Mike, I encourage you to ask Gary to e-mail simmonsk ASAP. It has already been two years or so since simmonsk posted -- so the sooner Gary tries to reach him, the better. I sure hope he can be found, as he might be in possession of Frank's brother's medals.
I have been snooping around, and I've compiled more for you and Frank.
A few further details on the crew of KH256:
A/C "G" KH256
Capt: F/O Tree W M J12488 RCAF 23 Kelowna, British Columbia
2/P P/O Reeve TC J43995 RCAF 24 unknown
Nav P/O Cunningham WG J43407 RCAF 21 Fort William, Ontario
B/A P/O Stafford W F J44123 RCAF 28 Barons, Alberta
Wop Sgt Haberthur DL R258143 RCAF 20 Calgary
F/Eng Sgt Fletcher J.M 1306199 RAF 22 Liverpool, UK
Nose Sgt Paterson J W R212692 RCAF --- unknown
Tail Sgt Greenlee G F R263488 RCAF --- unknown
Each man from KH256 G is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, with no known grave. What is odd is that the crash site of KH256 was visited in 1946 by RAF Searcher Team No. 1, as mentioned in two documents found on-line that I will present below.
The targets for this 159 Squadron raid were bridges along the Moulmein-Ye rail line and the western end of the Burma-Siam Railway.
The 159 Squadron Operations Record Book is missing the in-depth multi-page post-sortie report of this operation. However, there is a detailed summary on the Form 541 entry for the 15 March 1945 op. All that is said regarding the fate of aircraft “Y”, piloted by F/O M. Tree (KH256) is:
A/c-Y- with F/O Tree as skipper is missing from this operation, with no work heard from the a/c from time of take off.
It was not known at the time how KH256 went down, and I don't know if post-war this was determined.
The 159 Sqn Operations Record Book Form 540 monthly summary for March 1945 also has a brief note:
Aircraft “G” has been posted missing from the operation of the 15th. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after leaving base.
The on-line Canadian Virtual War Memorial has an entry for each of the crew, but only Cunningham’s page includes photos (
). The items include a photo of Cunningham, his medals, his identity disk, and the first page only of the Circumstantial Loss of KH256. Transcribed here is that first page:
CIRCUMSTANTIAL REPORT ON LIBERATOR K.H.256 “G” & CREW
MISSING NOT RETURNED FROM OPERATIONS – 15th MARCH, 1945.
Herewith circumstantial report in respect of the above aircraft which was missing from operations on 15.3.45.
2. The aircraft was detailed to carry out a bombing missing on Bridge H.147 Moulmein – Ye Railway Line and the load consisted of 6 x 1000 G.P.’s 11 secs. delay bombs.
3. The crew consisted of:
J.12488 F/O. William Murray TREE Capt.
J.43995 F/O. Thomas Clement REEVE 2nd Pilot
J.43407 F/O. Walter Garfield CUNNINGHAM Nav.
J.44123 P/O William Francis STAFFORD B/A.
R.258143 Sgt. HABERTHUR, Donald Lee W/Op.Air.
1306199 Sgt. FLETCHER, J.M. F/Eng.
R.212692 Sgt. PATERSON, John William Nose Gnr.
R.263488 Sgt. GREENLEE, Gerald Francis Tail Gnr.
4. The fuel load was 2320 gallons, giving a normal endurance of approximately 16 hours.
5. The operation was due to be carried out as follows. Direction of attack northerly along railway track, aiming point southern end of byepass in daylight. The aircraft took off as briefed at 11.25 hrs. 15.3.45, and was due over the target at 17.10 hours and back at 23.30 hrs. the same night. The aircraft did not return and no signals have been received to indicate what happened.
6. Weather conditions en route and over the target were good. The aircraft had flown 557 hours since new and up to time of take off on 15.3.45, and was serviceable in all respects.
7. Five other aircraft attacking the same area observed between 17.26 hrs. and 17.42 hrs. black column of smoke from North bank of estuary of KWAMKLA-CHAUNG [first word’s spelling is a guess, and possibly in error, due to poor quality copy] just north east of AMHURST POINT and one aircraft. . .
