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06 July 2020
Pilot Albert George DECLERCK and Crew – 462 Squadron RAAF Middle East

 

 

 

Wanted: Photo of Crew, or individuals,
and information about them.

If you can help, please make contact.

DECLERCK and his crew in Halifax II W7659 F failed to return from an Op on the night of 23 October 1942. Five were KIA, and as they had no known graves, they are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial in Egypt. The sixth crewman survived, to become a PoW.

Captain: Albert George DECLERCK KIA
Observer/Navigator: Kenneth Hughes WHITMORE KIA
Wireless Operator: Leslie Walter GILES KIA
Flight Engineer: G F SIMPSON PoW
Mid-Upper Gunner: Arthur Henry PEPPER KIA
Tail Gunner: John Wilson TYSON KIA
Previous crew members

Enlistment details; Additional Crew Information; the Crew Ops;
Details of last Op 23/24 October 1942; and Aircraft Loss.

Information from: 462 Squadron Operational Record Book (ORB) for October 1942 from the National Archives of Australia (NAA), and September 1942 from TNA, UK; Australian WW2 Nominal Roll; Australian War Memorial; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; London Gazette, Air Force List (July 1945).
Reference was also made to "To See the Dawn Again" by Mark Lax & Leon Kane-Maguire, and "The Handley Page Halifax" by K A Merrick (details of both books in Acknowledgements).
Terminology in the September and October 1942 ORB for 462 Squadron, differs from later usage e.g. Observer/Navigator; Tail/Rear Gunner.

 

 

Pilot

Name:Albert George DECLERCK
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 402790
Date of Birth: 06 August 1916
Place of Birth: Newcastle, New South Wales
Date of Enlistment: 14 October 1940
Place of Enlistment: Sydney, NSW
Next of Kin: M DECLERCK
Date of Death: 23 October 1942
Rank at Death: Flight Sergeant
Posting at Death: 462 Squadron, Middle East Command

Age at Death: 26
Grave reference: No known grave
Commemorated at Alamein Memorial, Egypt, Column 265
Also at Australian War Memorial, Commemorative Area,
Roll of Honour Panel 109

Son of Louis Francois DECLERCK & Winifred Mable DECLERCK;
husband of Marjorie Alice DECLERCK,
of Dudley, NSW, Australia
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Observer / Navigator

Name:Kenneth Hughes WHITMORE
Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Service Number: 999518
Date of Birth: ......
Place of Birth: ......
Date of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment Info
Place of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment info
Next of Kin: J H WHITMORE
Date of Death: 23 October 1942
Rank at Death: Flight Sergeant
Posting at Death: 462 Squadron, Middle East Command

Age at Death: 22
Grave reference: No known grave
Commemorated at Alamein Memorial, Egypt, Column 250

Son of Joseph Hughes WHITMORE and Emily WHITMORE
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Wireless Operator

Name:Leslie Walter GILES
Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Service Number: 1153580
Date of Birth: ......
Place of Birth: ......
Date of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment Info
Place of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment info
Next of Kin: M G GILES
Date of Death: 23 October 1942
Rank at Death: Sergeant
Posting at Death: 462 Squadron, Middle East Command

Age at Death: 29
Grave reference: No known grave
Commemorated at Alamein Memorial, Egypt, Column 261

Son of Walter and Adelaide GILES;
husband of M G GILES of Penge, Kent.
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Flight Engineer

Name:G F SIMPSON
Service: Royal Air Force
Service Number: 538225
Date of Birth: ......
Place of Birth: ......
Date of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment Info
Place of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment info
Next of Kin: ......

Date of Aircraft loss/PoW: 23 October 1942
Rank at Aircraft loss/PoW: Sergeant
Posting at Aircraft loss: 462 Squadron, Middle East Command

Age: ......

