Remembering LAC Wilfred Holbrook and LAC Norman Parker, 2739 Squadron RAF Regiment

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by chick42-46, Jun 21, 2012.

  1. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    I spotted two photos of war graves for sale on the well-known online auction site. I bought this one:


    which shows the grave of LAC Wilfred Holbrook of 2739 Squadron RAF Regiment, killed in action on 11 June 1946 at Medan Airfield, Sumatra.

    The other photo was of the grave of LAC Norman Parker, killed the same day. I’m trying to contact the person who bought that photo for permission to post it here.

    As a bit of a RAF Regiment nut, I wanted to find out how the two lads came to be killed after the end of WW2 and what on earth they were doing in Sumatra. Here’s what I’ve found out so far.

    Searching online, I came across this pretty sensationalised piece in The Straits Times of 14 June 1946 - Newspapers - R.A.F. Sentries Murdered In Sumatra

    “RAF Sentries Murdered in Sumatra
    Grim Discovery in Airfield Tent

    Conditions in Sumatra continue to deteriorate, and Indonesian extremists are almost every day murdering Chinese, looting and setting fire to property, writes the London News Chronicle’s special correspondent from Medan.

    On the night of June 10 and 11, their victims were members of the Royal Air Force Regiment stationed on the Medan airfield.

    A guard of five men, except one sentry on duty, was stealthily murdered by men who are presumed to be Achinese.

    They crept up to the edge of the airfield, cut the throats of two of the R.A.F. men and severely wounded and mutilated two more, who died shortly after admission to hospital.

    The sentry was only a few yards away and when his turn came for relief he went to the guard tent nearby only to find one of his comrades dead and the others horribly mutilated.

    Search parties were quickly organized but so far no trace of the murderers has been found.

    Achinese from north Sumatra are gradually drifting down to Medan as Japanese troops who were on guard in Achin are withdrawn.

    The four murdered R.A.F. men were buried with full military honours.”

    But this report, although contemporary, doesn’t appear to be wholly accurate.

    To be continued…
    dbf likes this.
  2. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Part 2

    Here is what Kingsley Oliver has to say in Through Adversity, pg. 167
    “In July 1945 the RAF Regiment order of battle in ACSEA consisted of ten wing headquarters, 18 Field squadrons, 12 LAA squadrons and one armoured car squadron.

    In June 1946 a party of some 40 Indonesians attacked a post of seven Regiment airmen at Medan airfield. Despite the gallantry and initiative of the guard commander – LAC Holbrook – who was killed leading his men against the attackers, the detachment was overrun with casualties of two airmen killed and two seriously wounded. The squadron commander – Squadron Leader Williams – took charge of the reserve flight and restored the situation, killing a number of the enemy and driving off the remainder. Corporal LE Hyde gave a graphic description of the incident, including photographs of the military funerals of his colleagues which followed. The official history records that “the vigilance and courage of the Regiment gunners throughout this difficult period was beyond praise and they suffered a number of casualties as a result of enemy action.” This was to be a foretaste of the hostile situations in which the Regiment was to be involved almost continually from the end of the Second World War onwards.”

    And this is the account given in Constant Vigilance: The RAF Regiment in the Burma Campaign, by Nigel Warwick, pgs. 253 to 254:
    “While the British commitment in Sumatra would take until November 1946, the Regiment would remain only until August. Maintaining a viable airfield defence force became more difficult as officers and airmen were repatriated to the United Kingdom at increasing rates. 2739 Squadron had to be sent from India to reinforce 1323 Wing in January 1946. Further reinforcements of one officer and seventy-five airmen from 2941 Field Squadron flew in a few weeks later to assist 2739 Squadron as it was also becoming seriously depleted by the departure of time-expired personnel.

    Tensions on Sumatra were soon inflamed when rumours began to circulate that the Dutch Army was readying itself to return in large numbers. A section of 2739 Field Squadron guarding a radio installation was attacked just after midnight on 10 June 1946 by a force of forty Indonesians. With no warning, a grenade was thrown and the tented camp came under attack from two sides by parties armed with swords and knives. The section commander, LAC Holbrook, with complete disregard for his own safety, lead his men in a counter-attack. Four of the assailants were killed but he and another LAC were hacked to death, two more seriously wounded and the remaining three treated for shock. The OC of 2739 Squadron, Squadron Leader Williams, launched an attack at the head of the reserve flight and was able to drive the enemy back.”
    So both accounts have two RAF Regiment fatalities rather than the four of the original Straits Times report.
    wtid45 likes this.
  3. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Part 3

    Here are the CWGC details for LACs Holbrook and Parker.

    Rank: Leading Aircraftman
    Service No: 1579140
    Date of Death: 11/06/1946
    Age: 25
    Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 2739 Sqdn, R.A.F. Regt.
    Grave Reference: 2. D. 12.
    Additional Information: Son of Mrs. Ethel Holbrook, of Long Eaton, Derbyshire.

    Rank: Leading Aircraftman
    Service No: 1777072
    Date of Death: 11/06/1946
    Age: 23
    Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 2739 Sqdn, R.A.F. Regt.
    Grave Reference: 2. E. 1.
    Additional Information: Son of Hugh and Mary E. Parker, of Newcastle-on-Tyne.

