Sergeant Sydney Christmas WOOLLEY
459 RAAF Squadron
Service No: 15958
Date of Birth: 31 Dec 1907
Place of Birth: Liverpool, UK
Date of Enlistment: 1 Jul 1940
Date of Discharge: 21 Sep 1945
Date of Death: 30 Mar 1995
Below is an extract from "Desert Scorpions - A History of 459 Squadron RAAF 1942-1945" Pages 190-193
Friday 4 December 1942
Our crew were hanging around the crew room - the word came to carry off to the island of Socotra, 450 miles (724 km) eastward at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden. We were off the ground in a few minutes. The navy suspected that there is a commerce raider operating off Socotra... We were to check on all shipping - if they can not answer our challenge we are to go in and attack. Some of our 459 ground staff who have been keeping our Hudsons maintained and flying are already there. In deed they have accompanied crews on many sorties and have been the backbone of our serviceability - the critical factor in air operations.
Tuesday 8 December 1942 - Socotra
Last night at midnight Bill Weatherly and crew took off on an A/S sweep to Aden. We are up early and at 5.20 am, when it is just getting light, we set off down the runway on our return to base. We are heavily loaded, nine men aboard with their gear [a spare aircrew and Syd Woolley Chief Mechanic], fuel and 1,000 pounds of depth charges. On this awkward hilly drome we became airborne too soon - the port wing stalls and we crash heavily back onto the ground. The aircraft fills with dust, making it impossible to see, when we came to a stop we waste no time in getting out of the kite. I picked myself off the floor and reaching up feel the armoured cables which I think belong to the escape hatch. I tugged and pulled with all my strength, breaking two cables and then groping around in the dark, found a third cable... There were only two cables to the escape hatch - I must be somewhere else in the aircraft. Fleeing aft to reach the door I run over someone on the floor. I get out and running around the tail I see we have left scattered behind us the undercart, tail wheel, oil radiator, and a depth charge. The starboard wing was bent way up in the air and the engine had finished some seventy yards ahead of the machine with its three propeller blades closely wrapped around.
Norm Pottie is calling my name. I came across him lying in front of the starboard main plane beating out a fire with his helmet. His right leg is badly smashed. Syd Woolley and I quickly picked him up and dragged him away from the kite. A quick look around showed that the rest were okay. Jack Heward was wondering around dazed saying "aren't the light of London beautiful!", the only lights evident were from kerosene lanterns. Soon a truck arrived on the scene with a medical orderly who did a good job dressing the wounded. Norm took it like a champion and was conscious throughout. A doctor arrived from an army camp on the island and we carried Norm on a stretcher back to camp. Soon Blenheim aircraft took him off to Aden where he would receive medical attention.
Remarkably, there were no other serious injuries.Jack Heward soon regained his memory, while three crew [including Ray Heathwood] got away without a scratch.
Norm Pottie had sustained several compound fractures to his right leg when the starboard engine crushed the aircraft fuselage near where he was sitting. He somehow managed to crawl out through a hole onto the wing. Despite his injuries, he prevented a potentially catastrophic conflagration by putting out a fire that had started on the wing over which petrol was pouring. Regrettably, two weeks later in Aden Hospital, it was found necessary to amputate his leg and he was repatriated to Australia in January 1943. He was deservedly awarded a Mentioned in Despatch for his selfless bravery.