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6 November 2017
Crew, Pilot Bruce Forte – 462 Squadron RAAF

 

Crew of 462 Squadron RAAF Foulsham, Rear Gunnner Patrick John Wilson; Bomb Aimer Boris Santich; Flight Engineer Kenneth Mitchell; Pilot Bruce Forte.
Photo supplied by Peter Dickinson, and used with the permission of Ken Mitchell.

In a strange coincidence, of the four crew members in the photo, the RAAF Service Files for two (Wilson and Santich) are already digitised, with information also available from the third member pictured (Mitchell RAFVR).

 

Pilot Bruce Forte's Crew, 462 Squadron RAAF, left to right:-
Rear Gunner Patrick John Wilson; Bomb Aimer Boris Santich; Flight Engineer Kenneth Mitchell; Pilot Bruce Forte.

The photo is undated, but was probably some time between late Feb and end of May 1945 at 1652 Marston Moor, where the Flight Engineer would have joined the crew; or between early June and mid-September 1945 at 462 Squadron Foulsham. Although they all look very mature, Skipper Bruce, R/AG Pat, and F/Eng Ken were only 21, and Boris 22.

Pilot P/O Bruce FORTE, 429688 RAAF
Navigator F/Sgt Henry SCHEFE, 435414 RAAF
Bomb Aimer F/Sgt Boris SANTICH, (the "Count") 442434 RAAF
Wireless Operator F/Sgt Donald REYNOLDS, 427941 RAAF
Mid-Upper Gunner F/Sgt William SUTTOR 432904 RAAF
Rear Gunner F/Sgt Patrick John WILSON, 431652 RAAF
Flight Engineer Sgt Kenneth MITCHELL 1813502 RAFVR
Additional crew information

Reference sources: Australian WW2 Nominal Roll; National Archives of Australia; 462 Squadron Operational Record Book; Kenneth Mitchell, UK.

 

Pilot

Name: Bruce FORTE
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 429688
Date of Birth: 25 May 1924
Place of Birth: Albany, Western Australia
Date of Enlistment: 17 October 1942
Place of Enlistment: Perth, Western Australia
Next of Kin: Alva FORTE

Rank at Posting to 462 Squadron: Pilot Officer

Date of Discharge: 24 January 1946
Rank at Discharge: Flying Officer
Posting at Discharge: 462 Squadron

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Navigator

Name: Henry SCHEFE
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 435414
Date of Birth: 10 January 1921
Place of Birth: Toowoomba, Queensland
Date of Enlistment: 7 May 1943
Place of Enlistment: Crows Nest, Queensland
Next of Kin: Joan SCHEFE

Rank at Posting to 462 Squadron: Flight Sergeant

Date of Discharge: 16 November 1948
Rank at Discharge: Warrant Officer
Posting at Discharge: Eastern Area Headquarters

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Boris Santich 442434 RAAF, at enlistment July 1943, later posted to 462 Squadron RAAF Foulsham 1945.

Boris Santich 442434 RAAF, at enlistment July 1943, later posted to 462 Squadron RAAF Foulsham 1945.
Photo from the National Archives of Australia: A9301, 442434

 

Bomb Aimer

Name: Boris SANTICH
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 442434
Date of Birth: 16 February 1923
Place of Birth: Sibenik, Yugoslavia
Date of Enlistment: 17 July 1943
Place of Enlistment: Adelaide, South Australia
Next of Kin: Mate SANTICH

Rank at Posting to 462 Squadron: Flight Sergeant

Date of Discharge: 12 February 1946
Rank at Discharge: Warrant Officer
Posting at Discharge: 9 Aircrew Holding Unit (9 ACHU),
RAF Station Gamston
(More information is included in Additional crew information)
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Wireless Operator

Name: Donald REYNOLDS
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 427941
Date of Birth: 6 July 1924
Place of Birth: Dwellingup, Western Australia
Date of Enlistment: 11 October 1942
Place of Enlistment: Perth, Western Australia
Next of Kin: William REYNOLDS

Rank at Posting to 462 Squadron: Flight Sergeant

Date of Discharge: 17 February 1948
Rank at Discharge: Warrant Officer
Posting at Discharge: Station HQ, Pearce, Western Australia

