© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons


454 RAAF Squadron


26.11.1943 to 2.10.1944


Warrant Officer Leslie Alfred HOLLEY


Wing Operator / Air Gunner


Service No. 420000



Date/Place of Birth : 24 Jan 1923 - Carlton, NSW

Date of Enlistment: 10 Oct 1941

Place of Enlistment : Sydney, NSW


Date of Discharge: 14 Nov 1945

Rank at Discharge: Warrant Officer

Posting on Discharge: 21 PTC


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FA379:Q

[Details of this flight below - from Mark Lax's book 'Alamein to the Alps']


Flying Officer Roger Wilson - Pilot

Flying Officer John Maitland - Navigator

Flying Officer Tony Lindley - WOP/AG

Flight Sergeant Les Holley - WOP/AG


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By the end of the Northern Hemisphere Autumn, attention had turned towards the Greek Islands and the German Garrisons stationed throughout. With the German defeat in North Africa and the war now moving on to Italy, Allied convoy protection and anti-submarine work across the Med while still important, had become less vital. German forces had retaken Cos, Leros and other Greek Island outposts and E-Boats were now based in Crete. While the Germans had won back their outposts, it was to be a pyrrhic victory. They would now have to support those garrisons, and that would require convoys to run the air gauntlet. The Luftwaffe was now becoming stretched and could muster only around 120 aircraft of which some 30-40 were reconnaissance types, 40-50 coastal types and 40-50 fighters – but was by no means a spent force. This situation required 454 and sister Aussie Squadron 459 to be on constant patrol. The work was thankless, with many hour spent over the Aegean scanning for signs of shipping, troop movement, in fact anything that may disclose the German position. N e w Ye a r ’s D a y 1944 found 454 still amongst the sand d u n e s o f B e r k a January and February 1944 passed quickly, with Aegean recces the norm. Although action was slow, the vital reports allowed Allied intelligence to build a picture of German movements and on many occasions, lead to later strikes by rocket-firing Beaufighters. The winter weather had also set in, making life in the desert cold and flying conditions deplorable. Early in January, Wing Commander Jack Coates discovered a new Radio Direction Finding (RDF) station being constructed on Erakhia Island. It was the latest in a chain of sites that had been under development. These RDF stations were the German early warning radars and would mean that clandestine operations would become much more difficult. Recce crews could all expect an unfriendly reception from now on. Crews also began flying longer missions, some deploying to El Adem before launching on their task. It meant nine-hour days for some. A detachment to Gambut was also mounted from 4 to 11 January.  While January was free of enemy action, an unfortunate accident deprived the Squadron of two valuable crew members. After conducting the morning recces from the Gambut Detachment, the three crews involved were recalled to Berka that afternoon leaving an aircraft in place. Accordingly, Flight Sergeant Vic Mitchell and his navigator Flying Officer John Clough , returned with Squadron Leader Don Beaton. The two WOP/AGs, Flying Officer Tony Lindley and Flight Sergeant Les Holley jumped into Flying Officer Roger Wilson’s aircraft. However, Wilson’s aircraft FA379:Q stalled on take off, hit the ground, cart-wheeled and landed on its back. The crash was such that the aircraft was completely destroyed. Fortunately, both engines fell out on impact so there was no fire. Flying Officer John Maitland , the navigator was severely injured and both Wilson and Lindley admitted to hospital with fractures. The remainder escaped with bruises and a shaking. It transpired that Maitland had suffered a fractured skull, spinal injuries and a shattered leg and was admitted to Cairo hospital where he was not expected to live. He later recovered, but would not return to flying duties. He eventually walked again and lived a long and rewarding life, finally passing away at 80 years of age. On 1 February 1944, 201 Group and AHQ Air Defence, Eastern Mediterranean ceased to exist as separate functional commands and were amalgamated to form Air HQ Eastern Mediterranean. The effect on 454 Squadron would be minimal, but tasking now came through from No 212 Group.


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Leslie A HOLLEY