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6 November 2017
Pilot Robert Hilary Vivian Thomas and Crew – 462 Squadron RAAF Middle East

 

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

Can anyone identify the people in the photos on this page?

If you can help, please make contact.

There were others who flew with "Tommy's" crew, some long term, some as temporary substitutes. Names and details will be added when 462 Squadron's Middle East ORB has been fully transcribed.

This crew should not be mistaken for that of Pilot J S Thomas, also of 462 Squadron, based at Fayid, Egypt, in October and November 1942.

"Tommy" Thomas and his crew in Halifax II BB321 "S" crashed and burned on return from an Op on the night of 27/28 September 1943. All of the crew were safe, with one injured.

Links to photos; Captain Thomas, Obs/Nav Page, W/OP Munroe, F/Eng Thomas, Rear Gunner Weston, Bomb Aimer Ainley;
Additional Crew Information
; Crew Ops with Ainley; Halifax aircraft flown by crew; Details of Op 27 Sept 1943; and Aircraft Loss BB321.

Information sourced from the 462 Squadron Operational Record Book for September 1943 from the National Archives of Australia; Australian War Memorial; Air Force Lists; London Gazette; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; the family of C R B Ainley; and Quentin Thomas (Pilot's son). The September 1943 ORB for 462 Squadron does not include the service numbers of mentioned aircrew, and only occasionally the member's Air Force. Photos on this page were kindly supplied by Alan Marr and Karen Ainley; and Quentin Thomas.

 

Ernest Goldsmith Page and Robert Hilary Vivian Thomas, 462 Squadron, Middle East, January 1944.
Photo supplied by Quentin Thomas, son of Pilot "Tommy" Thomas.

What a marvellous moustache they each have!

 

(Left) Observer Flight Lieutenant Ernest Goldsmith PAGE (Ernie), and (right) Pilot, Flying Officer Robert Hilary Vivian THOMAS (Tommy), outside the 462 Squadron Officer's Mess on 15 January 1944.

Their smiling faces are probably because they had both completed their Tour – Tommy with 30 Ops, 20 of which were with Ernie Page as Observer in his crew; and
Page with 32 Ops ....
10 Ops as Obs in Pilot W J Dalton's crew,
1 op as Obs with Sgt N Dear's Crew,
1 op as Obs with S/Ldr W R Kofoed's crew,
20 as Obs for "Tommy" Thomas.

Ops totals may change, pending transcription of 462 Squadron's ME ORB.

F/Lt Page's Posting TO 462 Squadron has not yet been located. He as Posted OUT on 23 January 1944 from El Adem to HQ 240 Wing.
P/O Thomas was posted TO 462 Squadron, Gardabia Main, FROM the UK 14 April 1943 arriving 23 May 1943; and was posted OUT as F/O on 31 January 1944 from El Adem to 203 Group.

 

Halifax II "S" of 462 Squadron, at Hosc Raui, Libya, 26 September 1943.
Photo supplied by Karen Ainley.

Halifax II "S" of 462 Squadron, Hosc Raui, 26 September 1943.
The 16 personnel grouped on the wing may be a mix of air crew and maintenance staff.
Hosc Raui located in Cyrenaica, now Libya.

Aircraft – may be W1169 "S" which completed 50 Ops on 25 September, OR newly arrived BB321 "S" which crashed and burned on 27/28 September.

Thanks go to Quentin Thomas for identifying his father Tommy, and some members of the crew in the aircraft photos. The other personnel remain as yet unidentified.

 

Squadron personnel on wing of Halifax II "S" of 462 Squadron, at Hosc Raui, Libya, 26 September 1943.
Photo supplied by Karen Ainley.

Enlargement of photo at left: Squadron personnel on wing of Halifax II "S" of 462 Squadron, at Hosc Raui 26 September 1943. Ainley is not in this or the following photo, so may have been using the camera.