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Mid-Upper Gunner

Name: William SUTTOR
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 432904
Date of Birth: 22 May 1924
Place of Birth: Cronulla, New South Wales
Date of Enlistment: 30 January 1943
Place of Enlistment: Sydney, New South Wales
Next of Kin: Cecil SUTTOR

Rank at Posting to 462 Squadron: Flight Sergeant

Date of Discharge: 15 March 1946
Rank at Discharge: Warrant Officer
Posting at Discharge: 9 Aircrew Holding Unit (9 ACHU),
RAF Station Gamston

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Patrick John Wilson 431652 RAAF at enlistment July 1943, later posted to 462 Squadron Foulsham 1945. Sgt Patrick John Wilson 431652 RAAF with Air Gunner's brevet, later posted to 462 Squadron Foulsham 1945.

Above left: Patrick John Wilson 431652 RAAF at enlistment July 1943, later posted to 462 Squadron Foulsham 1945.
Right: Sgt Patrick John Wilson 431652 RAAF with Air Gunner's brevet June 1944, later posted to 462 Squadron Foulsham 1945.
Photos from the National Archives of Australia: A9301, 431652

 

Rear Gunner

Name: Patrick John WILSON
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 431652
Date of Birth: 14 February 1924
Place of Birth: Newport, Victoria
Date of Enlistment: 16 July 1943
Place of Enlistment: Melbourne, Victoria
Next of Kin: Patrick WILSON

Rank at Posting to 462 Squadron: Flight Sergeant

Date of Discharge: 3 January 1946
Rank at Discharge: Warrant Officer
Posting at Discharge: 9 Aircrew Holding Unit (9 ACHU),
RAF Station Gamston
(More information is included in Additional crew information)

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Former Flight Engineer kenneth Mitchell 1813502 RAFVR, who served with the Forte Crew at 462 squadron, Foulsham in 1945.

Above: Kenneth Mitchell, 12 March 2016.

F/Eng Ken Mitchell has also been identified in the Flight Engineer's photo at 462 Squadron Foulsham, back row, second from the right. (This new information therefore re-dates that photo as being later than March 1945.)

 

Flight Engineer

Name: Kenneth MITCHELL (Ken)
Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Service Number: 1813502
Date of Birth: 30 January 1924
Place of Birth: ......
Date of Enlistment: 7 November 1943
Place of Enlistment: ........
Next of Kin: ......

Rank at Posting to 462 Squadron: Sergeant

Date of Posting from 462 Squadron: September 1945
Rank at Posting from 462 Squadron: Sergeant
Subsequent Postings: To Transport Logistical Operation
in Italy and Austria from September 1945
Demobbed: Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, 1947

 

Air Training Corps Certificate of Service for Kenneth Mitchell, 173 (Orpington) Squadron in 1943, later 1813502 RAFVR posted to 462 Squadron RAAF Foulsham in 1945.

Air Training Corps Certificate of Service for Kenneth Mitchell, 173 (Orpington) Squadron in 1943, later 1813502 RAFVR.
Ken enrolled in the ATC in January 1940, at the age of 16 (birth date 30 January 1940). He attended 480 lectures and parades from 1 February 1941, with instruction received in aircrew duties. His General Conduct was very good, with a Satisfactory degree of proficiency. He had been awarded 2 Good Conduct Badges, and was considered suitable for training as Aircrew in the RAF. His ATC Rank was Sergeant at his discharge on 7 November 1943 to join the RAF.
His civil occupation prior to enrolling in the ATC was Electrical Fitter, which made him suitable for training in the RAF as a Flight Engineer.
General Remarks signed by F/O R. B. Stucke for the Flt/Lt Officer Commanding 173 Squadron on 31 October 1943 were complimentary .... (quote) ....
"Keen, loyal and hardworking cadet. A first class N.C.O. & of sterling character. Confidently recommended for aircrew training"
(More information is included in Additional crew information)
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Additional crew information (Sourced from the RAAF Service Files for Santich and Wilson. The RAAF Service Files for Forte, Reynolds, Schefe and Suttor had not yet been digitised as of 6 March 2016, and the RAFVR Service File for Mitchell was not accessible. Due to this crew being non-operational, little information was available from the Squadron ORBs).

