© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons


459 RAAF Squadron

Middle East


Flight Sergeant Fred Thompson
(Wing Operator/Air Gunner)

 

RAF No. 1135126

 


Served : 12 May 1943 – August 1944

 Date of Birth : 30 March 1921
Place of Birth : Middlesborough, England
Posting at Discharge : 75 OTU


 CREW:  12-13 October 1943 - Ventura MkV AM597 ‘M’

Flying Officer : A.G. Storman, RAAF

Flight Sergeant : D.S. Noble, RAF

Flight Sergeant : F. Thompson, RAF

Flight Sergeant : J.H. Raw, RAF
-----------------

Died aged 95 : 11th April 2016
Notified by his son Brian Thompson


From the Book “Desert Scorpions – a History of 459 Squadron RAAF – 1942 – 1945” written by the late Professor Leon Kane-Maguire [from page 276].


A major anti-shipping operation was mounted by the Squadron on the night of 12-13 October, with eight Hudsons taking part in offensive patrols in the Leros and eastern Aegean area. They took off from base at ten-minute intervals commencing at 17.25 hrs. Four crews carried out attacks.


Allan Storman subsequently described his attack in correspondence with David Vincent: “There was no illumination except the moonlight and we made three runs over it before getting an accurate run with the bombsight. In the meantime, we were getting a fair bit of light anti-aircraft fire and plenty of tracer as we passed over. My navigator David Noble, a Scotsman in the RAF, reported the last two bombs in the stick hit the ship amidships and the later intelligence reports said the ship sank and survivors came ashore on the Turkish coast. That was a trip of six hours twenty minutes, all but fifty minutes being logged as night flying.”


Wireless operator/air gunner in the crew, Sergeant Fred Thompson still recalls the attack vividly, “It being the most dramatic event of my operation tour with the Squadron. It was a beautiful moonlit night. I was in the upper turret and at our height of a few thousand feet I could see numerous small islands silhouetted in sharp focus. We had just turned for home when I spotted the ship in the moon-path – it looked too straight to be an island. I told Allan to turn to starboard to have a look and sure enough it was a ship. We made three runs over it – on the first two we couldn’t get in a good bombing position and David Noble, who was on the bombsight in the nose, told Allan to go around again.


By the time we came in on our third run, anti-aircraft fire from our target and nearby vessel was intense, with tracer coming up like a cone towards us. We were also receiving fire from the nearby Kos coast. Johnny Raw [the other WOP/AG] had wound down the trap door for the belly gun to get a better look. From the turret I could see down through his window and saw the ship slide past below us, as if in slow motion – the sight is still fixed in my mind. I did not see the bombs explode. Not wishing to stretch our luck any further, we head back to base without circling back for another look.”


Adverse weather restricted operations over the next several days. However on the night of 15 October All Storman and his crew found a concentration of small enemy vessels sheltering near the jetty at Port Calino on the south coast of Kaylmnos (an island between Kos and Leros). Bomb bursts from the low level attack were observed in the harbour and on the foreshore. Wireless operator Fred Thompson again recalled: “We were flying at less than a thousand feet and in the moonlight we spotted three or more small vessels tied up at the jetty. We received no anti-aircraft fire on passing over the first time, so we went back again at low level to bomb. Light ack ack position opened up on us from the end of the jetty but fortunately we were not hit.


The next night a 2,000 ton merchant vessel was discovered in the same location by the Squadron Leader Roy Shaw and attacked. But the bombs overshot, with some falling on nearby warehouses.


An early morning raid by eight Hudsons on 18 October saw the Squadron return to the bombing of enemy aerodromes – Heraklion airfield on Crete. Although all aircraft bombed the target as tasked, results were difficult to assess due to the cloudy conditions. The formation leader, Squadron Leader Roy Shaw, made four runs over the target in the face of intense and accurate flak in order to observe the bombing. In early 1944, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his typically determined and courageous leadership. Remarkably, he and his crew were unscathed. However, one aircraft (‘R’FH428) flown by Allan Storman was struck in the wings and fuselage by ack ack fire but no injuries were sustained.


Fred Thompson in the upper turret had a lucky escape: “As we dived away after bombing, a piece of shrapnel came through the Perspex cupola, passing over my right shoulder before striking the right-hand machine-gun, curling back to the top of the breach block cover. Its force spent by the impact, the piece of shrapnel ended up lying on the inner ring of the turret. I kept it for several months before misplacing it.”

Fred THOMPSON