Seated on the fuselage; front Pilot Tommy Thomas; and behind him is Observer Ernie Page.
Standing on the wing, back left, is Flight Engineer John Thomas from Wales; standing on the wing, far right, Rear Gunner Charlie Weston.
The others are not yet identified.

 

Side view of Halifax II "S" of 462 Squadron, at Hosc Raui, Libya, 26 September 1943.
Photo supplied by Karen Ainley.

Halifax II "S" of 462 Squadron, Hosc Raui, 26 September 1943.
The 17 personnel grouped beside the aircraft may be a mix of air crew and maintenance staff. The group appears to be the same at that on the wing in the photo and enlargement shown above.

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Squadron personnel beside Halifax II "S" of 462 Squadron, at Hosc Raui, Libya, 26 September 1943.
Photo supplied by Karen Ainley.

Enlargement of photo at left: Squadron personnel beside Halifax II "S" of 462 Squadron, at Hosc Raui, 26 September 1943.

Back row, L to R: 1. Rear Gunner Charlie Weston; 2. Flight Engineer John Thomas; 3. Pilot Tommy Thomas; 4. Observer Ernie Page; 5. possibly Wireless Operator Don Munroe. Bomb Aimer Ainley is not shown, and others are not yet identified.

 

Captain

Name: Robert Hilary Vivian THOMAS (Tommy)
Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Service Number: 123947 (previously 994133)
Promoted to Pilot Officer from Leading Aircraftman on 25 June 1942
Date of Birth: .....
Place of Birth: .....
Date of Enlistment: .....
Locality on Enlistment: .....
Place of Enlistment: .....
Marital Status: .....
Next of Kin: .....
Date of Aircraft Loss: 27 September 1943
Rank at date of Aircraft Loss: Flying Officer
Posting at date of Aircraft Loss: 462 Squadron RAAF
Prisoner of War: No
Awards or Honours: Not known
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Observer

Name: Ernest Goldsmith PAGE (Ernie)
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 407623 (later O4406)
Date of Birth: 11 June 1918
Place of Birth: Moonta, South Australia
Date of Enlistment: 7 December 1940
Place of Enlistment: Adelaide, South Australia
Locality on Enlistment: Naracoorte, S A
Marital Status: .....
Next of Kin: Linnett PAGE
Date of Aircraft Loss: 27 September 1943
Rank at date of Aircraft Loss: Flying Officer
Posting at date of Aircraft Loss: 462 Squadron RAAF
Prisoner of War: No

Date of Discharge: 11 December 1965
Rank at Discharge: Squadron Leader
Posting at Discharge: HQOC, Penrith
Awards or Honours: Not known

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Wireless Operator

Name: D C MUNROE (Don)
Service: Royal Canadian Air Force
Service Number: .....
Date of Birth: .....
Place of Birth: .....
Date of Enlistment: .....
Locality on Enlistment: .....
Place of Enlistment: .....
Marital Status: .....
Next of Kin: .....
Date of Aircraft Loss: 27 September 1943
Rank at date of Aircraft Loss: Sergeant
Posting at date of Aircraft Loss: 462 Squadron RAAF
Prisoner of War: No
Awards or Honours: Not known
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Flight Engineer

Name: J H THOMAS (John)
Service: RAF or RAFVR
Service Number: .....
Date of Birth: .....
Place of Birth: .....
Date of Enlistment: .....
Locality on Enlistment: .....
Place of Enlistment: .....
Marital Status: .....
Next of Kin: .....
Date of Aircraft Loss: 27 September 1943
Rank at date of Aircraft Loss: Sergeant
Posting at date of Aircraft Loss: 462 Squadron RAAF
Prisoner of War: No
Awards or Honours: Not known
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Tail Gunner

Name: Charles WESTON (Charlie)
Service: RAFVR
Service Number: 1325255
Date of Birth: .....
Place of Birth: .....
Date of Enlistment: .....
Locality on Enlistment: .....
Place of Enlistment: .....
Marital Status: .....
Next of Kin: .....
Date of Aircraft Loss: 27 September 1943
Rank at date of Aircraft Loss: Sergeant
Posting at date of Aircraft Loss: 462 Squadron RAAF
Prisoner of War: No
Awards or Honours: Not known
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Bombardier

