Flying Officer Lindsay Paxton (Pete/Peter) MATTHEWS
454 RAAF Squadron
Service No. 424777
Date of Birth: 7 Mar 1924
Place of Birth: MOONEE PONDS, VIC
Date of Enlistment: 9 Oct 1942
Date of Discharge: 20 Dec 1945
Rank: Flying Officer
Date of Death: 11th Dec 2000 (age 76)
Pilot Geoff Bradley (deceased).
Navigator/Bomb Aimer Peter Matthews (deceased).
Wireless Operators/Air Gunners Jack Shipway.
Cliff (Pappy) Kershaw (deceased) and alternate on occasions Ray Riekie.
Peter Matthews, crew joined 454 Squadron at Falconara in Italy during its six months operational phase - from July 1944 to Jan 1945 - as a daylight medium-level pattern-bombing Squadron in the RAF's Baltimore Wing, part of the famous Desert Air Force. 454 delivered 1,013 tons of bombs in the "Tedder Carpet" patterns on immediate Gothic Line battle field targets, troop concentrations, rail/road junctions.
It joined the highly successful “cabrank” of day formation bombers, followed by single engined fighter dive bombers, to systemically blast gaps in the Axis constructed Gothic Line defences across Italy. The 8th British Army exploited the resultant gaps.
Occasional forays in formation were undertaken across the Adriatic Sea to attack shipping and harbour installations in German occupied Yugoslavian ports like Fiume and Pola. One such heavy attack on Pola (2.12.44) provided the Matthew's crew's initiation to heavy defensive flak. No 454 Squadron's first Baltimore formation, led by Vic Cashmore, suffered holes in all aircraft from very heavy 88mm flak concentrations. The second box (including Bradley's crew) broke bombing formation over the target following the leader's lapse in selecting “flaps down" instead of “bomb doors open”. Such a rough mission provided a salutary experience for all crews “to maintain disciplined formation flying whatever emergencies arise”, to guarantee bombing accuracy during the limited 15 second straight and level bombing run, and allow well planned evasive action by the leading aircraft.
Involvement by the Matthew's crew in more such formation missions (usually as experienced grew in the first Vic. Of those boxes) on Army targets, sometimes only 800 yards ahead of forward troops. The attacks were rewarded often by an “Apples” (that is :a good hit) plain language radio report coming off the target, to allow re-ordering of attack priorities if needed. Until the end of 1944 the Squadrons formation bombing continued despite awful weather. It's role as very heavy artillery bombardment had been highly successful, confirmed by many Army signals of congratulations. The Bradley, Matthews, Shipway, Kershaw crew flew their share of this formation against fierce opposition.
Then 454 was converted to its third operational phase – a night intruder role in Jan/Feb1945 after which individual Baltimores roamed over a designated Axis area of the Po River and Lombardy Plains country from their Cesenatico base. Flying at up to 5,000feet dropping flares to illuminate targets, Matthew's crew bombed dumps, road and barge traffic – indeed “anything that moved”, then strafed transport and other targets at low level. During some 423 night intruding sorties by 454 Squadron 250 tons of bombs were delivered. Such intense night harassment, by single aircraft in turn on a roving roster was aimed to spread the Squadron's presence during a full night against a fiercely resistant, doggedly retreating Axis army, and was maintained by 454 and other Squadrons in the RAF's Night Intruder Wing. Matthews’ crew flew their share of such sorties and participated in the great final Senio River Battle of the Italian Campaign until the surrender on 2nd May 1945.
The crew, with Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Ray Riekie substituting for Cliff Kershaw (who was in hospital with malaria), probably flew the RAF's final Italian sortie – a midnight strike on 1st May 1945 – eventually aborted – on the Villach railway junction, an escape route on the Italian/Austria border.
A three month training program before impossible transfer to the Burma Campaign and peace keeping followed at Villa Orba Base near Undine North Italy, then a Victory Flypast of 500 Desert Air Force aircraft and finally disbandment in August 1945.
Following his return to Australia Peter resumed his association with his bank employer and over the years built up an enviable reputation in community service.