RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

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Eugen Pinak
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Eugen Pinak » 28 Jul 2020 12:52

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
27 Jul 2020 22:02
Many thanks for pointing that out. :thumbsup:

I don't think there are any more on-line records from UK archives, but I will be going back to Kew at some point to start copying more relevant records.
You are welcome, Tom!

It's a pity, that digitalized military records in UK NA are mostly personnel-related. However, this is understandable, as a lot of people here are looking about their ancestors.

Rob Stuart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Rob Stuart » 02 Aug 2020 13:27

I have now been able to access AIR 27/157/35, the 11 Sqn ORB for March-April 1942. There is no mention of 11 Sqn participating in any exercise taking place on 23 March or any other late March date.

There are now two possibilities:

(1) 11 Sqn was based at the Racecourse airfield by 23 March and it's clear that the ORB was compiled there, but its aircraft operated primarily from Ratmalana until 2 April. It is perhaps possible that the Blenheims were deemed to have been detached to Ratmalana and that their training missions are listed in the Ratmalana ORB for 1 March 1942 to 31 October 1945, which is AIR 28/666. This record has not been digitized, unfortunately. It may well show that a number of Blenheins participated in the 23 March exercise and other exercises.

(2) Vildebeest and/or Seal torpedo aircraft belonging to Ratmalana's station flight, which had a few of them, were the aircraft making the torpedo attacks during the exercise on 23 March.

Of course, (1) and (2) might both have happened.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 02 Aug 2020 19:42

Hi Rob,

Thanks, that's interesting. I hadn't realised there was such a mixed bag of aircraft on Ceylon. I'd only thought that there were the Blenheims, Hurricanes and Catalinas of RAF and RCAF, and a few Fulmars and Swordfish of FAA.

I'll take a look at AIR 28/666 next time I can get to Kew. I'm hoping that will be in September with a bit of luck.

Regards

Tom

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Andy H
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Andy H » 02 Aug 2020 22:27

Hi

This is from Of Islands, Ports and Sea Lanes by Ashley Jackson Pg193
'413 Sqn RCAF had begun arriving on March 31st (its 331 strong ground crew following on in May)....the aircraft being based at Koggala amongst the coconut plantations and there is more about the SLdr Birchalls exploits here:- http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo7/no4/stuart-eng.asp

In Wings over the Dawning by Arthur Banks Pg63 it lists the planes engaged against the Japanese Easter attacks as:-
30 Sqn RAF had 22 Hurricane II's 803 & 806 Sqns FAA had 6 Fulmars and 258Sqn had 9 Hurricane II's and 5 Hurricane I's.

Regards

Andy H

Rob Stuart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Rob Stuart » 03 Aug 2020 03:50

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
02 Aug 2020 19:42
Hi Rob,

Thanks, that's interesting. I hadn't realised there was such a mixed bag of aircraft on Ceylon. I'd only thought that there were the Blenheims, Hurricanes and Catalinas of RAF and RCAF, and a few Fulmars and Swordfish of FAA.
My info, but not all of which is confirmed, is as follows:

-On 27 December 1941 there were 4 Vildebeest III at China Bay. Three moved to Ratmalana circa 11 March. I think they were probably still there on 5 April but I'm not sure. They appear to have been used primarily for inshore anti-submarine patrols.

-On 27 December 1941 there were 4 Seals at China Bay. There were still two on 26 March. (I don't know what happened to the other two.) On 7 April a Seal hit a stationary Swordfish on take off. Two pilots of 261 Sqn, WO John Griffin and F/S Tom Quinn (both aboard the Seal), and 273 Sqn’s MO, F/L J.C. Anstie, were killed. I image that left just one Seal but I'm not sure.

-On 26 March 273 Sqn reportedly had 9 Swordfish, 3 Albacore, the 2 Seals mentioned above, and 16 Fulmars. 788 NAS was to take over the Swordfish, Albacores and Seals. The six Swordfish lost on 5 April were presumably all from this group of nine. A separate source (a signal from Arbuthnot) says that there were only two Albacores on 27 March. They were "fleet replacements", i.e., they were being held to be issued to aircraft carriers to replace losses.

-Exeter's Walrus arrived at Colombo from Java circa 4 March aboard the auxiliary anti-submarine vessel Bulan but I have no further info on this aircraft.

-Glasgow's Walrus crashed near China Bay on 5 April. Glasgow was at Colombo 6-14 March, sailing for the Atlantic on the latter date. I would guess that it may have left its Walrus behind if it was unservicable or if it was needed for eventual transfer to another ship.

So apart from the aircraft you mention there was just a handful of a few other types.

Incidentally, four of the Catalinas were Dutch: Y-55, Y-56, Y-57 and Y-64. Y-55 and Y-57 were out of service during Operation C (they were probably at Bangalore for overhaul by HAL) but Y-56 was operational throughout early April and Y-64 was operational from 6 April onward.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 03 Aug 2020 19:47

Rob Stuart wrote:
03 Aug 2020 03:50
My info, but not all of which is confirmed, is as follows:

-On 27 December 1941 there were 4 Vildebeest III at China Bay. Three moved to Ratmalana circa 11 March. I think they were probably still there on 5 April but I'm not sure. They appear to have been used primarily for inshore anti-submarine patrols.

-On 27 December 1941 there were 4 Seals at China Bay. There were still two on 26 March. (I don't know what happened to the other two.) On 7 April a Seal hit a stationary Swordfish on take off. Two pilots of 261 Sqn, WO John Griffin and F/S Tom Quinn (both aboard the Seal), and 273 Sqn’s MO, F/L J.C. Anstie, were killed. I image that left just one Seal but I'm not sure.

