454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
Flying Officer John William Jack SHIPWAY
454 RAAF Squadron
Service No. 412722
Date of Birth: 11 Oct 1920
Place of Birth: WATERLOO, NSW
Date of Enlistment: 20 Jul 1941
Date of Discharge: 11 Jan 1946
Rank: Flying Officer
Date of Death: 10 Sep 2010
Geoff ("Diamond") Bradley, Pilot
Peter ("Junior") Matthews Nav (B)
Jack ("Shippy") Shipway W.A.G.
Cliff ("Pappy") Kershaw W.A.G.
The Bradley crew flew its first operational sortie with 454 RAAF Baltimore (B) Squadron from its Falconara base on what had become known as “hot” target, Pola, a naval port on the east coast of the Adriatric. A sizeable D.A.F. force of bombers escorted by fighters hit the target in daylight. The crew stayed wit the Squadron until the Axis forces in Italy surrendered on 2nd May, 1945 and probably flew the last operational sortie of that campaign on midnight 1st/2nd May 1945.
The following story was written by Jack Shipway for the 2003 Bulletin
It was in Jerusalem during 1944 when I first met Geoff Bradley and Peter Matthews, Cliff Kershaw and I were among a group of Air Force personnel who had been sent to the Middle East (instead of Bomber Command in the UK) and in the Mess on the first night Cliff introduced me to Geoff Bradley; we had a talk and the 3 of us decided we could work together, and as a result , the nucleus of the crew was formed; however, we required a navigator/bomb aimer to complete basic 4-man light bomber crew. Bradley piped up and said he had met a young Australian navigator who might blend in. A meeting was arranged with the young bloke (Peter Matthews), resulting in the four of us agreeing to take our chances together.
A few days later we found ourselves in a road convoy on our way across the Sinai Desert to Egypt, pausing for the night at the lousy flea ridden transit camp of Port Taufig opposite Suez. There was no sleep that night as the ferocious fleas fed on us poor mortals.
Next day we were on our way to No. 75 OUT in the desert west of Cairo at a place called Gianaclis, which I remember as a place of hard clay pans and sand. It was to be our home until we became familiar with the Baltimore light bomber.
Our “sprog” crew did not see much of each other for the first couple of weeks as Bradley converted to this twin engined aircraft. Peter learned to fit himself into and work in the confined space of his “office” in the almost fully Perspex nose; Cliff and I found out all we could about the radio; the gun turret with its .50 cal twin guns and .30 cal loose mounted bottom guns; and the rest of the bits and pieces in our domain. Eventually we came together as a crew and finished the OUT course with pretty decent results.
Another Aussie crew was with us at this time comprising Bill Rawlinson (Pilot), Lou Stamper (Nav/Bomb Aimer), Frank Raynolds and Ray Riekie (Wireless/Air Gunners). Ray Riekie flew with us on the last trip Bradley’s crew made, which was, (as far as 454 Squadron was aware) the last operational sorties by Desert Air Force.
Anyhow, off we went to war and eventually arrived at our posting, Squadron 454 located at Falconara, Italy (about 10 miles north of the Adriatric port of Ancona). It was a group of tents nestling on the camouflaged confines of an orchard with messes and quarters connected by duck boards. Mud squelched over the tops of our rubber boots if we happened to stray off the well marked tracks. Boy, what an experience! It had been raining heavily before we got there and continued to do so for some days.
We were checked off by various senior Squadron personnel who decided we were “no threat to the present company”, so we were let loose on the enemy. Our first operational target with the Squadron was Pola and I remember the whole sizable mission as a bit of a "Schemozzle” as well as “a hairy incident”. I remember Geoff Gillingham’s aircraft hurtling down when a piece of shrapnel took the canopy from over his head and his goggles were swept to the top of his head by the wind blast. His aircraft was making a good impression of a dive bomber as it hurtled down. He had to let the column go so that he could reach up and pull the goggles over his eyes. Meanwhile in our Baltimore the intercom became very quiet as Bradley exclaimed “….?x! we’re out of gas!”.
I don’t know what Peter did but Cliff was already down below with his parachute on his chest manfully gripping the pistol on his twin .30 calibre guns whilst I reached for the turret seat release ready to drop down, grab my chute, clamp it on and bail out when we heard “x?x!!! I knocked off the fuel switches!” So it was back to base at Falconara where the aircraft was parked in the mud that almost covered the front tyres and fully covered the tail wheel; and we in the back had to slither out of the aircraft through greasy mud. Oh to be on operational service with the RAAF in the RAF’s DAF.
It was not long before the Squadron was moved to a new airstrip on the coast of Cesenatico where there was no mud, only sand; and it was there we stayed until the end of the fighting in Italy – May 1945.
It was there at Cesenatico that the Baltimore Wing of DAF comprising 15 SAAF, 500 RAF and 454 RAAF Squadrons converted to night intruder operations.
It was quite an experience converting from close support bombing with a six aircraft formation to low level flying on one’s own at night. We were supposed to be 500 ft above the highest local ground point but we flew lower than that when we could see to do so. At first we liked plenty of moon but soon found out that it wasn’t a good thing to have a bright moon behind us when there were trigger happy German light ack ack gunners just waiting for one of us to appear.
Peter navigated by stop watch and on a pre-planned course. Bradley meanwhile, kept us clear of obstacles and the gunners (upper turret and lower hatch) shot ‘em up whenever a chance presented itself.
We had a few “dicey” moments but got through them without a scratch on any of us and had finally, the distinction of flying the last operational for the Squadron, which was scheduled as a survey of the traffic moving towards the Villach Pass, then northward to the Italian-Austrian border. The moon was full, the snow on the mountains along the spine of Italy glistened and the sky was black and we were not looking forward to the trip one little bit. As we neared Villach there was a lot of searchlight activity in the distance, when the recall was received and we heaved sighs of relief as we turned for home base! There were no more flights by D.A.F. – the German forces had surrendered. Later, the Squadron was moved north to Villa Orba, near Udine, to do a little bit of saber rattling and back up for the New Zealand and British divisions holding Tito’s Yugoslav forces in Trieste.
Cliff Kershaw was not with us for that last mission, as he was in hospital with bad dose of malaria. Fortunately for us Ray Riekie agreed to take Cliff’s place and so shared in the last operational flight of Squadron 454."
Tribute & Guest Book available through The Daily Telegraph September 15, 2010
SHIPWAY, John (Jack) William passed away peacefully on September 10, 2010 in his 90th year. Beloved husband of Patricia (deceased). Adored uncle and brother in law of the Shipway and Heasman families.
A Man Who touched the lives of many, John’s family and friends are warmly invited to attend a celebration of his life to be held in the North Chapel of the Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Delhi Road, North Ryde on Saturday, September 18th 2010 commencing at 10:15am.
By request no flowers. Donations to the Cancer Council would be appreciated.