Flight Lieutenant Allan ‘Babe’ William PROCTOR

459 RAAF Squadron

Service No. 403073

Date of Birth: 23 Nov 1921

Place of Birth: BURWOOD, NSW

Date of Enlistment: 9 Dec 1940

Date of Discharge: 12 Nov 1945

Rank: Flight Lieutenant

WW2 Honours and Gallantry: DFC

Date of Death:  20 Jun 1956

(Allan's disappearance was reported in the Daily Mirror of 22 Jun 1956 - His body was never found)

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Crew:
  • Pilot: Allan “Babe” Proctor.

  • Navigator: Mervyn “Griff” Griffiths (Welsh)

  • WOP/AG: Gordon “Bomber” Marsh

  • WOP/AG: Noel “Dagwood” Lynch

After training initially in Australia and Canada, Allan was posted from 1 OTU [Operations Training Unit] at Silloth, England to 459 SQN Middle East on 2nd May 1942. He was the squadron’s youngest pilot at just 20 years; that and his baby face lead to his call sign “Babe”.

PROMOTIONS, POSTINGS AND MOVEMENTS FROM ALLAN’S RAAF FILE:

PROMOTIONS:
  • ACII 09.12.40

  • LAC 01.02.41

  • T Sgt 08.08.41

  • Plt Off 09.08.41

  • Flg Off 09.02.42

  • Flt Lt 09.02.44

 

POSTINGS AND MOVEMENTS:

1940

  • 2 RC Sydney 09.12.40

  • 2 ITS Sydney 09.12.40

 

1941

  • 5 EFTS Narromine 06.02.41

  • 2 ED Sydney 03.04.41

  • Embarked at Sydney 22.04.41

  • Disembarked Canada 14.05.41

  • 7 SFTS  Canada 14.05.41

  • RCAF STN Charlestown, Canada 03.11.41

  • Embarked  Canada 03.11.41

  • Disembarked UK 15.11.41

  • 2 PRC UK 15.11.41

  • 14 SFTS UK 24.11.41

  • 1 OTU UK 23.12.41

 

1942

  • 459 SQN  Middle East 02.05.42

 

1943

  • 75 OTU Middle East  24.02.43

  • RAF STN Gianaclis Middle East 14.07.43

 

1944

  • 21 PTC  Middle East 08.02.44

  • Disembarked Melbourne 04.06.44

  • PD   Melbourne 04.06.44

  • 2 PD   Sydney 22.06.44

  • 1 OTU  East Sale 19.07.44

  • 5 OTU  Williamtown 07.08.44

  • R/S   Bradfield Park 28.08.44

  • 2 RPP  54 Mile NT 11.09.44

  • 87 SQN  Coomalie Creek18.09.44

 

1945

  • 5 OTU  Williamtown 02.08.45

  • 2 PD   Sydney 07.11.45

  • Demobilisation12.11.45

POST 459 SQN:

In 1944 - with the Japanese advancing - Allan was posted back to Australia. He joined SQN 87, a photo-reconnaissance unit flying Mosquitoes out of Coomalie Creek near Darwin. Amongst the planes piloted by Allan was the famed A52-600 now being restored at the Point Cook RAAF base near Melbourne.

 

Allan was demobilised in November 1945.

 

 

POST WAR:

Allan flew briefly for ANA before joining Qantas. Here he flew DC3s, Skymasters and Super Constellations on the New Guinea service out of Sydney (via Townsville) and rose to the rank of Captain.

 

In 1953, he wrote a DC4 operations manual for Qantas. He also became President of the Airline Pilots Association.

 

In 1955, Allan suffered a severe beating at a Sydney railway station.  Shortly after, he blacked out briefly while landing. Immediately, he grounded himself, becoming depressed at the prospect of a desk job. In June 1956, he disappeared from North Head in Sydney. Allan’s body was never recovered, although a fisherman spotted it and later identified it from photographs. (His “disappearance” was reported in the Daily Mirror of 22nd June 1956 in an article entitled ‘Puzzle Fate of Airman’.) Allan’s presumed suicide was a great shock in aviation circles and both Qantas and the police investigated.

 

Tragically, Allan did not know that he had fathered a baby girl (Nikki Stern) just three months before his death. He is also survived by his three grandchildren.

 

All Allan’s medals - including his DFC - had been sold by a cousin on his mother’s side. In 1993, (in what could only be described as an event of the greatest serendipity), Nikki managed to buy back Allan’s DFC and other medals from a coin dealer at Wynyard. Harry Carter (renowned pilot of the “G for George” Lancaster in the War Memorial in Canberra) had recognised Allan’s photo in the shop window and immediately responded to Nikki’s request for information about her father in “Wings” magazine.

 

The whereabouts of Allan’s log book is still unknown despite repeated attempts to buy it. Nikki would greatly welcome any information which would help in its acquisition.

Particular thanks go to the Proctor family; also Ray Heathwood (for his diary entries), Mervyn Griffiths DFC (for his personal descriptions of the DFC raid), and John McKenzie and George Gray for their support and assistance; I thank also the RAAF and the many 459 Squadron members who sent anecdotes and photos of my father in response to my requests in the various Air Force publications.

 

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The following is an extract from Ray Heathwood’s illegal WWII diary (Thursday 14th May 1942 – Egypt: location above River Nile)

‘We were at 2,000 feet above the Nile Delta heading west towards our airfield in the Sahara Desert. We sight another Hudson on a parallel course (there were not many Hudsons in the Middle East then). We veer across to investigate – we “natter” on the radio and learn it is “Babe” Proctorand crew, just arriving from England. They are also en route to our airfield. We are terrifically delighted to see such old friends. We will lead the way.’

‘Soon, like us, they will become accustomed to sleeping on the sand on straw pillows plentifully equipped with fleas. Sand, heat, dust storms, scanty supplies of poor tasting water, a diet of bully beef and hard biscuits will cause them to dream about Mum’s cooking.’

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Below is an extract from Navigator Merv. Griffiths’ Log Book:

Date                   Aircraft            From            Take-Off           Attack                Landed Back         Duration

8th Sep. 1942    I – 266             LG* 266        0400                About 0645        0940                      5 hrs 40 min

                                                                                              (after 1st light)                                   Night: 3:00

                                                                                                                                                        Day: 2:40

 

Mervyn Griffiths (who was later awarded a DFC with 267 SQN) also gave the following personal account of the attack on enemy Merchant Vessel (about 6,000 tons) which was on its way to Tobruk with vital supplies.

 

‘The take-off was delayed due to some obstruction on the take-off strip, so we arrived in the target area later than anticipated.’

 

‘The journey to the target area was very stressful for Allan, as he had to keep very low (about 50 feet above the ocean) in order to avoid appearing on enemy radar (and also to keep clear of the coast and any high ground). 203 Squadron reconnaissance aircraft had reported Enemy sea transport making south towards Tobruk and the idea was we should arrive at first light to find target and attack with the element of surprise. Owing to the delay in takeoff, it was a bit lighter than desirable, but we spotted a wisp of smoke on the horizon, later identified as our enemy Merchant Vessel (MV).’

 

‘As an element of surprise, we decided to approach from the direction of a nearby German airfield, which they might not expect, and which gave us a little extra time free from anti-aircraft fire. Allan came in low and straddled the MV with 4 bombs at about 40 to 50 feet, starting fire and explosions. We made a quick recce [reconnoitre] and as the MV started to sink, we quickly set course for LG266!’

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