© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons
459 RAAF Squadron (Hudsons)
Flight Lieutenant Allan ‘Babe’ PROCTOR, DFC
Service Number 403073
Died – presumed c. 20th June 1956
(Allan’s body was never found after his disappearance and no death certificate was ever issued)
Date of Birth: 23rd November 1921
Place of Birth: Burwood, NSW
Date of Enlistment: 9th December 1940
Place of Enlistment: Sydney, NSW
Rank at end of the War: Flight Lieutenant
459 Squadron Honours and Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).
459 HUDSON CREW
Pilot: Allan “Babe” Proctor.
Navigator: Mervyn “Griff” Griffiths (Welsh)
WOP/AG: Gordon “Bomber” Marsh
WOP/AG: Noel “Dagwood” Lynch
Above: Allan at # 1 (C) OTU (19 Course), Silloth, England.
After training initially in Australia and Canada, Allan was posted from 1 OTU [Operations Training Unit] at Silloth, England to 459 SQN Middle East on 2nd May 1942. He was the squadron’s youngest pilot at just 20 years; that and his baby face lead to his call sign “Babe”.
The following is an extract from Ray Heathwood’s illegal WWII diary:
Thursday 14th May 1942 – Egypt: location above River Nile.
‘We were at 2,000 feet above the Nile Delta heading west towards our airfield in the Sahara Desert. We sight another Hudson on a parallel course (there were not many Hudsons in the Middle East then). We veer across to investigate – we “natter” on the radio and learn it is “Babe” Proctor and crew, just arriving from England. They are also en route to our airfield. We are terrifically delighted to see such old friends. We will lead the way.’
Above: Allan’s Hudson over the Nile Delta en route to Berg-El-Arab in Egypt, 14-5-42
Above: The crew alight at Berg-El-Arab (Egypt) after their long flight from England, 14-5-42.
L-R: Gordon Marsh, Mervyn Griffiths, Noel Lynch and Allan Proctor.
‘Soon, like us, they will become accustomed to sleeping on the sand on straw pillows plentifully equipped with fleas. Sand, heat, dust storms, scanty supplies of poor tasting water, a diet of bully beef and hard biscuits will cause them to dream about Mum’s cooking.’
Above: Allan with the squadron duck at Gambut, Libya, late ’42.
Above: Christmas 1942 menu (and signed reverse) featuring roast duck.
Above: 1942 - Allan waiting while bombs are loaded into the Hudson.
In 1942, Allan was awarded a DFC. The following is the citation:
Below is an extract from Navigator Merv. Griffiths’ Log Book:
Date Aircraft From Take-Off Attack Landed Back Duration
8th Sept. 1942 I – 266 LG* 266 0400 About 0645 0940 5 hrs 40 min
(after 1st light) Night: 3:00
*Landing Ground (‘base’).
Mervyn Griffiths (who was later awarded a DFC with 267 SQN) also gave the following personal account of the attack on enemy Merchant Vessel (about 6,000 tons) which was on its way to Tobruk with vital supplies.
‘The take-off was delayed due to some obstruction on the take-off strip, so we arrived in the target area later than anticipated.’
‘The journey to the target area was very stressful for Allan, as he had to keep very low (about 50 feet above the ocean) in order to avoid appearing on enemy radar (and also to keep clear of the coast and any high ground). 203 Squadron reconnaissance aircraft had reported Enemy sea transport making south towards Tobruk and the idea was we should arrive at first light to find target and attack with the element of surprise. Owing to the delay in takeoff, it was a bit lighter than desirable, but we spotted a wisp of smoke on the horizon, later identified as our enemy Merchant Vessel (MV).’
‘As an element of surprise, we decided to approach from the direction of a nearby German airfield, which they might not expect, and which gave us a little extra time free from anti-aircraft fire. Allan came in low and straddled the MV with 4 bombs at about 40 to 50 feet, starting fire and explosions. We made a quick recce [reconnoitre] and as the MV started to sink, we quickly set course for LG266!’
Above: 1942. A group from 459 Squadron spend a day in “Ish” (Ishmailyah) near the Suez Canal in Egypt.
L-R: Allan Proctor, Norm Pottie, Arthur Smiles, Gordon Marsh and Hector Park.
Above: 1943. On leave in Tel Aviv: Allan is 3rd from the right. The other crew members are Mervyn Griffiths (2nd left), Gordon Marsh (3rd left) and Noel Lynch (5th left).
Above: Airmen’s and officer’s Mess “Aussie Rules” football team, Western Desert, February ’43.
