454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
Flight Sergeant Iver Roderick "Rod" PEDERSEN
454 RAAF Squadron
Service No. 35018
Date of Birth: 15 Jun 1920
Place of Birth: MARRICKVILLE, NSW
Date of Enlistment: 20 Feb 1941
Date of Discharge: 25 Jul 1946
Rank: Flying Officer
Date of Death: 28 May 2008
Jeff Gillingham - Pilot
Alan Norman Godfrey - WOP/AG
Iver "Rod" Roderick Pedersen - Flight Sergeant
The following from Mark Lax's book Alamein to the Alps
At daylight on 1 June, 454 Squadron swung into action. Two recces were launched, FW477:B under command of Flight Lieutenant ‘Pat’ Humphreys went westbound and FW499:Q under Lieutenant Alex Dryden headed east. Dryden’s crew relocated the convoy at 0900 and it was subsequently shadowed by a succession of eight squadron aircraft throughout the day. Dryden approached the convoy at sea level and was closing to identify the vessels when four Me-109s, which were providing the convoy air cover at 1,000 ft, turned and rolled in on him. As he was avoiding the enemy, at 0915, Dryden reported three merchant vessels under 2000 tons, two over 2000 tons, a destroyer and four auxiliary vessels, an assessment reasonably close to the mark. Air cover at the time was four enemy fighters and barrage balloons.
This report indicated the convoy was heading for either Candia Harbour or Suda Bay and would be in range of the now gathering bombing force around 1900 hours that evening. Shadowing crews were then briefed to cover the Piraeus channel, and the convoy was soon relocated south of Pholegandros Island.
Most of the shadowing Baltimores were jumped by fighters or harassed by flak, with Jack Ennis’ aircraft being attacked on at least five occasions. His careful evasion while maintaining contact and reporting very accurate convoy updates resulted in his later award of a DFC. It was during this shadowing phase that the Unit lost another crew attesting to both German desperation and the danger of such activities. Lost were Warrant Officer George Liels and his crew in FW399:T. They had joined the squadron in early February and were considered old hands. Those killed included this navigator, Flying Officer Ed Quinlan , and Wireless Operator/Air Gunners Warrant Officer Max Schultz and Flying Officer Max Short. Believed shot down by escorting Me-109s, the aircraft was lost without trace. The shadowing continued throughout the day, with Flying Officer Ken Ilott and crew providing information that confirmed the convoy was heading for Candia (Heraklion Harbour), the last report at 17.25 placing it just 40 miles out.
Rod Pedersons' crew - 1106 FW402 [June 1944] Convoy relocated – position not recorded -- shadowed
FSGT I.R. Pederson
FSGT G.B. Gray
FSGT B.T. Watts
FSGT R.T. Bright
The squadron's role in Italy would be daylight medium bombing and targets would include factories, storage depots, rail yards, bridges, Todt labour camps and gun emplacements. Sorties would be much shorter than the 5-6 hours experienced at Berka and crews would work even more closely with the British 8th Army with close bombing missions requiring high navigation accuracy and utmost crew concentration.
There would be nothing worse than bombing one's own side. Alan Godfrey a WOP/AG on Jeff Gillingham's crew recalled the early operations in Italy.
"The shorter duration of flights, many less than two hours, meant time was spent forming a 6-aircraft box, climbing to a bombing altitude of 10,000 ft, dropping bombs after a 10 second bomb run and going home as fast as possible. I recall one raid when the time from bomb drop to touch-down was 7 minutes. (When I first operated from Cesenatico we were within artillery range of the front line and were described as being the closest air strip to a front line on any Allied field of operations). The effect of this type of operation was that the pilot was fully occupied, including making sure that he kept an appropriate space between him and the closest formation member, and the navigator/bomb aimer was also gainfully occupied."
With this in mind and during a spell of particularly bad weather, Rod Pedersen suggested a visit to the front lines, about 20 miles from the base. They came across a Canadian Unit and joined a mail run jeep up to a mortar position. Ted Denton, one of the adventurers continued the story:
"Just before reaching the mortar position we must have been spotted by Jerry and before long, we came under fire, I presume it was mortar fire from a hill top which the Axis still held and we were certainly not taking mail to that mortar position. The Canadian driver told us to abandon the Jeep immediately, and to go to ground; the next thing I was flat on my face in sticky mud. After a short period of time the firing ceased and we made our way on foot a few yards to the Canadian mortar position. These enemy positions were the kind of target that our aircraft were called on to attack to soften up the area and help the ground forces advance."