454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
Squadron Leader Colin J COOTE
459 RAAF Squadron
Service No. 403557
Date of Birth: 2 Sep 1913
Place of Birth: ASHFIELD, NSW
Date of Enlistment: 3 Feb 1941
Date of Discharge: 1 Jun 1945
Rank: Squadron Leader
The following information has been supplied by Colin Coote's daughter Annette Sneddon:
Squadron Leader [Aug. 1944], previously Flight Lieutenant - Navigator
Colin J. Coote joined the airforce in 1941- RAAF. He was sent to No.1 Air Observer School, Canada and commenced training on 30th June,1941. He trained as Navigator and observer, mainly in Ansons and Fairey Battle aircraft, successfully passing the Air Observer's Advanced Navigation Course on 24/11/41, completing 137.10 hours.
He was then dispatched to the UK and on 26/1/42 commenced duty in No 1 A.F.U.R.A.F. in Wigtown, Scotland. His duties included navigation, gunnery and bomb aiming mainly on Anson & Blenheim aircraft. He moved to No.13 O.T.U., Bicester, England for further training between 7/4/42 and 21/5/42. He was then transported by ship to the Gold Coast of West Africa where he was part of a Blenheim convoy to Aden. He joined 8 squadron RAF in Aden on 20/10/42, was involved in patrols and survived a crash landing in Somaliland. The following is an account of the crash.
JUNE 17,CRASHED IN BLENHEIM IN RAS ALULA SOMALILAND.
"There was a flight from Socotra to Cairo up the Red Sea transporting an English Army Sergeant. During the flight they lost one propeller and to keep the aircraft flying on course the pilot had to keep extreme pressure on the rudder. His leg weakened and Colin had to sit on his leg to hold the rudder. The force of the remaining propeller was so great it flew off and the plane slewed around, losing height. It skimmed across the water and crashed and rolled end to end. As the terrain was high - steep cliffs - it was a miracle that they landed on a sandy beach. Colin was catapulted forward into the nose of the plane and knocked unconscious".
Arthur Stephen and I got broken ankles and lacerations. The passenger, an Army Officer, cut his knees rather badly. Ray Sampson, the gunner was cut on the nose - otherwise OK. Native fishermen looked after us and sent a runner into Alula for help. Two Army Officers and natives arrived at midnight and dressed our wounds as well as they could in orange lamplight on the beach and then took us back to their camp [see next photo below]. Next day Al Hansom and Tommy Price came out to look for us in an Anson.
JUNE 18,1943 - RETURNED TO ADEN AND WAS HOSPITALISED. RELEASED JULY 9, 1943,WALKING WITH MY LEFT LEG IN PLASTER.
JULY 12, 1943, STARTED WORK IN THE OPERATIONS ROOM KHORMATSAR AND APPLIED FOR SICK LEAVE TO ASMARA ON AUGUST 26th TO SEPTEMBER 10th. LEAVE WAS GRANTED.
AUGUST 1,1943 ALL LEAVE WAS CANCELLED AND STILL IN THE OPERATIONS ROOM.
His diary continues in detail from this date until it abruptly ends when he begins his second tour of duty with the entry"
JANUARY 7, 1944 CAME TO GAMBUT IN A ELLINGTON TO JOIN 459 SQUADRON
Although his diary ends there his Log Book continues in detail. He becomes a Bombing Leader after completing a further course in March,1944. He was made a Squadron Leader and the pilot, George Ringrose was presented with the DFC in a "mission" which appears in his log book as follows:
Aircraft Type: Baltimore
Pilot: JC F/O Ringrose
Duty: Navigator to Ahqem for Special Secret Briefing & Return 6.05
Aircraft Type: Baltimore JCFW 429
Pilot: F/O Ringrose
Duty: Navigator Bengjhazi - Poros - dropping secret package for invasion forces Athens
Aircraft Type: Baltimore
Pilot: F/O Ringrose
Duty: (DFC) Navigator - Bombing Crete - Malerna Aerodrome, heavy ack ack - 12 hits on aircraft
He spoke of this sortie quite often during the years after the war. Apparently all firing between enemy and ally ships was halted for given short period of time so that their aircraft could get in and out safely and the secret package dropped on the mission's spot - no bigger than a football oval on a small island in the Aegean. It was on their return he was made Squadron Leader and the Pilot, George ringrose was presented with a DFC.
Prof. Leon Kane-Maquire sent the following added information regarding this operation:
"The sortie that Col and his crew made to Poros to drop [secret package is indeed interesting. One of the Squadron files identified the contents of the parcel as: "Information on the disposition of enemy defences in the Gulf of Athens". This was very useful to the Allied Invasion forces poised for their landings near Athens, which occurred the following day".