Name: Charles Robert Borden AINLEY
Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Service Number: 1451753
Date of Birth: 2 April 1921
Place of Birth: Bawtry, near Doncaster, Yorkshire
Date of Enlistment: .....
Locality on Enlistment: .....
Place of Enlistment: .....
Marital Status: .....
Next of Kin: .....
Date of Aircraft Loss: 27 September 1943
Rank at date of Aircraft Loss: Flight Sergeant
Posting at date of Aircraft Loss: 462 Squadron RAAF
Prisoner of War: No
Awards or Honours: Not known
Age at date of Aircraft Loss: 22
Son of Arthur and Ellen Ainley, Bawtry, near Doncaster, Yorkshire.

 

Charles Robert Borden AINLEY, 1451753 RAFVR, at right, and 2 additional Crew members beside an unidentified aircraft, in Libya, undated, WW2.
Photo supplied by Karen Ainley.

Crew members beside an unidentified aircraft, in Libya (undated).

From left to right:
1. unidentified, possibly with rank of Pilot Officer or Flying Officer;
2. unidentified, possibly with rank of Flight Lieutenant;
3. Flight Sergeant Charles Robert Borden Ainley, 1451753 RAFVR.
(Officers' rank stripes visible on shoulder tabs at high magnification.)

If you can identify either of the 2 officers, please make contact.

 

Charles Robert Borden AINLEY, 1451753, RAFVR, 462 Squadron RAAF, Libya 1943.
Photo supplied by Karen Ainley.

Portrait of Charles Robert Borden AINLEY, 1451753, RAFVR, 462 Squadron RAAF, Libya 1943, cropped from the crew photo (at left).

His Caterpillar Club Membership Card, received after his life was saved by parachute on 14 July 1943, may be seen on the Warner crew page.

 

 

Leave Pass for Charles Robert Borden AINLEY, 1451753 RAFVR, August 1943, Hosc Raui to Alexandria and Cairo.
Photo supplied by Karen Ainley.

 

 

Left: One of Ainley's war service documents to survive, is .....
Royal Air Force Form 293
Temporary LEAVE FORM.
Station 462 Squadron
Official No. 1451753, Sgt AINLEY, CRB
has permission to be absent from his quarters from A.D. hours on
24. 8. 43 to 2359 hours on 31. 8.43
for the purpose of proceeding on leave to Alexandria (Nearest Town)
Date 23. 8. 43 Signed by W T Russell, Wg Cdr, Commanding Officer.
It is also stamped "Royal Air Force 25 Aug 1943 CAIRO MAIN", so he must have reached Cairo.

The signature along the lower section is that of W R KOFOED, S/Ldr.
A third signature, lower left, is not legible (may be Taylor?).

From the beginning of June to the end of September 1943, 462 Squadron was based at Hosc Raui, Cyrenaica (now Libya).
Those seven days of Leave for Ainley at Alexandria and Cairo, may have assisted with his physical recovery after the traumatic event of 14 July. He was back on Ops with the Tommy Thomas crew by 3 September 1943.

Wing Commander William Taylor RUSSELL 39341 RAFO, was Commanding Officer of 462 Squadron, following the death of previous Commanding Officer, Wg/Cdr P G B Warner.
Squadron Leader William Robert KOFOED 404380 RNZAF

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Additional Crew Information.

More information is required for all members of this crew. This section will be updated as details becomes available. Please note that the poor legibility of the ORB is such that transcription errors are possible.
Thanks go to Quentin Thomas, son of Pilot Tommy Thomas, for information received for the July 2017 update.