Family details not known
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Mid-Upper Gunner

Name:Arthur Henry PEPPER
Service: Royal Canadian Air Force
Service Number: R.82619
Date of Birth: ......
Place of Birth: ......
Date of Enlistment: ......
Place of Enlistment: ......
Next of Kin: G W PEPPER
Date of Death: 23 October 1942
Rank at Death: Flight Sergeant
Posting at Death: 462 Squadron, Middle East Command

Age at Death: 20
Grave reference: No known grave
Commemorated at Alamein Memorial, Egypt, Column 264

Son of George William and Gertrude Ann PEPPER,
of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
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Tail / Rear Gunner

Name:John Wilson TYSON
Service: Royal Air Force
Service Number: 551714
Date of Birth: ......
Place of Birth: ......
Date of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment Info
Place of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment info
Next of Kin: R W TYSON
Date of Death: 23 October 1942
Rank at Death: Flight Sergeant
Posting at Death: 462 Squadron, Middle East Command

Age at Death: 22
Grave reference: No known grave
Commemorated at Alamein Memorial, Egypt, Column 250

Son of Robert Wilson TYSON and Eliza Maggie Tyson,
of Keswick, Cumberland.
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Previous Observer / Navigator

Name: Frank LALLY
Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Service Number: 118657 (previously 655674)
Date of Birth: ......
Place of Birth: ......
Date of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment Info
Place of Enlistment: ..... *** see later Enlistment info
Next of Kin: ......
Posting duration: October/November/December 1942
Rank during posting: Pilot Officer
Posting: 462 Squadron, Middle East Command
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Previous Tail Gunner

Name: R WHITLOCK
Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (?)
Service Number: ......
Date of Birth: ......
Place of Birth: ......
Date of Enlistment: ......
Place of Enlistment: ......
Next of Kin: ......
Posting duration: October 1942
Rank during posting: Sergeant
Posting: 462 Squadron, Middle East Command
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*** Enlistment Details

From the website http://www.ab-ix.co.uk/rfc_raf.pdf which details RFC and RAF Service Numbers: ......

No. 965000 to No. 1149977 were allocated from September 1939 at Padgate. This batch includes 999518 for Observer K H WHITMORE.
No. 1150001 to 1250000 were allocated from May 1940 from Cardington. This batch includes 1153580 for Wireless Operator L W GILES.
No. 505001 to 549999 were allocated from October 1925 to Civilians. This batch includes 538225 for Flight Engineer G F SIMPSON.
No. 550000 to 558000 were allocated from September 1934 to "Boy Entrants". This batch includes 551714 for Tail Gunner G W TYSON.
No. 655000 to 679899 were allocated from January 1939 to "Transfers from Army". This batch includes the first Service Number 655674 for Observer F LALLY, before he received his Commission, with new Service Number 118657.

From the above, it would seem that the RAF and RAFVR members in this crew had joined the Air Force either before the War, or soon after War was declared. Their Pilot DECLERCK had also enlisted early in the War, October 1940, in Australia.
Point to note also – only Officers and their Service Numbers were recorded in the the Postings TO and FROM the Squadron (Forms 540). NCOs were recorded in the Ops (Forms 541) but without Service Numbers, and often without initials. They can therefore be difficult to identify correctly, unless they were Commissioned, or received an Award (Air Force List, London Gazette), or were KIA (CWGC records).
If you can assist with given names, Service Numbers, or other details of this crew, please make contact.
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Additional Crew Information – more to be added when available.

Pilot DECLERCK – at the time of writing for 06 June 2019, his Service File had not been digitized (re-checked for site update 06 June 2020).
He is included in a group photo of Graduate Aircrew Trainees, taken sometime 1941, at Amberley, Ipswich, Queensland; which may be seen online as a low resolution photo at the Australian War Memorial, Accession Number P09647.002. Declerck is seated in the front row, fifth from the left (as recorded in the AWM caption).
Searching online Newspapers (Trove – National Library of Australia) there are several references to DECLERCK.
– Raymond Terrace Examiner and Lower Hunter and Port Stephens Advertiser, 20 Feb 1941, page 4 – "With The Colours" – Enlisted locally or at other depots – multiple names including – DeClerck, A., Nelson's Bay.
– Northern Star (Lismore), 13 Nov 1942, page 6 – RAAF LIST, ABROAD – Missing, Air Operations – Declerck, Sgt. A. G., Newcastle.
– Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner's Advocate, 13 Jan 1943, page 4 – RAAF Casualty List – OVERSEAS – PREVIOUSLY MISSING, NOW MISSING BELIEVED KILLED – Sgt A. G. Declerck, Tamworth.
– Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner's Advocate, 09 Jul 1943, page 6 – RAAF LIST – OVERSEAS – PREVIOUSLY MISSING, NOW PRESUMED DEAD – Declerck, A. G., Sgt., Newcastle.
– Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner's Advocate, 25 Oct 1943, page 2 – as below

ROLL OF HONOUR

DECLERCK – In loving memory of our
dear son and brother, Sgt. Pilot Albert
Declerck, who lost his life on an
operational flight, Middle East, October 23, 1942.
WE often sit and think of you,
The things you used to say and do,
And wonder why you had to die,
Without a chance to say good-bye.
Ever remembered by his loving mother
and father, brother and sister, also by
his loving grandma.

