Warrant Officer John 'Shorty' GARTSIDE
454 RAAF Squadron
Service Number: 404599 (RNZAF)
Posting on Death: 454 Squadron
Killed in Action: 03 Dec 1943
Roll of Honour: Alamein Memorial, Egypt
THE CREW: Killed in Action 3.12.1943
PLTOFF Colin William Walker, RAAF WOP/AG No 403291 (KIA)
WOFF John 'Shorty' Gartside, RNZAF WOP/AG No. NZ 404599 (KIA)
FLTLT Leslie Norman Row, RAFVR Nav No 117013 (KIA)
PLTOFF (later FLTLT) William Alroy Hugh John ‘Alan’ Horsley, RAAF Pilot No 403828. b. 30 Sep 1911, 454 Sqn – 17 Dec 42 – 3 Dec 43. (POW at Stalag Luft III)
The following excerpt from "Alamein To The Alps" by Mark Lax:
Once established at Berka III, the opportunity to demonstrate the Unit’s sporting prowess became available in the form of competition between the musterings and between units, as sister squadron and rivals, 459 were not far away. Corporal Vic Klix40 became acting NCO of Sports and soon Aussie Rules and Rugby teams sprang up. Regular games were played and the usual after game refreshments ensured a large crowds of supporters. December started badly. Baltimore FW282:P was briefed to carry out an Aegean recce and as had frequently occurred before, after a sighting report, nothing further was heard. While Flight Lieutenant Alan Horsley was captured and became a POW, the remaining crew of Flight Lieutenant Les Row, Warrant Officer ‘Shorty’ Gartside , and Pilot Officer Col Walker unfortunately perished. Upon release from POW camp, Horsley was finally able to recount what happened. Whilst photographing part of the coast of Greece, two Me-109s located our aircraft and approached but we avoided action and later secured photographs. After despatching reports by radio we lost altitude and flew low level near the sea and altered course near Seriphos to avoid giving our location. When in sight of Kythera two more Me-109s with long-range tanks approached from the direction of Crete. We prepared for action. The Me-109s delivered seven attacks, during which the aircraft was set on fire in the port wing, the intercommunications systems destroyed, and Pilot Officer Walker and Warrant Officer Gartside wounded – extent unknown. Avoiding action had taken us nearer Antikythera; two avenues lay open:
1) to crash land on Antikythera, and
2) to ditch nearby.
I decided on the latter and indicated to my crew who answered with visual signals (thumbs up). I then jettisoned the top hatch, and F/Lt Row opened his hatch immediately in front of me. I then throttled back for precautionary landing and selected a spot on the northern shore of the island which appeared broken, and afforded a possible spot to land. When the aircraft landed on the sea, I hit my head on the front part of the open hatch, having raised my seat for landing. When I regained consciousness the aircraft was submerged at the nose, and sea water was up to my neck. I released my safety harness, stood up and the aircraft submerged under me. I swam over the spot where the aircraft submerged, but no-one else left the aircraft, which sank in deep water about 300 yards from the northern shore of Antikythera. I then swam to shore in full sight of the spot until picked up by some fishermen from Antikythera. That the enemy fighters were using long-range tanks was also only known by a few. Wing Commander Coates later recalled how Group found out from… … the Enigma intelligence, which was not known at the time to myself or anyone who might become POW, and indeed to few others. In fact most of our reconnaissances were planned on known information about the enemy intentions. There were what were known as Special Liaison Units at 201 Group, where we called them ‘the girls on the roof’, and at 247 Wing, Berka. The latter told me in very strict confidence about the Me-109s with long-range tanks, so that we were able to vary our routes into the Aegean – fortunately they were also spotted by one of our crews which helped to hide the source of this information. The next day, Flight Sergeant Dave Paul’s46 crew were lost in FA548:R, shot down by another Me-109F fighter . With Paul were Warrant Officer George Agg , Warrant Officer Jim Rennie49 , and Warrant Officer Ralph Simpson50 . It was to have been Paul’s final trip on completion of his tour and Rennie was already extended. They were on a recce near Laurion harbour when attacked by two Me-109s. They ditched and were subsequently picked up by a pair of German Arado Ar-196 seaplanes. The Me-109s gun fire hit the starboard wing and the port fuel tank, which subsequently caught alight. Turret gunner Simpson had baled out, but was lost. After rescue and initial interrogation, the three were taken to Athens, then Salonika and finally into a Stalag in Germany.