© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons
459 RAAF Squadron
Dessert Air Force - Middle East
Thomas "Tom" Hancock
RAF No. tba
Tom's plane with the caption to his wife Nancy
"Yes it actually passed over your head June 17th".
The following supplied by Tom Hancock by email - September 2006:
"The aircraft magazine "Intercom" is instrumental in many get-togethers. John Pirie and I at one time both flew with Harry Carew. We compared log books and discovered that on many occasions we flew in aircraft with the same number. At one time Harry and I were on detachment to Cyrenia, our duty was to fly the Air Commanding Officer about in a Baltimore, based at Benina, at one time an Italian airfield. We had the nerve to have our ladies names emblazoned on either side of the fuselage in the area of the cockpit, my wife Nancy, who was born in Kurri Kurri, NSW and Harry's wife Anna.
Going back in time we did our OTU at Silloth on the Firth of Solway, affectionately known as Hudson Bay because of the number of our Hudsons ditching there. Passing out there I was crewed with Harry Hawkins. Our first job was to fly to RAF Thornaby, to take part in the first 1000 bomber raid on Cologne, cancelled two nights running because of weather conditions and sent back to Silloth. There to be posted overseas, either the Middle East or India. On embarkation leave we went to Horsham St to pick up a brand new Hudson and do acceptance trials over the North Sea for five days. Norwich had been blitzed the previous week, I got digs for Nancy, I slept out and we were able to meet for a short time each day.
The next night the four crew took Nancy to dinner, she gave me a 3/11 Brownie camera complete with a sixpenny Selo film (you could only buy one at a time). The next day we flew low over Nancy's lodgings on our way to Port Reath in Cornwall, there to be told we were destined for the Middle East. There we were kitted out with K.D. uniforms, parachute, dinghy, an extra tank of fuel in the fuselage. Vastly overweight, Harry was about 17 stone. The first night we flew to Gibraltar, my first experience of washing in sea water (the Spaniards being Fascist stopped supplying), a very short runway there, we were blasting the rock to try to extend it. I was disgusted at the number of Maltocks lying drunk in the main street. The cruiser "Manchester" had been sunk escorting a convoy to Malta, there were survivors picked up, of a convoy of 14 merchant ships, 11 had been sunk.
Leaving Gib. that night we were supposed to fly direct to Egypt. Issued with Goolie chits and a parcel of currency of each country we were likely to overfly, however flying along the Nth. African Coast we encountered a spectacular electric storm and had to make a landing somewhere, if it was Nth. Africa we had the chance of being interned, so I sent a message to KTM, Malta and informed them we were making an emergency landing. Not being briefed for Malta we did not know the height above sea level, etc. Found the island being bombed and ack ack going up, the runway visible. As we made our approach another of our colleagues attempting the same hit a wall 3 miles short and blew up, we never knew who it was. Landing we were guided into a dispersal, Army chaps opened the door, saw the sandwiches we had discarded on leaving Port Reath and started eating them.
We were debriefed in the catacombs and given beds in a hospital. The next night during an air-raid we were given sufficient fuel to get us to a line 17° east of 17° east before daylight, otherwise we would have been at the mercy of the German fighters. Spotting an airstrip we landed, I sat in the turret, a garry approached with men in a uniform strange to us, they were South Africans and they filled us up with fuel and we flew on to Cairo West. Now we expected to join 459 and the Hudson would be our aircraft, (not a bit of it), flew it to an M.U. in Jordan, (as it was during the retreat many stations were moving out of the Canal Zone). John Pirie actually volunteered to drive an Army truck eastwards from the front.
One incident will always remain in my memory. Four young Australian boys occupied the tent next to ours, they had a wind up gramophone and were always playing a song I had only heard through them, I quote it here, I often sing it to anyone interested!
Grandma's parcel was a sweet surprise to me,
Grandma's parcel was as welcome as could be,
The socks were warm and cosy,
Just the size I take,
And Sergeant wants to swap his stripes for Grandma's home made cake,
She's an angel and there's little she forgets,
It's like heaven smoking Grandma's cigarettes,
So tell her that I love her,
As you kiss her tenderly,
Say Thank You for the parcel Grandma sent to me.
One day they were coming into land, made a bad landing, crashed and blew up, the crew was cremated. We were persuaded not to visit such happenings. On occasions when we were asked to remember those who gave their lives in war, I always think of them!
I used to be astonished at the excellent evening meals the cooks gave is in the desert, the only snag being the faint taste of parrafin which fuelled the ovens. "Camel" Coates, at 23 was one of the early C.O.'s, height 6'6", a very popular chap, he would sometimes join the airmen for breakfast. Our intrepid airman loved to fly on one engine, he is one of the 20 English remaining in the Squadron Association. He is an adopted Aussie as his daughter married an Aussie,
Sincerely, Tom Hancock."
Little place - big name 28.6.43
A good German - Gambut 26.6.43 [caption from 1943]
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