RAF Casualty Singapore - Which plane?

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by terrac, Jun 20, 2013.

  1. terrac

    terrac Member

    Hello everyone.

    I wonder if someone could advise please? I am trying to figure out which aircraft my great uncle flew in. He was shot down over Singapore in 1941. Death listed as 8th December 1941. Is there a database of aircraft losses or somewhere that I could check for lost aircraft on that day? Any way of finding out where he was and what he was doing at the time? Could anyone help please? I'm new to WW2 research but fairly experienced in general genealogy.

    Details I have:

    BARTON, WALTER FREDERICK Rank: Leading Aircraftman Service No: 1064901 Date of Death: 08/12/1941 Age: 27 Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Panel Reference Column 410. Memorial SINGAPORE MEMORIAL

    thank you

  2. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Hi Ray,

    It's entirely possible he wasn't in any aircraft when he lost his life. Looking at his rank I would not think he was aircrew. From the date of his loss we see it's the date of the first Japanese air raid on Singapore.

    Also, he is on the Singapore Memorial, a monument for those with no known grave.

    Hypothetically he could have been killed during the Japanese air raid and his remains never found. He could have also been in hospital with a hangnail and died when it was attacked.

    Unless you obtain his service records it is impossible to know how he died.


  3. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member

    I think that you will find he was groundcrew and part of the Nor Group force which had advanced into Northern Malaya as part of Operation Matador.

    The airfield at Sungei Patani (now called Sungai Petani) was used as an advanced base for No.21 Sqn RAAF Buffaloes and No.27 Sqn Blenheims.

    On the morning of the 8th the units were ordered off to attack the invasion forces at Kota Bharu, 15 minutes after the Blenheims had left the aerodrome was subjected to bombing attacks killing a number of ground crew and rendering the main runway unserviceable.

    As an advanced base I'm afraid you will find little records that survived but suggest you try No.21 RAAF and No.27 Sqn records for and scraps. It would also account for an entry on the Singapore Memorial to the Missing.

  4. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    I think there were also a lot of vessels, large and small, evacuating people and they were often shot up, bombed or torpedoed as the Japanese had mastery of the seas and air at that time. That may be a more likely explanation as to why he has no known burial.... just a suggestion, not knowledge based!
    EDIT For what it's worth, there were a few other RAF casualties in Malaysia/Singapore of ground crew.
    Those that were identified are in Kranji and Taiping Cemeteries, so it is possible that he is buried there but unable to be identified.
    Hopefully someone with more specific knowledge might come along!
  5. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member

    I took the time to check the GRO RAF Overseas Deaths for his unit before giving an answer for the unit he is listed with on death.

  6. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    As an advanced base I'm afraid you will find little records that survived but suggest you try No.21 RAAF and No.27 Sqn records for any scraps.
    Cheers Ross - the ORB for 21SQN RAAF is available to be read online at the NAA. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the month of December 1941 is absent.

    It leaves off at the end of November happily reporting that the unit is now up to strength (18 Brewster Buffalo aircraft) and that they are now part of the establishment of RAF Station Sungei Patani – all personnel are comfortably quartered in barracks.

    The next page is dated 1/1/42 and notes that works continues on the stripping of Buffalo aircraft in an endeavour to improve their performance to match enemy aircraft.
  7. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    If the OP comes back to this thread I do have another avenue to go down that might shed some more light on what Ross has already posted about the whereabouts of 21SQN RAAF on that day and what transpired when the base was attacked.
  8. terrac

    terrac Member

    Thank you ever so much for that information fellas. Walter was my grandmothers half brother, Walters father was also Walter F Barton a "Driver" who died in WW1 at the battle of Paschedale.

    I would love to find out more about the 21SQN.
  9. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Cheers Ray - we get lots of people that post requests like yours and in spite of all sorts of great info being supplied in return they don't bother responding to let us know that we are on the right track. We even have a thread on the subject of non-returning OPs.

    21SQN still exists today, mainly as a reserve unit but it is starting to be used as a controlling unit for the region it is based in (as are all of the reserve or "City" squadrons in the RAAF).

    The unit put out a book on it's history nearly 30 years ago - I will try to dig up a copy to see if it carries any info of use. (Brook, Wifred H, Demon to vampire : the story of No. 21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron, (Glen Waverly, Vic.: Demonvamp Publications, 1986)).