[end of page one; page two is not on-line]
Amherst appears on the best old map I have of the area, US Army Map Service 1:250,000 sheet NE 47-14 from the 1950s, but no such “Kwamkla Chaung” or a similarly named creek, is named on this map. Tthere is a distinctive estuary immediately to the northeast. The wartime British-made 1:126,720,000 or possibly 1:63,360 maps most likely name this chaung (creek, stream).
In 2012 I corresponded with a relative of 99 Sqn Liberator airman R150868 G.L. Rowe (RCAF), killed on ops aboard Liberator KH360 on 1 January 1945, in a water ditching not far from Moulmein, Burma. This relative provided a link to a pdf file containing G.L. Rowe's scanned RCAF file:
It is significant that there are two documents in this file, on pages 64 and 66, which mention that local villagers led the search team to the wrecksite of “KN256.” This is a typographical error, in each report, and it must refer to KH256. There was no KN256 Liberator serial number, and the geographic locale was correct. Additionally, a plume of smoke – presumably the crash site of KH256 – had been noted in the KH256 Circumstantial Report as being near Amherst, also providing evidence that KH256 crashed near Amherst, which itself is only 28 miles south of Moulmein.
A full transcription of the document on pg 66 of the G.L. Rowe pdf file is presented first. (Incidentally, from my research I know that the Hudson aircraft which is mentioned in this report is serial number V9221, which crash landed on the beach on 18 April 1942 after encountering fighters on a raid to Port Blair, South Andaman Island.)
REPORT OF SEARCH FOR LIBERATOR
KN360[the “N” was hand-corrected to “H”]
[A note was also inked. It reads:"Page 13 Search List"].
No. 1 Searcher Team reached the area of AMHURST on the evening of 10th April [no date, but it must have been 1946].
Enquiries were first made at the village of AMHURST and from there the team was directed to a position 1556N, 9737E, map reference OS 2431 sheet 95 E.
On arrival at this position the wreckage of a two engined aircraft was found and from its appearance it was judged that it had been lying there for some time.
One of the villagers of SETSE about one mile from the scene of the crash stated that an Australian man living on a rubber plantation close by had come down to the aircraft soon after it had crashed and taken the airman to his house.
The man in question was visited, a Mr. Taylor of SETSE Rubber Plantation and he gave us the following information.
About April 1942 a Hudson aircraft had ditched on the beaches of SETSE after making a bombing attack on the Andaman Islands. He immediately went to the scene of the crash and found four airmen one of whom was dead and after setting fire to the aircraft he had taken the remaining three to his bungalow. Unfortunately the local Burmese villagers informed the Japs of their presence and they were forced to make a bolt for it. He and one of the airmen by the name of Jackson stuck together but were taken prisoner on the second day. Mr. Taylor was interned in Tavoy prison and Jackson taken to Rangoon. He heard no more from them.
None of the villagers of the surrounding villages knew anything of any other crash in the area and the team found nothing in their search of the beach and surrounding country. The villagers were very quick to take us to the above mentioned crash and also to the remains of LIBERATOR KN.256 further to North and it is thought that if any other aircraft had crashed here they would have taken the team to it. They spoke of a crashed Dakota and an L.5 which had accidents during the evacuation of prisoners of war when British troops were in Amherst.
At this point enquiries were stopped.
Mr. Taylor gave the names of the crew of the Hudson and they are repeated in this report in case the personnel are still missing.
The wireless operator was the member of the crew who was killed.
The crew were based at Akyab.
Mr. Taylor’s address is :-
J.E.W. TAYLOR Esq.
SETSE RUBBER PLANTATION
THANBYUZAYAT POST OFFICE
Handwritten in blue ink, with unidentifiable initials:
2. Searcher List checked 16/7/46. Hudson referred to not in list.
(signed) ? ? ? P/O.
Officer i/c No. 1 Team.
Next is a transcript of pg 64 of the G.L. Rowe RCAF personnel file, containing a report on the investigation into the loss of RAF 99 Sqn Liberator KH360. This report briefly mentions KH256, misidentified as KN256:
Our file R150868(R.O.)
ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE
OTTAWA, Canada, 30th July, 1946.
73-77 Oxford St.,
CAN/R150868 W/O Rowe, G.L.