Allan is in the middle row, 3rd from the left.
Back row (L-R): Franklin, Battye, Gainsford, McFarlane, McKenzie, Evans, Hutton, Hurtle, Blake (trainer).
Centre (L-R): ?, Staughton, Proctor, Reitchel, Mackey, Brown.
Front row (L-R): Murphy, Brazil, Dwyer, Joseph (Umpire), Crierie, Street.
POST 459 SQN:
In 1944 - with the Japanese advancing - Allan was posted back to Australia. He joined SQN 87, a photo-reconnaissance unit flying Mosquitoes out of Coomalie Creek near Darwin. Amongst the planes piloted by Allan was the famed A52-600 now being restored at the Point Cook RAAF base near Melbourne.
Allan was demobilised in November 1945.
Allan flew briefly for ANA before joining Qantas. Here he flew DC3s, Skymasters and Super Constellations on the New Guinea service out of Sydney (via Townsville) and rose to the rank of Captain.
In 1953, he wrote a DC4 operations manual for Qantas.
He also became President of the Airline Pilots Association.
In 1955, Allan suffered a severe beating at a Sydney railway station. Shortly after, he blacked out briefly while landing. Immediately, he grounded himself, becoming depressed at the prospect of a desk job. In June 1956, he disappeared from North Head in Sydney. Allan’s body was never recovered, although a fisherman spotted it and later identified it from photographs. (His “disappearance” was reported in the Daily Mirror of 22nd June 1956 in an article entitled ‘Puzzle Fate of Airman’.) Allan’s presumed suicide was a great shock in aviation circles and both Qantas and the police investigated.
Tragically, Allan did not know that he had fathered a baby girl (Nikki Stern) just three months before his death. He is also survived by his three grandchildren.
All Allan’s medals - including his DFC - had been sold by a cousin on his mother’s side. In 1993, (in what could only be described as an event of the greatest serendipity), Nikki managed to buy back Allan’s DFC and other medals from a coin dealer at Wynyard. Harry Carter (renowned pilot of the “G for George” Lancaster in the War Memorial in Canberra) had recognised Allan’s photo in the shop window and immediately responded to Nikki’s request for information about her father in “Wings” magazine.
The whereabouts of Allan’s log book is still unknown despite repeated attempts to buy it. Nikki would greatly welcome any information which would help in its acquisition.
Above: 459 SQN legend John McKenzie and Allan’s daughter Nikki Stern at the 1993 ANZAC Day march in Sydney.
Below: photos taken at the Avalon Air Show, Victoria (2011) of the only remaining air-worthy Hudson and Allan’s grandson Sam Proctor (who has recently been accepted into the RAAF).
This biography has been lovingly prepared by Nikki Stern, the daughter Allan never knew.
Particular thanks go to the Proctor family; also Ray Heathwood (for his diary entries), Mervyn Griffiths DFC (for his personal descriptions of the DFC raid), and John McKenzie and George Gray for their support and assistance; I thank also the RAAF and the many 459 Squadron members who sent anecdotes and photos of my father in response to my requests in the various Air Force publications.
APPENDIX: PROMOTIONS, POSTINGS AND MOVEMENTS FROM ALLAN’S RAAF FILE:
T Sgt 08.08.41
Plt Off 09.08.41
Flg Off 09.02.42
Flt Lt 09.02.44
POSTINGS AND MOVEMENTS:
2 RC Sydney 09.12.40
2 ITS Sydney 09.12.40
5 EFTS Narromine 06.02.41
2 ED Sydney 03.04.41
Embarked at Sydney 22.04.41
Disembarked Canada 14.05.41
7 SFTS Canada 14.05.41
RCAF STN Charlestown, Canada 03.11.41
Embarked Canada 03.11.41
Disembarked UK 15.11.41
2 PRC UK 15.11.41
14 SFTS UK 24.11.41
1 OTU UK 23.12.41
459 SQN Middle East 02.05.42
75 OTU Middle East 24.02.43
RAF STN Gianaclis Middle East 14.07.43
21 PTC Middle East 08.02.44
Disembarked Melbourne 04.06.44
1 PD Melbourne 04.06.44
2 PD Sydney 22.06.44
1 OTU East Sale 19.07.44
5 OTU Williamtown 07.08.44
R/S Bradfield Park 28.08.44
2 RPP 54 Mile NT 11.09.44
87 SQN Coomalie Creek 18.09.44
5 OTU Williamtown 02.08.45
2 PD Sydney 07.11.45
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