LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant Ronald William WEST

Service No: 416172
Born: Maylands SA, 20 June 1915
Enlisted in the RAAF: 31 March 1941
Unit: No. 8 Squadron, Vivigani
Died: Air Operations (No. 8 Squadron Beaufort aircraft A9-313), New Britain, 2 January 1944, Aged 28 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Harry William and Myrtle West; husband of Dorothy Hannah West, of Prospect, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 35, Rabaul Memorial, PNG
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide

Forty-six Beauforts (fourteen from No. 6, twenty from No. 8 and twelve from No. 100) were directed to attack the dispersal areas at Lakunai on the night of 2nd-3rd January. Earlier, a Beaufort had been sent over the target to report the weather, which was considered to be satisfactory but several of the Beauforts ran into heavy cloud and rain and had to return to base without attacking. Mechanical failure and damage during take-off prevented other Beauforts from taking part. However, 35 aircraft, attacking singly in rapid succession, dropped 32 tons of bombs at Lakunai, causing fires along the airfield and in buildings at the south-eastern end. The Japanese ground defences opened fire on them and searchlights caught some in a cone of light. A Beaufort from No. 8 captained by Flying Officer Goodwin, arrived over the target with another Beaufort at 9.42 p.m. and was caught in these searchlights. Goodwin’s aircraft did not return to base and, since no messages were received from it after its arrival over Rabaul, it was considered that it was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. A ship off shore near the Lakunai airfield was hit by bombs during these attacks and crews could see flames coming from it. On 3rd January Beaufighters of No. 30 Squadron and four Kittyhawks from No. 76 Squadron sank a lighter and then attacked a schooner which caught fire. It was settling into the water at the stern when they left the target .

Extract from Odgers, G.J. (George James) (VX127783) Air War Against Japan 1943-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 129

Beaufort A9-313 took off from Vivigani at 1907 hours to attack Lakunai Airfield, Rabaul. The aircraft was seen to commence its bombing run at 2140 hours and was not seen again. The crew members of A9-313 were:

Flight Sergeant Robert Callander (409304) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)
Flying Officer John Andrew Goodwin (404827) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant James Keith Sinclair (405943) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Ronald William West (416172) (Wireless Air Gunner)

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 A9845, 252

Bibliography:

Graham, B. (Burton) and Frank Smyth, A Nation Grew Wings: The Story of the RAAF Beaufort Squadrons in New Guinea, Winterset House Publishers Melbourne VIC, 1946
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1990

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