Tommy THOMAS and crew originally "crewed up" at 15 Operational Training Unit (15 OTU), RAF Harwell, Oxfordshire, in September 1942, training in Wellingtons. The original crew was:

Pilot: Tommy THOMAS
Observer/Navigator: Stan ELPHICK
Bombardier / Bomb Aimer: Bill AINLEY
Wireless Operator: Not known
Tail Gunner / Rear Gunner: Charlie WESTON

After their training was completed at 15 OTU, the crew was posted to 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit (1658 HCU), Riccall, Yorkshire, for conversion to 4 engine Halifax bombers. John Thomas, from Wales, joined the crew as Flight Engineer.

The crew was originally destined for 76 Squadron, but they were instead posted to 462 Squadron in the Middle East. They were to ferry a Wellington (LB 189) to Fayid, Egypt. However the Wireless Operator went on sick leave on the morning they were due to fly the first leg of the flight, from RAF Portreath, Cornwall, to Gibraltar. They were delayed, but eventually flew with a new W/OP, a Canadian, Don MUNROE, who, for reasons unknown, had been in Portreath without a crew.

The 462 Squadron ORB, Gardabia Main, Form 540, for May 1943, page 4, lists postings TO the squadron .....

123947 P/O R H V Thomas, G. D. (General Duties) Posted from the UK to Unit with effect from 14 April 1943, arrived 23rd May 1943.
116532 F/O S J Elphick, G. D. Nav (General Duties, Navigator) Posted from the UK to Unit with effect from 14 April 1943, arrived 23rd May 1943.
As only Officer's postings were recorded in the 462 Squadron ORB from September 1942 to March 1944, none of the other crew members are listed, so they are assumed to have been of lower ranks. However, Ainley, Munroe, and Weston would have most likely also arrived at 462 Squadron with Thomas and Elphick on 23 May.

This crew's original Navigator/Observer F/O Stanley James Elphick (Stan) temporarily crewed with W/Cdr P G B Warner, first Op on 20 June 1943; second Op on 01 July 1943, and third Op on 14 July 1943, in place of that crew's usual Obs. On that 3rd Op, Stan Elphick was Killed in Action (four of crew KIA, two survived, see Warner crew for details). It appears that Stan did not get to fly on Ops with his usual Crew, however, checks of the ORB are on-going. Tommy Thomas felt the loss of Stan quite keenly as he had known him, and also shared a room with him, since crewing up at 15 OTU in September 1942.

The crew's second permanent Navigator/Observer F/O Ernest Goldsmith Page (Ernie) had been posted to 462 Squadron some time prior to 20 February 1943. On that date he flew as Obs for P/O W J Dalton, with four more Ops up to 28 Feb, followed by another 5 Ops with the same crew during March, a total of 10 Ops with Dalton. In June 1943 he flew one Op with S/Ldr W R Kofoed. His first Op as Observer with Tommy Thomas was on 18 August 1843, followed by 9 Ops in September 1943, another 5 Ops in October 1943, another 5 in November 1943, as well as one Op with Sgt N Dear in November 1943.
Total – 32 Ops, to complete his tour (checks of the ORB are on-going).
Ernie Page was the only Australian to have flown with this Crew.

Substitute Nav/Obs - E F Bass (5 Ops in July and August 1943); L J Dunlop (2 Ops in Sept & Nov 1943); F H Fishpool ( 3 Ops in November 1943); Redman (1 Op in August 1943).

Bomb Aimer Charles Robert Borden AINLEY was the crew's original Bomb Aimer, but after posting to the squadron, he also temporarily crewed with W/Cdr P G B Warner on 14 July 1943. Please see his section on the Warner crew page for more information about him, and about the loss of Halifax II W7758 on 14 July 1943.
Pilot Tommy Thomas must have been relieved when Ainley was rescued, and returned to the Squadron to continue his duties as Tommy's Bomb Aimer.
In September 1943, Ainley carried out 9 Ops as Bomb Aimer with the Thomas crew, with his last Op on the night of 27/28 September 1943 when Halifax BB321 "S" crashed and burned on landing. This was the second incident in which Ainley was fortunate to have survived. No later Ops for Ainley have been located in the ORB.
However there are several Ops in October and November 1943, where NO Bomb Aimer was listed – a typing error? or did the Nav/Obs carry out both roles for those Ops? or had Ainley's name been omitted in error. Ainley was sometimes recorded in the ORB as Ainlie.