-On 26 March 273 Sqn reportedly had 9 Swordfish, 3 Albacore, the 2 Seals mentioned above, and 16 Fulmars. 788 NAS was to take over the Swordfish, Albacores and Seals. The six Swordfish lost on 5 April were presumably all from this group of nine. A separate source (a signal from Arbuthnot) says that there were only two Albacores on 27 March. They were "fleet replacements", i.e., they were being held to be issued to aircraft carriers to replace losses.

-Exeter's Walrus arrived at Colombo from Java circa 4 March aboard the auxiliary anti-submarine vessel Bulan but I have no further info on this aircraft.

-Glasgow's Walrus crashed near China Bay on 5 April. Glasgow was at Colombo 6-14 March, sailing for the Atlantic on the latter date. I would guess that it may have left its Walrus behind if it was unservicable or if it was needed for eventual transfer to another ship.

So apart from the aircraft you mention there was just a handful of a few other types.

Incidentally, four of the Catalinas were Dutch: Y-55, Y-56, Y-57 and Y-64. Y-55 and Y-57 were out of service during Operation C (they were probably at Bangalore for overhaul by HAL) but Y-56 was operational throughout early April and Y-64 was operational from 6 April onward.
Rob,

Thanks for sharing this. A fascinating mixture.

I found this file on the Discovery Search Engine:

Reference: AIR 81/13595
Description:
Flight Sergeant T A Quinn, Flight Lieutenant W J C Anstie, Warrant Officer J J Griffin: killed; Fairey Seal K4781, 273 Squadron, aircraft accident Kokkilai landin ground, China Bay, Ceylon, 7 April 1942

Was this where you got the information about the accident?

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 07 Aug 2020 17:22

Rob Stuart wrote:
03 Aug 2020 03:50
My info, but not all of which is confirmed, is as follows:

-On 27 December 1941 there were 4 Vildebeest III at China Bay. Three moved to Ratmalana circa 11 March. I think they were probably still there on 5 April but I'm not sure. They appear to have been used primarily for inshore anti-submarine patrols.

-On 27 December 1941 there were 4 Seals at China Bay. There were still two on 26 March. (I don't know what happened to the other two.) On 7 April a Seal hit a stationary Swordfish on take off. Two pilots of 261 Sqn, WO John Griffin and F/S Tom Quinn (both aboard the Seal), and 273 Sqn’s MO, F/L J.C. Anstie, were killed. I image that left just one Seal but I'm not sure.

-On 26 March 273 Sqn reportedly had 9 Swordfish, 3 Albacore, the 2 Seals mentioned above, and 16 Fulmars. 788 NAS was to take over the Swordfish, Albacores and Seals. The six Swordfish lost on 5 April were presumably all from this group of nine. A separate source (a signal from Arbuthnot) says that there were only two Albacores on 27 March. They were "fleet replacements", i.e., they were being held to be issued to aircraft carriers to replace losses.
Hi Rob,

These snips are from the ORB of 273 Sqn RAF at China Bay (AIR27/1581/27):
273 Sqn - 4 Apr 42.GIF
273 Sqn - 9 Apr 42.GIF
273 Sqn - 1 May 42.GIF
Regards

Tom
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Rob Stuart
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Rob Stuart » 11 Aug 2020 17:23

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
03 Aug 2020 19:47
I found this file on the Discovery Search Engine:

Reference: AIR 81/13595
Description:
Flight Sergeant T A Quinn, Flight Lieutenant W J C Anstie, Warrant Officer J J Griffin: killed; Fairey Seal K4781, 273 Squadron, aircraft accident Kokkilai landin ground, China Bay, Ceylon, 7 April 1942

Was this where you got the information about the accident?
Tom,

My original sources were Bloody Shambles, vol. 2, p. 411; and Tomlinson's The Most Dangerous Moment, p. 138. I also verified the particulars of the deceased via the CWGC web site. Later a obtained a copy of AIR 27/1581/27 which confirms/amplifies my original sources. I was not aware of AIR 81/13595, so thanks for drawing my attention to it.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: RAF Defence of Ceylon - April 1942

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 13 Aug 2020 19:51

Rob Stuart wrote:
11 Aug 2020 17:23
Tom,

My original sources were Bloody Shambles, vol. 2, p. 411; and Tomlinson's The Most Dangerous Moment, p. 138. I also verified the particulars of the deceased via the CWGC web site. Later a obtained a copy of AIR 27/1581/27 which confirms/amplifies my original sources. I was not aware of AIR 81/13595, so thanks for drawing my attention to it.
Thanks, I've been trying to get a copy of those two from the library for a while but I think reservations are held up by the COVID situation here in the UK.

I think those RAF casualty reports have just been released (it says "open June 2020" on the UK TNA website). There are several related to the actions on both 5 April and 9 April.

For example, AIR81/13583 - Squadron Leader P C Fletcher: injured; Hurricane 5680, 258 Squadron, aircraft hit by anti aircraft shell, pilot baled from aircraft and attacked during descent, Colombo Harbour, Ceylon, 5 April 1942.

And there seem to be RN casualty reports that might be of interest too:

ADM 358/1006 - Fleet Air Arm officers and ratings reported missing: aircraft failed to return to HMS Indomitable, 5 April 1942; HMS Avenger, 4 May 1942; HMS Argus, 14 June 1942; presumption of deaths.

Regards

Tom

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