Warrant Officer Geoffrey William HARNETT
454 RAAF Squadron
15.10.42 - 23.7.43
Service Number: 400987
Date of Birth: 14 Apr 1917
Place of Birth: Harrow, England.
Posting on Death: 454 Squadron
Killed in Action: 23 Jul 1943
Roll of Honour : Alamein Memorial, Egypt. Col.277
THE CREW : Killed in Action : 23.7.1943 : AIRCRAFT :FA224
Warrant Officer [Pilot]- Geoffrey William Harnett - 400987
Flying Officer - John Frederick Rich - 400998
Warrant Officer - Ronald Oswald Harris - 401624
Flying Officer - Christopher Frederick Cox - 407493
As copied with permission from A/C Mark Lax's book "Alamein to the Alps - 454 Squadron, RAAF 1941-1945":
The crews of FA409, AG869 AND FA224 were lost without trace and although an initial SOS was received from Doug Blomley's crew and the position fixed on the south coast of Crete west of Ierapetra, nothing further was heard.
So what went wrong? Certainly the concept of a feint across Crete was sound. Yet 23rd July 1943 would go down in the Unit's history as its darkest day. In retrospect, there were a number of factors that led to failure. First, the planners at the Axis were not. The plan assumed the German defences would be at breakfast and be caught unawares, but in Crete, breakfast was over and the Germans were already attending their daily duties. Second, the 120 fighters that were sent as escort took some time to co-ordinate and so the Baltimores consequently arrived over the island first. This alerted the island defences, anti-aircraft guns and enemy fighters. While the Allied fighters were small and nimble and flying at much higher altitude, the bombers were not. The defences would have been fully prepared and awaiting the low-level strike with the inevitable result.
Perhaps (Wing Commander Ian) Campbell put it best. In his private diary entry for the 23rd, he wrote...
"So today we lost 5 crews and 6 aircraft out of 8. I feel very bad about it. Chris Cox has gone, Freddie Betteridge, John Rich, Hutch, Folkard, Doug Blomley, Fletcher and about 13 sergeants. We never thought the job would cost an aircraft. Tonight, we went down to the Sergeants' Mess and got rotten drunk. The boys are taking it well."
Never again were massed, low-level bombing runs planned over German island defences.
The next day a large search was mounted for possible survivors, without success. The month ended with 2 further aircraft crashes, one resulting from the unsuccessful search.
454 Sqd. L-R Geoff Harnett Pilot, Cris Cox WAG, Ron Harris WAG, Jack Rich Nav.
(Photo from Gerry Grimwade, taken from nose cone camera from Baltimore)