehy, of Kensington, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Sydney NSW
Remembered: Panel 130, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 2100 hours on the night of 19 June 1943Wellington HF723 took off from Kairouan Landing Ground to bomb Messina, Sicily. The aircraft was detailed along with other aircraft at a “blitz” period of 2330 hours. At 2343 hours a distress message was received “may be forced to land, starboard engine”. A snap QDM (magnetic heading to base) at the time gave a position of the aircraft slightly west of the target. It appeared that the aircraft sustained trouble with the starboard engine when over the target and it was considered possibly due to enemy action. The aircraft failed to return to base. Six aircraft searched the area the next day but no trace of a dinghy was found.

The crew members of HF723 were:

Flight Sergeant John Callely Hesketh (1131407) (RAFVR) (Air Bomber)
Flying Officer A A Norrie (122448) (RAFVR) (Navigator) PoW
Flight Sergeant John Richards (1600392) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Flying Officer Basil James Sheehy (411957) (Pilot) PoW, Fatally injured, Died: 21 June 1943
Sergeant J S Taylor (1088295) (RAFVR) (Wireless Air Gunner) PoW

Sergeant Taylor later reported “I was informed by the Military police at Enna in Italy that Flying Officer Sheehy was admitted to hospital on 20 June, suffering a broken arm and burns, but died and was buried at Enna. The aircraft was over Sicily when it developed engine trouble when both engines cut out. The Pilot gave the abandon order when the aircraft began losing height but was under control. Norrie, Richards and Hesketh baled out at about 1,500 feet before I baled out. I assume that the chutes of both Richards and Hesketh failed to open. I left the aircraft about 1,000/1,500 feet and the pilot was still in the aircraft. It was apparently under control but in a dive. I saw the aircraft crash and burn. Norrie was also captured and a POW.”


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 Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/37/122

Book Now Book Now