This year the heat is brutal, and in May was close to 35 degrees. We are fortunate to be allowed to drink water, sit in the shade and escape home when feeling tired. And in a corner of this churchyard stand four Commonwealth War Graves. It was a reminder as to how they could not escape what we are able to.
But back in 1941 the RAF was sending Wellington bombers to the Middle East and Malta, usually on route through RAF Gibraltar. German forces had arrived in the Sisagas Islands in the North of Spain and it was said that some Spanish forces used AA guns as the aircraft flew down south, a dangerous passage.
One such Wellington (above) serial number Z9101, of the 15 OTU (Operational Training Unit) of the RAF crashed into the sea off Europa Point during the night of January 9, 1942. The plane was on route to Malta with stops Gibraltar, from where it had taken off a few minutes earlier. Only one of the crew survived. The body of Flying Officer Patterson was found in the sea off Spain was then buried in the English Cemetery in Malaga.
The research I uncovered shows how much the ‘ferry pilots’ were admired and It is appropriate to leave the last words to Sir Keith Murdoch. they are worth reading.
“I have written before of the two crews of Australian airmen I met in Gibraltar, in January, whilst I was waiting the clearing of storms before making the dreary night flight to Malta. They were flying Wellington bombers from England to Egypt. Those I could muster I took that afternoon to the Commander-in-Chief’s house for tea, and was proud indeed of their bearing, their gallantry, their humor and modesty. They had made the southern part of their journey after dawn, and had deeply enjoyed the beautiful panoramas of Spanish and Portuguese coast and countryside. The British generals sent them to the top of Gibraltar Rock, where they eagerly inspected and discussed the many war-like preparations. How handsome, how vital, how brave, how strong.
Either by failure of engine, failure of navigation, or enemy action, those fine lads all died that night and a noble and promising band of Australia’s sons was lost to her. Some bore famous names.
One was a Melbourne youth, John Patterson. He was an Ivanhoe boy, only son of splendid parents. His father had fought in the last war and this lad passed for the Navy, was rejected for an eye defect, went again to the Grammar School and became an industrial chemist. He had a bright, cheerful influence. With him, his captain on the fatal flight, was another Melbourne only son, Tom Moloney, his oldest and best friend. They had trained together. Young Patterson’s course was that of many a Melbourne lad — Somers, Essendon, Wagga, then commissioned and off to England. He was a writer and a poet. He played A grade hockey for Ivanhoe, good tennis and golf; he was a fine swimmer and boxer. He read well, liked modern music and could recite at least four operas. He was interested in the old Greek myths. Evolution too – the first and last man. And although he was unafraid of war and worked hard to become a good and useful pilot he wanted intensely to ‘come back’ – to know the result of the war, to fit it in to his ideas for the future of his country.”
The other crew members were commemorated and buried in other cemeteries including Algeria.
F/O.Thomas George Moloney – 400626 – Pilot – Runnymede
Sgt. Edward G. Travers Hall – 1182276 – Gunner – Runnymede
Sgt. Aulun Morris – 1160218 – Radio – Le Petit Lac, Oran, Algeria
And one aircraftsman survived the war.
Sgt. Keith HJ Harrison – 408018 – Gunner