Substitute Bomb Aimer - L J Dunlop (5 Ops in October/November 1943); F H Fishpool (2 Ops November 1943); Page, Pope, and Wall (? may be erroneous records).

Wireless Operator D C Munroe (Don), of the Royal Canadian Air Force, replaced the crew's original W/OP at Portreath, just prior to the crew flying to Fayid, Egypt in April 1943. His Ops as W/OP with Tommy Thomas in 1943 – 4 in July, 4 in August, 10 in sept, 5 in October, 2 in November – Total 25 with Thomas, commencing Ops on 19 July 1943, finishing on 5 November 1943.

Substitute Wireless Operator F/Lt A Dunning 105187 RAF, 5 ops with Thomas in November 1943, plus Ops with other crews.

Flight Engineer J H Thomas (John) joined the already formed crew at 1658 HCU, Riccall after they were posted there from 15 OTU, Harwell. John was from Wales. Ops as F/Eng with Tommy Thomas in 1943 – 4 in July, 4 in August, 10 in sept, 5 in October, 2 in November – Total 25 with Thomas, commencing Ops on 19 July 1943, finishing on 10 November 1943.

Substitutes for Flight Engineer on 5 Ops in November 1943 were Sgts J M Harrower, J Kinmond, Dunville (from 178 Squadron), J Higham (2 Ops).

Rear Gunner Charles Weston (Charlie) was an original member of the crew, when it formed at 15 OTU, September 1942.
Ops as F/Eng with Tommy Thomas in 1943 – 4 in July, 4 in August, 10 in sept, 4 in October, 1 in November – Total 23 with Thomas, commencing Ops on 19 July 1943, finishing on 02 November 1943.

Substitutes for Rear Gunner on 1 Op in October was F/Sgt E R Waller; and 6 Ops in November 1943 were Sgt L Rackham (5 times) and F/Sgt A A Bolland.

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Thomas Crew Ops with Ainley as Bombardier (may contain transcription errors due to poor quality of ORB pages).

After crewing as Bomb Aimer with Wing Commander Warner and crew on 14 July 1943, and being one of only 2 survivors after the loss of their aircraft, Ainley returned to 462 Squadron to recommence flying with his original crew.
Subsequent Ops for him with Tommy Thomas and crew were as follows ........ (this list may be amended after further checking of the Squadron's Middle East ORB.)

1. Night of 3/4 September 1943, one of 8 aircraft to attack Grottaglie Aerodrome, Italy;
2. Night of 7/8 September 1943, one of 9 aircraft to attack Manduria Landing Ground, Italy;
3. Night of 10/11 September 1943, one of 9 aircraft to attack Road Junction at Potenza, Italy;
4. Night of 15/16 September 1943, one of 4 aircraft to attack Communications at Potenza, Italy;
5. Night of 16/17 September 1943, one of 3 aircraft to attack Communications at Potenza, Italy;
6. Night of 22/23 September 1943, one of 8 aircraft to attack Calato Aerodrome or Maritza Aerodrome, Rhodes;
7. Night of 23/24 September 1943, one of 7 aircraft to attack Calato Aerodrome or Maritza Aerodrome, Rhodes;
8. Night of 25/26 September 1943, one of 8 aircraft to attack Kalamaki Aerodrome Greece;
9. Night of 27/28 September 1943; one of 10 aircraft to target Larissa Aerodrome, Greece.
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Halifax Aircraft flown by Tommy Thomas and this crew in 1943 ....... (this list may be amended after further checking of the Squadron's Middle East ORB.)