 

Pilot Officer Frank LALLY, 118657 RAFVR was the crew's first Observer/Navigator at 462 Squadron.
14 February 1942 – Commissioned to the rank of Pilot Officer with new Service Number 118657, from the rank of Leading Aircraftman, Service Number 655674 (London Gazette, Number 35598, Tues 16 June 1942, page 2658).
01 October 1942 – Promoted to the rank of Flying Officer (London Gazette, Number 35791, Friday 20 November 1942, page 5041).
14 February 1944 – Promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, (London Gazette, Number 35791, Friday 03 March 1944, page 1054; and Air Forces List of July 1945).
LALLY carried out 2 Ops with DECLERCK, and later carried out 4 Ops with Pilot GIBBONS, and one each consecutively with MURRAY, GRIBBON, CLARKE, and ALLEN – Total 10 Ops.
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Crew Ops at 462 Squadron, Fayid, Egypt

Transcribed from the 462 Squadron Operational Record Book (ORB), October 1942, Forms 541 Detail of Work Carried Out; and Forms 540 Summary of Events. Some of the pages are badly faded, or were very poor quality carbon copies (some 1942 originals had been created using very worn carbon paper), so some words are almost illegible. My apologies for any transcriptions errors.

ORB Form 541 for September 1942, with legible pages, was received from the UK in April 2020 - an extra 7 Ops (from September 1942) for this crew have been added for the 06 June 2020 site update.

As an already experienced Pilot from 10 Squadron, DECLERCK did not carry out any Ops at 462 Squadron as a 2nd Pilot.
Pilot DECLERCK and his usual crew – 12 Ops, one Op with 2nd Pilot, Sgt J C McCall, and two Ops with 2nd Pilot, Sgt A H Howard.
Times in red are Night Ops.

 
Date Op No A/C Serial Code Z5- Up Down Target Op Type Comments
15/09/1942 1 W7717 J 1933 0255 Tobruk, Shipping Bombing From Fayid;
2nd Pilot, Sgt J C McCALL; defences accurate and intense;
bombed from 11,000 ft aimed at jetties;
1 of 10 aircraft detailed.
17/09/1942 2 W7717 J 1923 0221 Tobruk, Jetties Bombing From Fayid;
bombed from 13,000 ft with 5 x 1000 lb G P and 8 x 30 lb I B in area of jetties; flak normal;
1 of 10 aircraft detailed.
19/09/1942 3 W7702 L 2036 0323 Tobruk, Jetties Bombing From Fayid;
bombed jetties from 12,000 ft with 5 x 1000 lb G P and 8 x 30 lb I B; 2 x I B hung up and jettisoned; light flak;
1 of 9 aircraft detailed.
22/09/1942 4 W7702 L 2224 0530 Tobruk, Shipping and Jetties Bombing From Fayid;
bombed jetties from 12,000 ft with 5 x 1000 lb G P and 8 x 30 lb I B; no results seen due to evasive action; damage by flak to fuselage and tailplane, and various holes in aircraft;
1 of 9 aircraft detailed.
25/09/1942 5 W1169 S 2032 0350 Tobruk Bombing From Fayid;
bombed jetties from 14,500 ft with 6 x 1000 lb G P T F bombs with delays;
1 of 9 aircraft detailed.
27/09/1942 6 W7717 J 2021 0312 Tobruk Bombing From Fayid;
bombed jetties from 13,000 ft with 6 x 1000 lb G P bombs; little flak;
1 of 8 aircraft detailed.
29/09/1942 7 W7717 J 2108 0417 Tobruk Bombing From Fayid;
bombed jetties from 12,500 ft with 6 x 1000 lb G P bombs; aircraft hit by flak on bombing run, and about 10 small holes from heavy flak;
1 of 5 aircraft detailed.
On this Op, MURRAY crew in W1176 Z crash landed in desert 5 miles north west of Fayid aerodrome, 5 minutes after take off, due to engine failure.
07/10/1942 8 W7659 F 2311 2354 Suda Bay, Crete,
Tanker or jetties
Bombing From Fayid;
Op abandoned, starboard outer engine cut out at 2323 hrs; all bombs jettisoned safe at sea (5 x 1000 lb; 1 x 500 lb); returned safely to base.
1 of 7 aircraft detailed.
10/10/1942 9 W1177 G 1907 0230 Maleme Aerodrome, Crete, attack dispersed aircraft Bombing From Fayid;
2nd Pilot, Sgt A H HOWARD;
10/10 cloud cover prevented target identification;
bombed alternate target, Timbaki, from 13,500 ft with 7 x 500lb; 6 x 250 lb bombs; returned safely to base.
1 of 6 aircraft detailed.
12/10/1942 10 W7717 J 1901 0210
at
LG224
Tobruk;
Dock Installations
Bombing From Fayid;
2nd Pilot, Sgt A H HOWARD;
Jetties bombed from 13,500 ft in good weather with good visibility; 6 x 1000 lb bombs with delays; intense Flak; during bomb release aircraft was hit by heavy Flak under fuselage, wings and engine nacelles, port tanks and propeller; at 2340 hrs the starboard inner engine cut out and was feathered; starboard outer also not normal so landed at Landing Ground 224 (LG224) on 13/10/1942.
1 of 6 aircraft detailed.
19/10/1942 11 W7702 L 2115 0250 Tobruk, Shipping Bombing From Fayid;
Starboard outer engine stopped at 2351 hrs; course altered to Sollum to bomb harbour at 9,000 ft, only 1 of 6 x 1000lb bombs released OK; remainder released manually after leaving Sollum;
returned safely to base on 3 engines.
1 of 6 aircraft detailed.
23/10/1942 12 W7659 F 2135 Failed to return Maleme Aerodrome, Crete, attack dispersed aircraft Bombing From Fayid;
Aircraft was airborne but nothing was heard from it afterwards.
Failed to return. Posted as MISSING.
1 of 4 aircraft detailed.