Crew Formation and Service Summary

10 October 1944 – Santich's and Wilson's files both state that each was posted to 21 Operational Training Unit (OTU) on this date. The original crew of six would have formed soon after their posting there, and would have trained in 2-engine Wellington Bombers. (21 OTU Moreton-in-Marsh, Oxfordshire, UK)

23 February 1945 – both Santich and Wilson were posted to 74 Base, 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit (1652 HCU), Marston Moor, Yorkshire for conversion to 4-engine Halifax Bombers. It is assumed that the other 4 members of the crew were also posted to 1652 HCU on the same date. Flight Engineer Mitchell would have joined them at 1652 HCU to make the complete crew of seven.

31 May 1945 – Santich and Wilson were posted from 1652 HCU, Marston Moor to 462 Squadron, Foulsham. It is assumed that they were posted as a crew, and the 462 Squadron ORB records their arrival in the June 1945 Form 540 POSTING TO the squadron with their names listed in the usual crew sequence.

18 September 1945 – Santich and Wilson were posted from 462 Squadron Foulsham to 9 Air Crew Holding Unit (9 ACHU), RAF Gamston, and again it is assumed the other 4 RAAF crew members were posted out on the same date. Their names are listed as part of a group in the September 1945 ORB Form 540 POSTING FROM the squadron.
22 September 1945 – The POSTING OUT of all remaining RAF/RAFVR personnel commenced immediately, with all RAF/RAFVR personnel to be POSTED TO RAF Station Bruntingthorpe. MItchell's name is included with a group of other crew's Flight Engineers.

Later postings during repatriation to Australia are the same for Boris Santich and Pat Wilson, and may also have been the same for the other RAAF members of this crew.

This crew was one of the Non-Operational Crews, so are not listed in Squadron Operational flights in the ORB. Such crews carried out training flights, "Cook's Tours" over the Ruhr, and bomb disposal by jettisoning over the North Sea. They may have transported Senior personnel to and from Germany or Denmark, and possibly transported of ex-Luftwaffe PoWs to the UK. Such flights were mentioned in the Squadron ORB, however Pilots were not usually listed by name, but when they were, the names of the crew were not included. Forte's name is not mentioned, and no log books for members of this crew are available, so actual flights by this crew are not known. (See Ken's memories below.)

Boris SANTICH 442434 RAAF, Bomb Aimer – information sourced from NAA Series A9301 RAAF Service File.

His nickname as known by the crew was "the Count" no doubt because of his ancestry, having been born in Yugoslavia, with both parents Yugoslavian. Boris arrived at Port Adelaide (South Australia) in 1926, and was a Naturalised British Subject living in Broken Hill, western New South Wales, at the time of his application for Air Crew in the RAAF. He had attended Broken Hill High School and Broken Hill Technical College. His civil occupation was Laboratory Assistant, and he had completed the 1st year of a Metallurgy Diploma course. Comments by the Interviewing Officer were that Boris was an "intelligent, well educated young man. Aptitude test Average to very good". Boris was single and his next of kin was his father Mate Santich.

17 July 1943 – enlisted in the RAAF, and posted to 4 Initial Training School (4 ITS), Victor Harbour, South Australia; rank Aircraftman 2 (photo at enlistment shown previously).
9 October 1943 – posted to 2 Embarkation Depot (2 ED), Bradfield Park, Sydney; mustered as Aircrew Nav/B, rank of Leading Aircraftman.
4 November 1943 – attached to RCAF and embarked for Canada, on arrival posted to 2 BG Mossbank, Canada, Course 97, training in Anson and Bolingbroke aircraft (Bombing and Gunnery).
11 March 1944 – posted to 5 AOS Winnipeg, Canada, Courses 97 and 101; training in Anson aircraft (Air Observers School).
16 June 1944 – re-mustered as Air Bomber, awarded Air Bomber Badge, promoted to (T) Sergeant.
27 June 1944 – posted to 1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
11 July 1944 – embarked from Halifax, Canada, for the UK.
19 July 1944 – posted to 11 PDRC, Brighton, UK (Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre).
22 August 1944 – posted to 9 (O) AFU, Llandwrog, Gwynedd, Wales, training in Anson aircraft (Observers Advanced Flying Unit).
10 October 1944 – posted to 21 OTU, Moreton-in-Marsh, training in Wellington aircraft (Operational Training Unit).
16 December 1944 – promoted to (T) Flight Sergeant.
23 February 1945 – posted to 74 Base, 1652 HCU, Marston Moor, Yorkshire, training in Halifax aircraft (Heavy Conversion Unit).
31 May 1945 – posted to 462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk, flying in Halifax aircraft.
18 September 1945 – posted to RAF Station Gamston, 9 Aircrew Holding Unit (9 ACHU), (same date as Pat Wilson).
24 September 1945 – posted to 11 PDRC, Brighton, (same date as Pat Wilson).
4 November 1945 – posted to 2 Personnel Depot (2 PD), Sydney, (same date as Pat Wilson).
16 December 1945 – promoted to (T) Warrant Officer.
12 February 1946 – discharged from the RAAF.