Halifax BB333 - 19 and 23 July 1943

W1169 "S" - 29 July, Did not take off, due to Op being cancelled (Op not counted in tally)
W1169 "S" - 30 July
W1169 "S" - 02, 05 August (with 2nd Pilot Sgt H A St. Pierre, RCAF, on 05 August)
W1169 "S" - 08 August, early return, Op abandoned due to glycol leak in starboard outer engine
W1169 "S" - 18 August
W1169 "S" - 03, 07, 10, 13, 15, 16, 22, 23, and 25 September 1943. This was the 50th Op for this Halifax, and this Crew's 14th Op in this aircraft. This was the completion of the second cycle of Ops for W1169, and the aircraft was therefore due for its second major inspection. It was replaced by BB321 "S".

Previous photos of the crew and ground staff with Halifax "S" on 26 September 1943 - is it W1169 ? or BB321 ?

BB321 "S" - night of 27/28 September 1943, this Halifax crashed and burned on return to base (details below).
BB424 - 17, 18 and 25 October
BB418 - 21 October
BB430 - 28 October
BB430 - 02 November, undercarriage failed to retract after take-off; task abandoned, bombs jettisoned at sea at 2230 hours, returned to base, undercarriage collapsed on landing, crew uninjured.
BB425 - 05 November
BB386 ? - 10 November (blurred entry in ORB)
BB419 - 13 November
W7845 - 15 November
BB386 - 18 November, with 2nd Pilot Sgt C M or G M Hall (blurred entry in ORB)
JN890 - 21 November 1943 (last Op for crew? checks of ORB still in progress).

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Details of Op on the night of 27/28 September 1943.

Form 540, Summary of Events, Hosc Raui, 27/28 September 1943 .... (quote, as originally recorded, poor quality) ...

27/28. Ten aircraft were detailed to illuminate and bomb LARISSA AERODROME GREECE.
One aircraft (an illuminator) returned to base with engine trouble. The other
illuminator dropped 7 flares over target from 14000ft. was hit by 5 bursts of
heavy flak and Aircraft went out of control, losing height, but control was
regained, but did not carry out further illumination of target. Main beacon was
jettisoned in sea and a/c returned safely to base. Owing to difficulty in identifying
target, 5 aircraft jettisoned in sea. 4 aircraft bombed the target to the south,
SE, and SW. from 12000ft. to 12500ft. No results observed. One aircraft bombed
flak concentrations believed 8 miles S.E. LAVIA but not results observed. One of
above aircraft jettisoned 3 x 500lb bombs in sea west of base 3 miles, to enable
aircraft to gain height. No cloud cover over target. Visibility poor. very accurate
flak – predicted. Guns sited around target area on concentric ring. Up to 20 guns.
Several heavy AA at VOLOS. One aircraft (an illuminator) crashed on landing and
burst into flames, fortunately Crew were safe, the Tail Gunner suffering a super-
ficial eye injury.

Form 541, Detail of Work Carried out, Appendix "A", September 1943
28/29 September 1943 ...... (quote, as originally recorded) ...

Halifax II BB321 F/O R H V Thomas and crew (Captain F/O R H V Thomas, Obs F/O E G Page, W/OP Sgt D C Munroe, F/Eng Sgt J H Thomas, T/Gunner Sgt C Weston, Bombdr Sgt C R B Ainley); up 2000; crashed and burned at 0110 back at base, Hosc Raui (details of the Loss of this Aircraft in next section).
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Aircraft Loss Halifax II BB321 "S"

ORB, Form 541, Detail of Work Carried out, Appendix "A", September 1943
28/29 September 1943 ...... (quote, as originally recorded) ...

Other aircraft ....
............ was detailed to attack
LARISSA AERODROME with 7 x 500 and 8 x 250 ?.I.R. (illegible)

(Halifax BB321 "S")
This aircraft was detailed as flare dropper for
the above. Task abandoned, flares brought back
owing to S. I. engine trouble. On returning to base
left hand circuit made, aircraft crashed and burst
into flames. Crew safe. Tail Gunner sustaining
superficial eye injury.

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