    Most sites I have found so far carry a synopsis of that period along the lines of what Ross has already written - here is another example:

    "I returned to Singapore on about the 19th December to find that two thirds of the pilots of the Squadron had been sent to Northern Malaya to assist No. 21 Squadron which had not fared too well on its own." [21 Sq. was caught on the ground on 8 Dec, and when it retreated next day only six aircraft could be made airworthy. Four of these were shot down on 10 Dec.] http://www.warbirdforum.com/secret.htm
  10. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Looking through the CWGC for RAAF casualties that day and in that region only reveals the umpteen who died in aircraft losses off the coast of Malaya in other aircraft types / other squadrons.

    However, the National Archives of Australia has a file for a RAAF erk that was injured that day, in that location. Unfortunately it hasn't been digitised as yet so it's not possible to see it's contents.

    Which is a pity as some of those files carry a plethora of info on the incident with names of other personnel affected etc - then again some files can be quite thin.

    SAY Leon Charles - (Corporal); Service Number - 10461; File type - Casualty - Repatriation; Aircraft - unknown; Place - Sungei Pantani, Far East; Date - 8 December 1941

    (He survived the war and was discharged in 1946 as a Flight Sergeant - the best rank ever invented.......)
  11. terrac

    terrac Member

    Thank you for the assistance once again. I am happy to find out anything however much or little that may be. Sadly my grandmother died a long time ago, she would have loved to know more information about her brother. It is only in the past few years I have began to trace my family history and found lots of interesting snippets of information.

    I will try to find a copy of that book too.

    I wonder if someone who has access to the Australian archives may be able to look something up for me. I will make enquiries. thank you.

  12. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    I wonder if someone who has access to the Australian archives may be able to look something up for me. I will make enquiries. thank you.


    Is it something to do with this casualty or another matter you are investigating? Add the request wherever you think appropriate and we will see what can be achieved.

    Basically, everyone on the planet has access to the Australian archives online. Depending on the file required it is just a matter of paying the 20-odd bucks to get it digitised.

    Otherwise, if it is important enough I can reach out to people in Canberra to get info accessed.
  13. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Oh, and here is the promulgation of the casualty in FLIGHT magazine:

    JANUARY 29TH, 1942

    Casualty Communique No. 105

    THE Air Ministry regret to announce the following casualties on various dates. The next of kin have been informed

    Royal Air Force


    LA/C. W. F. Barton; Sgt. A J. Birchwood; L.A/C. R. C. Summerell; Fit.Sgt, J. L. F. Willis.
    terrac and CL1 like this.
  14. terrac

    terrac Member

    Hi Dave.

    thank you once again. I am just looking for information regarding the man and how he died really. We knew nothing of the circumstances of his death or what his role was in the RAAF. I have a small photograph of him that my grandmother used to keep on the dining room wall but any details that were relayed to the next of kin were lost prior to his mothers death in 1963, any word of mouth information was lost when my grandmother died in 1991. My mother, myself and my aunts knew nothing until I discovered that little snippet on the CWCG website.

    This is all new information to us that may either not have been known or lost over time so thank you all kindly for the fantastic help you have provided.


  15. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member

    I think that this may be going off track.

    Barton was RAFVR and so any mention in NAA will be by association with an RAAF unit that was based on the temporary station. If he had been assigned to either No.21 RAAF or No.27 RAF Squadron that would have been the named unit in the GRO RAF Overseas death register.

    As he is given as assigned to the station and not a squadron then this usually means that he was part of the general support staff rather than a specialist with a particular squadron.

    This is suggested by his service number which is part of a block which started issue at RAF Padgate in Sept 1939 with 965000 and was in use until early 1941 ending in service number 1149977.

    His number is approx. half way in this block which points to enrolment Mid 1940. So given the time for some trade training and trooping to the Far East it is unlikely that he was very experienced in his trade.

    On the first raid only No.21 Sqn RAAF was on the ground and the H.E. bombs hit a petrol dump and the Station HQ leaving five men killed in total.

    The second raid took place at 11:00 hrs, when No.27 Sqn had returned from the abortive strke again hitting petrol stocks and a barracks block killing a further eight men.

    With only 4 aircraft left serviceable in each squadron and the main runway u/s the units fell back to Butterworth leaving only a small force to repair the damaged aircraft but soon events meant that the aerodrome needed to be abandoned..

    So any mention in RAAF records will be in passing.

    terrac likes this.
  16. terrac

    terrac Member

    Thank you Ross.

    So it's looking likely that there was nothing left of a body to bury, hence the name inscription on the memorial and no grave?

    Once again thanks you to you and all who have made things a little clearer for myself and my family.



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