The RAAF Service File for Boris Santich is one of the most complete that this author has seen, with many more documents than is usually seen in other National Archives Series A9301 RAAF Service Files. Totaling 126 pages, the file includes Aptitude-Test Result Sheets; ITS training result sheets; several different Personal Particulars and Aircrew Entry forms; several interview letters and references to accompany his Application; several pages of documents which list "Conditions Governing Enlistment, Promotion, Re-Muster, Transfer and Discharge"; Physical Fitness test result sheets for the RAF (UK); multiple Air Bomber training reports over time from the RAAF, RCAF and RAF. (Was all the extra documentation included because he was a Naturalised Australian, so was observed more closely than usual? Or was it simply better filing at the time?)

Patrick John WILSON 431652 RAAF, Rear Gunner – information sourced from NAA Series A9301 RAAF Service File.

Patrick John was known by the crew as Pat. He was aged 19 years and 3 months, and living in Newport, Victoria at the time of his application for Air Crew in the RAAF on 27 May 1943. He had attended Williamstown High School and gained his Intermediate Certificate in December 1940. He had also passed an Examination in Telegraphy in October 1942, as examined by the Victorian Railways Commissioner, and his civil occupation was Junior Clerk in the Victorian Railways. Pat was single and his next of kin was his father Patrick Wilson (his mother was Elsie Mary, nee Tippins).

16 July 1943 – enlisted in the RAAF at 1 Recruiting Centre, Melbourne, and posted to 4 Initial Training School (4 ITS), Victor Harbour, South Australia; rank Aircraftman 2 (photo at enlistment shown previously). Pat and Boris were both posted there at the same time. They probably met during their early training, which may have contributed to their later crewing together when they were posted to the same OTU in the UK.
11 September 1943 – posted to 2 Embarkation Depot (2 ED), Bradfield Park, Sydney; mustered as Aircrew (G), rank of Leading Aircraftman (LAC).
21 September 1943 – posted to 1 Embarkation Depot (1 ED), Ascot Vale, Victoria.
27 September 1943 – embarked from Melbourne for Canada, disembarked at San Francisco.
16 October 1943 – attached to RCAF.
20 October 1943 – posted to 3 B & G S, Macdonald, Manitoba, Canada.
30 October 1943 – posted to 4 WAGS, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, training in Moth, Yale and Norseman aircraft.

27 February 1944 – General Conduct Sheet – one offence, the only offence in his RAAF service. His rank was LAC, and his age was 20 years & 2 weeks. The offence occurred at 3 WAGS Guelph, Ontario, and was recorded as "WOAS Failed to report on Church Parade on February 27th 1944". The Witness was Documentary (? Roll call or similar ?), and the punishment "3 days C.B." i.e. Confined to Barracks for 3 days, possibly a good option in the Canadian winter. Did he deliberately skip the Church Parade to avoid the cold?