    The initial newspaper report states that four RAF men were killed. Using Geoff’s Search Engine, I can find only LACs Holbrook and Parker. There are no other RAF casualties buried at Jakarta who died in the period 10 to 30 June 1946. There are, in fact, no other burials at Jakarta dated 11 June 1946 (and only two more for the whole of June, a military policeman and a Royal Engineer).

    I also searched, without success, for other 2739 squadron casualties from around that time. The only other 2739 squadron casualty I found was LAC George Hollman, who died 21 June 1943 and who is buried in Ightham (St. Peter) Churchyard in the UK. The CWGC website isn’t too good at recording whether a RAF casualty (usually a member of the RAFVR) was RAF Regiment or not. In that, it takes its lead from the London Gazette, which doesn’t differentiate between member of the Regiment and other RAF personnel (except where there is major award and a citation).

    Finally, I searched for other RAF casualties died 11 June buried anywhere on the basis that there might have been non-RAF Regiment personnel involved (given that the attack did happen at an airfield). Although I found 4 other RAF or RAFVR casualties from 11 June, all were buried in England and none look like they have any connection to this incident.

    So I think it is reasonable to conclude that the original press report was exaggerated.
  4. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    With thanks to Tony (bucklt), here are photographs of the permanent grave markers for LACs Holbrook and Parker.

    Sussex by the Sea likes this.
  5. Sussex by the Sea

    Sussex by the Sea Senior Member

    Nice one Chick, very interesting.

    Per Ardua

  6. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Thanks, Steve

    It was a pleasure to do this.

    Just need to get a copy of the other war time grave marker so that I can post that too.
  7. rockape252

    rockape252 Senior Member

    Hi chick42-46,

    Do you mind if I post this gen and photographs onto RockNet please.

    Regards, Mick D.
  8. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Go for it, Mick.


  9. rockape252

    rockape252 Senior Member

    Hi Ian,

    Many thanks.

    Regards, Mick D.
  10. Josef564

    Josef564 Junior Member

    Hello - just browsing this subject as i do from time to time and felt the need to reply! My grandfather was one of the Raf regt airmen posted at medan during this incident. I think he was close to one of the guys who was killed. He's never really talked about it - but i'm sure he'll be chuffed to know people are interested!
    Best wishes
    Sussex by the Sea likes this.
  11. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Hi Joel and welcome to the forum! And thanks for you post.

    It's amazing to think that your grandfather was there and knew these guys. He may even be able to solve the mystery of how many casualties there actually were.

    I wonder if you might also be interested in some other RAF photos I acquired from the same auction seller. There are no names on any of them but they are also of RAF men at Medan. I'll need to scan the photos in and post them here (probably on a separate thread).

    When I do I'd be very grateful if you'd take a look. You never know, you might recognise someone in them (or your grandfather might).


  12. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

  13. Sussex by the Sea

    Sussex by the Sea Senior Member

    What slightly annoys me with their grave markers is that there is no link to their Regiment, just the Royal Air Force. Its like having a grave marker for example, Pte Smith Coldstream Guards and just having on his grave Pte Smith Army.

  14. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    What slightly annoys me with their grave markers is that there is no link to their Regiment, just the Royal Air Force. Its like having a grave marker for example, Pte Smith Coldstream Guards and just having on his grave Pte Smith Army.


    I agree - and it's the same with things like the London Gazette.

    There are some CWGC markers that do record service with the RAF Regt but it seems to be patchy.

    I suspect that the RAF Regiment was thought to be a temporary measure that, with the end of the war, would be done away with (as it nearly was, I understand). So it was felt that the markers should just say RAF.
  15. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Remembering LAC Wilfred Holbrook and LAC Norman Parker, 2739 Squadron RAF Regiment

    Attached Files:

  16. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Hi DaveB

    Thanks for posting these. I didn't know burial index cards existed!

    Reading these, am I right in concluding that the two men were buried originally at Medan but moved to Jakarta in 1961?

    And I wonder if you can help me with the third scan of the back of one of the cards? I can't really make it out as it's been scored through but does it say something about the original grave site?

    Thanks for any further help you can give.


  17. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    I just had another look at the card and I think it was a typo - the cards either side of his have "Original Grave Site Pakan Baroe, Camp II, Grave No 123" and it hasn't been scored through.

    ie - his card didn't need that annotation but other burials nearby did (most of the nearby burials are from the August / September 1945 period)
  18. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Thanks for clearing that up, DaveB.

    Where did you find the index cards?
  19. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    The cards are held by the National Archives of Australia (Homepage – National Archives of Australia) - just search for Jakarta War Cemetery. There are two files full of these cards, for Aussie casualties there is usually a cause of death annotated on them - and sometimes that sort of info can also be found on other Commonwealth burials.

    Similar cards exist for some of the other War Cemeteries.
  20. cronin

    cronin Junior Member

    hi just read your post my uncle norman parker was one of the two men killed that night at the airfield.we have been trying to trace his grave,which we have just found,we have been finding it hard to find out what happend to him that night.
    Sussex by the Sea likes this.

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