Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
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The Palembang Nine Ivor Barker and William MacRae (Telegraphist Air Gunners) In January 1945, air strikes were made against the Japanese held oil refineries at Palembang by the British Pacific Fleet, the largest ever assembled. After the attacks, the refineries were completely out of action for two months and remained at a much reduced capacity for the remainder of the war losing two thirds of their oil production. The British Pacific Fleet lost forty-one aircraft and the Japanese sixty-eight aircraft during the attacks On the final day of operations, January 29th, having made the two hundred mile flight from the carriers over ocean and the jungle terrain of Sumatra, to attack the oil refineries the British attack planes came under heavy fire from Japanese Zero fighters and ground artillery. As planes returned to the carriers, nine Fleet Air Arm pilots and crew including Telegraphist Air Gunners, William McRae and Ivor Barker with 849 Squadron flying Grumman Avengers from the Fleet Carrier HMS Victorious, were missing. Ivor Barker’s aircraft was shot down, and seen trying to force land, smoking into the jungle. All the crew survived and taken as prisoners by the Japanese. For a time their fate was unknown. With the Japanese defeat and investigations began and it was learned the nine had been sent to Singapore to the prisoner of war camp at Changi. Missing from the released prisoners of war it was first believed they had been shipped to Japan in March 1945 and that the transport ship had been sunk and all aboard had been lost. However, believing the British investigators knew of rumors that the nine had actually been executed, a Japanese General reported the story and an order was issued for the arrest of two Japanese Captains believed responsible for the executions of the nine prisoners. But, both Captains committed suicide on December 26th, 1945 before they could be detained and questioned. The final fate of the nine became known from details in a suicide confession of guilt written down by one of the Japanese Captains. Brought from Sumatra, the nine British prisoners were held at Changi, known for its terrible conditions and brutality of the Japanese. The news of the Japanese surrender in Singapore brought both excitement and fear to the prisoners at Changi as there were rumors the Japanese after they surrendered would begin to kill prisoners. The following day the Japanese took the nine in a lorry to the beach at the northernmost end of Changi. The prisoners were told to kneel and then executed. Their bodies were dragged to a small boat which was pulled off shore and sank it into the sea. Both are commemorated on the Lee-On-Solent Memorial (Bay 6, Panel 1) Both are commemorated on the Lee-On-Solent Memorial (Bay 6, Panel 1) The 'Palembang Nine' consisted of the following men: Lt. John Haberfield (below)- Pilot from 1839 Fighter Squadron (HMS Indomitable) Lt. Evan John Baxter - Pilot from 1833 Fighter Squadron (HMS Illustrious) S/Lt. Reginald James Shaw - Pilot from 1833 Fighter Squadron (HMS Illustrious) Lt. Kenneth Morgan Burrenston - Crew from 849 TBR Squadron (HMS Victorious) S/Lt. John Robert Burns - Crew from 849 TBR Squadron (HMS Victorious) S/Lt. Donald V Roebuck - Crew from 849 TBR Squadron (HMS Victorious) S/Lt. William Edwin Lintern - Crew from 849 TBR Squadron (HMS Victorious) Petty Officer Ivor Barker - Crew from 849 TBR Squadron (HMS Victorious) Petty Officer J S McRae - Crew from 849 TBR Squadron (HMS Victorious) Other References:
Name: BARKER, IVOR Service No: FAA/FX. 86731 Age: 21 Son of Henry and Minnie Barker, of Gleadless, Yorkshire.
Name: McRAE, WILLIAM JAMES SMITH Service No: FAA/FX. 96155 Age: 21 Son of Mr. and Mrs. William McRae; husband of Joyce Mavis McRae, of York.