11 March 1944 – remustered to Wireless Op (Air).
19 April 1944 – received Wireless Operator's Badge (a 2nd document dates this as 19 May 1944).
19 May 1944 – posted to 4 B & G S, Fingal, Ontario, Canada, training in Bolingbroke aircraft (Bombing and Gunnery School).
30 June 1944 – received Wireless Op / Air Gunner's Badge, remustered as Wireless Air Gunner; promoted to (T) Sergeant (photo with Sgt stripes, and Air Gunner's Badge shown previously).
12 July 1944 – posted to 1 "Y" Depot, Lachine (sic), Canada.
20 July 1944 – embarked from Halifax, Canada, for the UK.
27 July 1944 – posted to 11 PDRC, Brighton, UK.
23 August 1944 – attached to Air Crew NCO's School, until 19 September 1944,
10 October 1944 – posted to 21 OTU, Moreton-in-Marsh, training in Wellington aircraft.
30 December 1944 – promoted to (T) Flight Sergeant.
23 February 1945 – posted to 74 Base, 1652 HCU, Marston Moor, Yorkshire, training in Halifax aircraft.
31 May 1945 – posted to 462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk, flying in Halifax aircraft.
18 September 1945 – posted to RAF Station Gamston, 9 ACHU (same date as Boris Santich).
24 September 1945 – posted to 11 PDRC, Brighton (same date as Boris Santich),
4 November 1945 – disembarked at Sydney from UK, posted to 2 PD, Sydney (same date as Boris Santich).
13 December 1945 – posted to 1 PD.
30 December 1945 – promoted to (T) Warrant Officer.
3 January 1946 – discharged from the RAAF.

Wilson family and the RAAF – On the 1st of November 1940, Patrick Wilson, father of Patrick John Wilson, also made an Application for Enlistment as an Airman. Patrick senior was born on 17 March 1897, so was aged 43 years and 7 months at application date. He was married, and his civil occupation was Fitter. He had 19 years employment at an Engineering Establishment, with prior education at the Footscray Technical School. He had previously served in the AIF between 1914 and 1918 as Private 6119, and had a partial disability from his WW1 Service, having been wounded and taken PoW at Bullecourt. His RAAF Application was stamped in red with "Reserved Occupation, Certificate No. V. H. 680". His son Patrick John later substituted for him in the RAAF with a successful application and overseas service.

Kenneth MITCHELL 1813502 RAFVR, Flight Engineer – information sourced from Ken and his family.

Ken was in the ATC and his Certificate of Service is shown in the previous section. After joining the RAFVR, he completed his training as a Flight Engineer at RAF St Athan, Glamorgan, Wales. He later crewed up with already formed RAAF crew of 6, Pilot/Captain Forte, who, after training in Halifax Bombers, were posted to 462 Squadron RAAF Foulsham.

Ken recalls flights over Norway and northern Europe, and the dropping of pamphlets on some flights, but these flights may have been during the later stages of HCU training. He also has memories of the VE Day celebrations. Ken also recalls "Cook's Tours" while based at 462 Squadron i.e. flights over Germany after cessation of hostilities to view the damage. These tours are mentioned in the 462 Sqdn ORB, but only as, e.g. "6 aircraft with crew, and 7 passengers". Rarely, the Pilot was named, but not the crew or passengers. Pilot/Captain Forte was not mentioned in the ORB for any of those anonymous flights.

After posting from 462 Squadron in September 1945, Ken was posted to a Transport logistical operation in Italy and Austria, where he served for a couple of years before being returned to the UK. His Flying Log Book was retained by the RAF when he was demobbed in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire in 1947, so dates and details of his training flights, "Cook's Tours", and later flights are not available.

Ken's most recent email stated that he was "alive and kicking" and had recently celebrated his 92nd birthday (30 January 2016) at his local Pub with his family. He also said it was interesting to revive memories of the time when they were only 21, with some "scary flights and good times in the Pub afterwards". His email was sent from his IPad so he is up-to-date with modern technology, as one would expect from a Flight Engineer.

Thanks for sharing your memories, Ken.

Note regarding Flight Engineers (March 2016) .... two other former Flight Engineers of 462 Squadron, Duke Newstead (aged 90 in August 2015, Anderson Crew) and Tom Walker (aged 91 on 30 March 2016, Sullivan crew) are similarly healthy and active. They are also regular electronic correspondents with this author, and have been major sources of information about life in 462 Squadron. Thank you all.

 

This page will be updated when more information becomes available.

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