LEST WE FORGET

Sergeant William Alfred RAMSEY

Service No: 416064
Born: Norwood SA, 15 June 1922
Enlisted in the RAAF: 3 March 1941
Unit: No. 461 Squadron
Died: Air Operations (No. 461 Squadron Sunderland aircraft T9090), Bay of Biscay, 12 August 1942, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Alfred Mercer Ramsey and Florence Lily Ramsey, of McLaren Vale, South Australia
Roll of Honour: McLaren Vale SA
Remembered: Panel 113, Runnymede Memorial, Surrey UK
Remembered: Panel 108, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

On 12th August Triggs (1) of No. No. 172 Squadron RAF was flying a night anti-submarine patrol when one of his engines failed and he had only time to broadcast an SOS before he was forced to put down the Wellington in a very rough sea. The automatic dinghy release failed to operate but Triggs prised open the stowage with his hands and got all his crew aboard, where they sat wet and overcome by the nausea of sea-sickness until dawn, when they began to scan the empty horizon. After a few hours a Whitley appeared overhead and dropped a spare dinghy and a Thornaby Bag. The supplies were recovered but the dinghy was too far up wind and drifted away, although it was
later to play a significant role. Confidence in rescue now rose, for now that their position had been checked the Wellington crew could banish the fear of drifting helplessly, and this elation was heightened during the evening when a Sunderland was seen searching on the horizon. One of the pyrotechnic distress signals was fired from the dinghy and immediately the flying-boat banked and flew overhead.

This Sunderland was B/461 piloted by Halliday. Halliday found the dinghy almost lost in waves; a 25-knot wind and heavy swell made the sea very dangerous, but after jettisoning his depth charges
and 500 gallons of petrol he determined to make a landing. Triggs saw the Sunderland touch down on the first wave and then execute a long bounce over three waves and stall into the sea. The tip of the starboard wing broke off and the starboard-outer engine screamed madly and broke into flames. Metal sheets rent apart as the Sunderland broke its step, and a cross-wave then hit the starboard bow dragging the damaged wing under water. The aircraft nosed very quickly into the sea and sank. Triggs could not see any survivors, but actually six men had managed to scramble through the badly-warped escape hatch, Flying Officer Laurenti going back to rescue the navigator, Flying Officer Watson who had lost consciousness. One dinghy was released and inflated but it burst as the survivors clambered in. Their only hope now lay in the derelict dinghy which they had seen while circling, and Watson volunteered to swim for it. The heavy seas severely taxed his strength as he had concussion, and though he managed to reach the dinghy, he then collapsed; when he regained consciousness his comrades had all disappeared, and were never seen again.

(1) Flight Lieutenant Allan William Russell Triggs MBE DFC (400500) was discharged from the RAAF on 15 February 1946.

Extracts from Herington, J. (John) (406545) Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1954 – Pages 290-1

The crew members of T9090 were:

Flying Officer Roger Phillip Barker (402483) (Second Pilot)
Sergeant Charles George Bentley (401361) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Thomas Alfred Betts (550720) (RAF) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Sergeant Ronald Fletcher (647612) (RAF) (Flight Engineer (Airframe), Air Gunner)
Wing Commander Neville Anthony Roy Halliday (26200) (RAF) (Pilot), Commanding Officer No. 461 Squadron
Flying Officer David Laurenti (407749) (Navigator)
Sergeant William Alfred Ramsey (416064) (Air Gunner)
Sergeant George Turner (624304) (RAF) (Flight Engineer (Engine), Air Gunner)
Sergeant Charles Leonard Unsworth (405088) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flying Officer John Herbert Ferrier Watson (402193) (Navigator) Rescued, Discharged from the RAAF: 28 August 1945.
Sergeant John Wright (962564) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9186, 148 (No. 461 Squadron Operations Record Book)
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

Baff, K.C (Kevin), Maritime is Number Ten; the Sunderland era, K.C. Baff Netley SA, 1983
Joubert, P.B. (Sir Phillip Bennet) Birds and Fishes: the story of Coastal Command, Hutchinson and Company London, 1960
Southall, I.F. (Ivan Francis) (418900) They Shall Not Pass Unseen, Angus and Robertson Sydney NSW, 1956
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Anson, Hudson and Sunderland in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1992

© Copyright Highgate RSL. All rights reserved.