© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons


454 RAAF Squadron :  9.10.42 - 11.12.43




Flight Lieutenant Raymond Gordon AKHURST -- DFM


RAFVR Pilot No. 149940


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OPERATION "THESIS"


A retaliatory raid that would be a large combined air strike against various ports and military establishments on Crete.  8 crews were chosen for this mission.  Akhurst's plane was Number 2 to Folkhard.


FLIGHT CREW -  FA 390 - FIRST WAVE - 23.7.1943


Squadron Leader L.H. Folkard, RAFVR



Flight Sergeant R.G. Akhurst, RAFVR

Flight Sergeant R.H. Lawrence, RAAF

Flight Sergeant J. Bastian, RAAF

Sergeant E. Nicherterlain, RAAF - [wounded in action ]


One of 8 crews selected for the "Thesis" Raid of Crete was to relieve pressure from the German operation "Huskey" - the Allied invasion of Sicily and avenge the execution of 100 Cretans who had been shot after assisting a Commando raid on the island.


454 were to provide 2 box formations of 4 aircraft each - each loaded with six 250 lb bombs.  A 230 mile flight.  The mission resulted in 5 aircraft lost over Crete.   You can read more about this mission in Mark Lax's book "Alamein To The Alps".  (for details on this book go to our News Page).


Mark has the full story in his book :


"Akhurst's plane was approaching Ma-lemme aerodrome, a large Luftwaffe base and the AA fire at 50 feet claimed an easy target, the plane hit the water and despite the heavy impact all survived the crash and their navigator Nichterlein suffered a badly broken leg.  Amazingly the aircraft floated ashore the next morning.  The empty fuel tanks giving the plane buoyancy.

Akhurst's plane - the salvage crew examine the wreck of FA 390 A


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The following information on Ray Akhurst was provided by Andrew Brockett.



"I am what is sometimes grandly called a "postal historian" - bacically a collector of old envelopes and one of my main interests is RAAF mail from WW2.  I recently came across this envelope, sent from Kenya in Dec.1943.  P/O Akhurst was a South African and a member of the RAFVR, I also found this interesting entry":



"The Squadron's worst operational day occurred on 23rd July,1943, when eight 454 Squadron Baltimores, led by Sqd.Ldr.Lionel Folkard and accompanied by fighters, made a daylight low level offensive over Northern Crete.  Six Baltimores and five crews were lost. F/Sgt.Akhurst's crew survived after scrambling out on one motor at low level and "ditching" just off Gambut. Akhurst's immediate award of (DFM) was the Squadrons first decoration".  It looks as though Akhurst had left 454 by Dec 1943 - see the re-direction in red pencil to 75 OTU. I wonder if any of your members remember Akhurst or what became of him."


 

The Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training) Branch, often abbreviated to RAFVR(T) is a voluntary element of the British Royal Air Force.  -- see "Our History" page.

Raymond Gordon AKHURST