1. Reference is made to South East Asia Air Command letter BPO/7003/2927/CAS dated 7th June, 1946 together with the Search Report submitted by the Officer who investigated the crash of Liberator KH.360.
2. The Circumstantial Report states that the aircraft crash landed in the sea one mile east of the southern tip of Kalegauk Island which would place the crash in the narrow strait between the Island and the Mainland. Reports from survivors state that one member of the crew, F/S Johnson, left the aircraft after ditching without his mae west and, after clinging to an oxygen bottle for some time, was drowned. It is quite likely that his body was washed ashore. It is also probable that the other bodies or pieces of wreckage could be washed ashore as well.
3. It would appear that the crash area was not visited by the Searcher Team as Amhurst, at which enquiries were made, is approximately 28 miles north of Kalegauk Island. The second sentence of Paragraph 7 of the Search Report submitted reads as follows:
“The villagers were very quick to take us to the above mentioned crash [not a Liberator, but an RAF Hudson, serial V9221, crashed on the beach at Setse, Burma, 1556N, 9737E, map reference OS 2431 sheet 95 E, per other sources] and also to the remains of Liberator KN.256 [error…should be KH256] further to North and it is thought that if any other aircraft had crashed here they would have taken the team to it.”
It would seem that on the strength of this supposition, that the Officer in Charge of the Team did not feel it necessary to investigate Kalegauk Island and the adjacent Mainland.
4. The information supplied by the Search Report will be of no value in answering the questions from the Next-of-kin, particularly in view of the fact that three members of this crash survived. Therefore, it is requested that a visit be made to Kalegauk Island and the adjacent Mainland in an endeavour to obtain more information.
for Chief of the Air Staff.
Attached are four items:
1. Page 64 of the G.L. Rowe pdf file;
2. Page 66 of the G.L. Rowe pdf file;
3. A photo of Walter Cunningham from your uncle's crew.
4. Page 1 of the Circumstantial Report.
So this should give you a bit of material to study and investigate, if you want. But take a look at the wealth of material in the G.L. Rowe personnel file. You can obtain all, or selected, items from your uncle's similar file, via the Library and Archives Canada. And page two of the Circumstantial Report will be in Gerald Greenlee's personnel file.
To me, there seems to be something not right here. Why were no crew remains recovered?? If the crash occurred in water or difficult marshy ground, this could explain it. Or if the men all baled out before the Liberator crashed, this would explain. And it would also create another mystery: what happened to the men who baled out?? Not one of the crew are listed as a POW in any of my sources.
I have researched several Lib wrecks inthe Far East where there were remains found, but the men today are listed as "missing, no known graves". Huge mistakes were made, and families were not told the truth. I can't possibly know if any KH256 crew remains were found, but there certainly could be more information in Gerald's RCAF file.
Lastly, I would encourage you to write to the RAF Air Historical Branch...or actually, for your father to submit a letter and the required Proof of Kinship form. The ultra-secretive UK MoD may release a summary of post-war documents describing what was found by the No. 1 Searcher Team which, per the two Rowe file documents, was led to the wreck. I can give you an address.
It is so nice of you to take the time to respond to me. We came across this site by a fluke and were shocked to read of my uncle's name. I have been trying to find information for my dad that could help him better understand what transpired. I will take you up on your offer and contact you directly. Again, thanks so much for your time.
Glad to share what I know. Before your reply was posted I wrote an e-mail to Simmonsk, the guy from Pittsburgh who started this thread, and Gary Fowkes (webmaster & computer whiz) will forward it to Simmonsk's e-mail address -- hoping that Simmonsk still uses that e-mail address.
If we can confirm the location of the KH256 crashsite -- and it might take a letter written to the UK Air Historical Branch -- then I have a talented, loyal friend in Rangoon who will likely go out of her way to visit the area at some point. I know I'm jumping the gun a bit, but I bet the location of the crash will be pinpointed. I imagine the plume of smoke reported by other 159 Sqn aircraft was where KH256 fell, and it is very close to the former Amherst, Burma, now named Kyaikkami. I might be able to access an old British wartime map, which will almost certainly have the name of the creek mentioned in the Circumstantial Report. It would also have the wartime military grid, which would have been used by investigators to pinpoint the crashsite.
But one thing at a time! I'll keep an eye out for your e-mail to me.