LEST WE FORGET

Warrant Officer Clive Symes SWAN

Service No: 416627
Born: Alberton SA, 24 September 1914
Enlisted in the RAAF: 21 July 1941
Unit: No. 159 Squadron (RAF), Digri, India
Died: Air Operations (No. 159 Squadron Liberator aircraft BZ978), Bay of Bengal, 6 October 1944, Aged 30 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of William Clarence and Mildred Bertha Swan, of Alberton, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Port Adelaide SA
Remembered: Column 443, Singapore Memorial, Singapore
Remembered: Panel 131, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide

On 5 October 1944 Liberator BZ978 of No. 159 Squadron took off together with 15 other aircraft, on a low level attack on the Bangkok – Lampang railway line from Uttardit to Bhanpajii. Locomotives were the primary target with opportunity targets along the railway line secondary.

An SOS was received from BZ 978 and another 35 minutes later saying “Trying Chittagong, two engines unserviceable, height 5,000 feet, air speed 140 mph.” twenty four minutes later another message was received “unable to receive due to heavy interference”. Eleven minutes later a final message to Base Control said “attacked by two enemy fighters over target, one dead and two wounded”. This was the last message received from the aircraft which did not return to base.

Air Sea Rescue and air searches were carried out over the area the aircraft was thought to have ditched. These reported on the night of 6/7th October that flashing lights and pyrotechnics were seen in position 18.30N, 92.50E. No dinghy was seen. On 7 October a dinghy was seen in position 18.55N, 92.22E. On 9 October a dinghy was again sighted, but there was doubt whether this was the unit’s dinghy. Nothing further was seen of the crew or dinghy.

The crew members of BZ978 were:

Warrant Officer Errol Percival Ford (420172) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Sergeant F E Hill (1891770) (RAF) Survived
Warrant Officer John McKinnon (1550526) (RAFVR) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant John Arthur Nelson (423854) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant William Noble Paterson (1345502) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Harry Frederick Richardson (R/184955) (RCAF) (Air Gunner) PoW Died: 28 October 1944
Flight Sergeant L J Roper (1338533) (RAF) (Second Pilot) Survived
Warrant Officer Clive Symes Swan (416627) (Navigator)

Flight Sergeant Richardson reached the shore in a dinghy, but subsequently died in Rangoon jail on 28 October 1944. Flight Sergeant Roper and Sergeant Hill successfully reached shore in a dinghy, survived and returned to the UK safe. It was established that Warrant Officer Ford was killed in the air by gun fire from enemy aircraft, and his body was not recovered. Also the four other missing crew members were not seen to leave the aircraft after ditching and their bodies were not recovered.

References:

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, 166/38/474