Flight Lieutenant Charles Victor WESLEY

459 RAAF Squadron

Service No. 408100

Date of Birth: 15 Oct 1916

Place of Birth: Taungs, South Africa

Date of Enlistment: 8 Nov 1940

Date of Discharge: 16 Jan 1946

Rank: Flight Lieutenant

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Crew:
  • Flying Officer Colin Newton

  • Pilot Officer Charles V. Wesley

  • Flying Officer E.M. Orr 

  • Flying Officer R. Ryko​

Left to right: Warrant Officer M.’Snowy’ Lowien, of Haden, Qld, and Flying Officer C. V. Wesley, of Hobart, Tas. Devon, England. C. 1945-04. Based at RAF Station Chivenor, help to swing the compass of an aircraft.

From the book “Desert Scorpions – A History of 459 Squadron RAAF 1942-1945” by Leon Kane-Maguire.

“On the morning of 21 September, three Baltimore crews took off from Berka for Aegean shipping recces [reconnaissance trips]. Flight Sergeant Cecil Acton and Flying Officer Arnold Jones had uneventful sorties except for meeting intense heavy flak at Melos harbour where two Siebel ferries and ‘the usual concentration of small craft’ were observed. The Melos gunners, by then well practiced, gave the third crew, that of Bob Norman in Baltimore ‘A’ FW537, a warmer welcome when they approached after their earlier inspection of Santorini. They received several hits from 88mm ack ack, one of which was observed by Norman to pass ‘straight through the port wing and burst above us’. ‘A for Apple’ was holed in over twenty places. The navigator, Flying Officer Charles Wesley received a serious wound in the upper thigh when a piece of shrapnel (measuring six and a half centimetres) tore through his seat and parachute and lodged against a bone. It was his first operational sortie with the Squadron – and almost his last.

 

 

The wireless operator, Jack Simmonds, recalled:

We had our usual flirtation with the waves, skimming low until we saw the island of Melos where Venus was unfortunate enough to lose both arms. Melos was not on our visiting list today and we kept at a reasonable distance but looking out my little window I could see that we were edging in a bit. Bob had seen something in the harbour that called for closer inspection and having a ‘green’ observer thought it best to have a sidewards look himself rather than go full pelt over the target. We had, by that time, climbed to a few thousand feet.

Suddenly there was a sound like a tin dustbin falling down a flight of concrete steps, followed by another and another and yet another.

After the first sound of punctured metal the aircraft went into a steep dive and I measured my chances of getting hold of my parachute and reaching the hatch before we hit the sea. Trying to rise from my seat I soon realised that the force of gravity was holding me back and that I was not going to get out… I sat back, cursing my luck that I was about to die, shot down by deadly gunners in Melos.

Having decided that… I had ‘had my chips’ I did not feel half so terrified as I thought I would. I was highly pleased therefore to hear a long drawn out oath from Bob and realised that all was not lost. Bob seldom swore and there was no way he’d go to meet his maker with a four letter oath on his lips. When the aircraft nose came up again I knew that we were all right; both engines still running and although I could see daylight in places where daylight should not be it seemed that we had suffered no structural damage. As long as Bob was alive we were O.K.

 

He immediately called us up individually to see if we were in the land of the living. There was a grunt of assent from Cec [McKinnon] in the turret and I squeaked out an acknowledgement but from the observer there was silence. We eventually heard a moan over the intercom and knew at least that he was alive. Not knowing what state the observer was in and the impossibility of carrying out a reconnaissance without one, Bob turned for home. We shot past Melos more quickly than we approached it. The normal procedure would now have been for the observer to code up a message to say that we were returning but as he had the coding machine and we couldn’t get at it I had to get Bob’s permission to send a plain language message for the first and last time in my career. “Returning early to Gambut, Aircraft damaged. Observer wounded”.

 

The flight to Gambut, via the Kithera Strait, was considerably shorter than returning to Berka base but it would still be another two hours before they arrived back: We had our shock when we clambered out and inspected our Baltimore and found that it was peppered with holes. I went back and saw that the radio had been hit in several places, some of which were uncomfortably close to my head. The armour-plated seat of the turret was well peppered with shrapnel.

We were put into a hut and were given the inevitable cup of tea. If we’d been back on the squadron it would have been something stronger… we stood around in gloomy silence until we heard our pickup plane arriving. Our aircraft was completely unserviceable and we were unable to fly it back to Berka.

 

Charles Wesley was hospitalised at Gambut. He made a full recovery, returning to the Squadron in November to complete a further ten, less traumatic, operational sorties. After repairs. ‘A for Apple’ also returned to operations with the Squadron by mid-October. Interspersed with the shipping recces, the Squadron continued to carry out the occasional convoy escort patrol.

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