454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
Flying Officer KR "Fiji" THOMPSON
454 RAAF Squadron
Service Number: 137416
Rank: Flying Officer
Date of Death: 22 Nov 1944 (KIA Faenza Italy)
FlgOff KR Thompson 137416 RAF (P) KIA
FlgOff WJ Bourn 144673 RAF (N) POW
FSgt G Bainbridge 656334 RAF (W/Ag) KIA
FSgt GW Bebbington 1065474 RAF (W/Ag) KIA
Baltimore FW689 Mk. V
Below is an extract from "Alamein to the Alps” a History of the 454 Squadron by Air Commodore Mark Lax CSM
The final loss for 1944 was recorded on 22 November. In the early afternoon, a box of six aircraft again led by Col Stinson took off to bomb defended positions just south of Faenza. It was the second wave of the day to attack the target, the morning flight recording some hits but reporting no flak. The situation changed drastically on the second sortie. Bombing from 11,000 ft, and just after bomb release, the flak opened up with well aimed shots amongst the formation. Almost immediately, aircraft FW689:E flown by Flying Officer ‘Fiji’ Thompson was hit inside of the port engine and was well ablaze before the other pilots in formation realised what had happened. FW689 maintained height for about 20 seconds before diving steeply into the ground, exploding in a ball of flames and leaving a pall of brown smoke near the target. Warrant Officer ‘Taffy’ Griffiths and crew were flying as No. 3 and almost wore it themselves. Taffy’s WOP/AG, Warrant Officer David Etheridge , later recalled what happened:
We turned on to the bombing run as normal and after about 10 to 15 seconds Doug Hatcher in the turret spoke, saying to pilot ‘Taffy’ [that] Thompson (No. 2) has been hit and is on fire. At this moment we were turning starboard off the target in the usual very tight turn and No 2 was maintaining his position in the formation. ‘Taffy’ had seen what had happened and was concerned that the aircraft hit still had his bomb load on board. He said over the intercom ‘Bugger this, if he’s still got his bombs on he could blow up and bring the lot of us down. I’m going off the other way.’ And so that is what we did.
We broke the golden rule which was to stay in formation at all times. Of course once we were on our own the flak went for us and we had quite a tricky job dodging the nasty stuff which they threw at us, but with textbook co-operation between turret and pilot we While two parachutes were seen to open, sadly only the observer, Flying Officer Bill Bourn, made it to become a POW. As well as Thompson, killed were the two WOP/AGs Flight Sergeants George Bainbridge and Gerry Bebbington.