Halifax W1169 S was still in use in September 1943 - photo on the R H V THOMAS Crew page

Ops 8, 10, and 11 all had engine trouble, which was an ongoing issue for the Squadron under desert conditions.

Crew changes for these 12 Ops

Op 01 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs J McBURNEY, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng R R MANNING, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK; 2nd Pilot Sgt J C McCALL
Op 02 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs K H WHITMORE, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng R R MANNING, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK
Op 03 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs K H WHITMORE, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng W G PLUMMER, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK
Op 04 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs K H WHITMORE, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng W G PLUMMER, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK
Op 05 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs F LALLY, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng G F SIMPSON, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK
Op 06 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs F LALLY, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng G F SIMPSON, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK
Op 07 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs F LALLY, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng G F SIMPSON, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK
Op 08 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs F LALLY, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng G F SIMPSON, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK
Op 09 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs F LALLY, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng G F SIMPSON, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK; 2nd Pilot Sgt A H HOWARD;
Op 10 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs K H WHITMORE, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng G F SIMPSON, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G R WHITLOCK; 2nd Pilot Sgt A H HOWARD;
Op 11 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs K H WHITMORE, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng G F SIMPSON, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G J W TYSON
Op 12 – Pilot A DeCLERCK, Obs K H WHITMORE, W/OP L W GILES, F/Eng G F SIMPSON, Mid/G A H PEPPER, Tail/G J W TYSON

DeCLERCK, GILES, and PEPPER were the only three who flew in ALL of this Crew's Ops.
Further research is required to obtain correct initials, given-names and Service Numbers for all of the various crew members.
All, whether permanent or temporary crew members, were at 462 Squadron, from September to December 1942.
On 25 December 1942, all aircrew were posted to 22 Personnel Transit Centre (22 PTC) as tour expired, to await passage to the UK. No names or Service Numbers were listed, and the total number of personnel was not listed.

Obs F/Sgt J McBURNEY - only 1 Op, with DeCLERCK; may be in error for ....
Obs F/Sgt R W McBURNEY - 11 Ops; 7 with WYATT Crew; 2 with KENNY Crew, and 2 with GRIBBIN Crew.

Obs P/O Frank LALLY 118657 RAFVR - 14 Ops - 1 with GIBBONS; 5 with DeCLERCK; 4 more with GIBBONS; 1 each with MURRAY, CLARKE, GRIBBON, and ALLEN.

F/Eng Sgt R R MANNING - 12 Ops - 2 with DeCLERCK, 3 with CLARKE; 6 with GIBBINS; 1 with WYATT.

F/Eng Sgt W G PLUMMER - 5 Ops - 2 with DeCLERCK, 1 with GIBBONS, 1 with CLARKE; 1 with GOLDSTON Crew who Failed to Return on 10 November 1942; 3 were KIA; however PLUMMER is not listed in CWGC records, so presumably survived as a PoW (?)

Tail/G Sgt R WHITLOCK - 10 Ops - all with DeCLERCK.

Pilot/Captain Sgt A G DeCLERCK - 12 Ops, KIA
Obs Sgt K H WHITMORE - 6 Ops, all with DeCLERCK;KIA with DeCLERCK
W/Op Sgt L W GILES - 12 Ops, all with all with DeCLERCK;KIA with DeCLERCK
Mid/G Sgt A H PEPPER - 12 Ops, all with DeCLERCK;KIA with DeCLERCK
F/Eng Sgt G F SIMPSON - 8 Ops, all with DeCLERCK; survivor and PoW
Tail/G Sgt J W TYSON - 12 Ops, 2 with GRIBBIN, 7 with GIBBONS, another 1 with GRIBBIN; 2 with DeCLERCK; KIA with DeCLERCK.

 

On 23/10/1942, F/Lt J C MURRAY with Pilot F/Sgt H A BROWN, crew and ground crew, flew from Fayid to LG224, from 1006 to 1045 hrs, to collect Halifax W7717 J, previously landed there by DECLERCK on 12/10/1942. The aircraft was returned to Fayid by Pilot BROWN, from 1215 to 1250 hrs. By co-incidence this was the same date that DECLERCK and crew failed to return from their night Op.

 

From "The Handley Page Halifax" by K A Merrick, Chapter 8, page 75 – Sgt DeClerk (sic, DeClerck) and crew at 10 Squadron (based at Aqir, Palestine) had previously been forced to ditch at sea on the night of 5/6 August 1942. Their Halifax W7757 had been damaged by flak over the target Tobruk, putting the starboard inner engine out of action. During the return flight, the port outer engine had to be feathered, causing the aircraft to lose height. The remaining two engines overheated, and the aircraft was ditched. The crew escaped safely to a dinghy.
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Last Op 23/24 October 1942

ORB Form 540, Summary of Events for October 1942, page 4.
23 October 1942 – ..... quoted as written ..... "Four Halifax II aircraft were detailed to attack dispersed aircraft at MALEME AERODROME, CRETE. Two of those four aircraft were cancelled before take-off owing respectively to a glycol leak in the starboard inner engine and a camshaft sheared. Two aircraft took-off but one returned to base after 4 hours 25 mins flying owing to extremely bad weather conditions having jettisoned its bombs 'safe' ........ The other aircraft was air-borne at 21.35 hrs, after which time nothing more was heard of it and it is therefore presumed missing (crew: A402790 Sgt. DeClerck A. Captain; 999518 Sgt. Whitmore K. H. Observer; 1153580 Sgt. Giles L. W. Wireless Operator; R.82619 Sgt. Pepper A. H. Mid.Gunner; 538225 Sgt. Simpson G. F. Flight Engineer; 551714 Sgt. Tyson J. W. Tail Gunner)."

ORB Form 540, Summary of Events for December 1942, page 2.
19 December 1942 – ..... quoted as written ..... "Information today received from the Base Personnel Office that the International Red Cross has received information that Sergt. SIMPSON, G. (5328225) a Prisoner of War that the remaining members of his crew were killed in CRETE on 23.10.1942; Aus.402790 Sgt. DeClerck; 999518 Sgt. Whitmore; 1153580 Sgt. Giles; R.82619 Sgt. Pepper; 551714 Sgt. Tyson."
[Simpson's Service Number had been corrected by hand on the original ORB].

The five crew members who were killed, had no known graves, and are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Egypt.
Details at Memorials Middle East.
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Aircraft Loss – from "To See the Dawn Again" page 32-33 (book details in Acknowledgements)
Their Reference – RAF Official Source "AHB RAF POW Interrogation Reports – Report MI 9/S/PG/LIB/79 – W.O. Simpson."
In summary – After attacking the target, and during return to base, they were forced to ditch the aircraft near Crete due to engine trouble and severe icing. Simpson had floated clinging to a petrol tank until daylight, saw an inflated dinghy, retrieved water and rations, then attempted to swim ashore, with no sign of any of his crew. Two hours later, he became a PoW after being picked up by an Italian night craft, having been spotted due to his new bright yellow Mae West. Simpson was apparently interned in four different PoW camps.
[Original documents not sighted for verification.]
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