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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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353 Squadron Crest
04.08.1944 353 Squadron Dakota FZ597, Fg.Off. David Forman AFC

Operation: Mail delivery flight

Date: 4th August 1944 (Friday)

Unit: 353 Squadron, South East Asia Command

Type: Douglas Dakota (DC3)

Serial: FZ597

Code: Y

Base: RAF Dum Dum, Calcutta, India

Location: En-Route Delhi, 50 miles East Varanasi, India

Pilot: Fg.Off. David Crawford Forman AFC 400366 RAAF Age 23. Killed

Nav: WO. Frederick Walter Handley 401375 RAAF Age 30. Killed

Flt.Eng: Flt.Sgt. Kenneth Martyn Anthony Sexton 1402643 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

WoP: Plt.Off. John Beebar 403252 RAAF Age 22. Killed


Sgt. Charles Edward Church 1426432 RAFVR. Age 24. Killed
Flt.Sgt. Stanley Wilson 544707 RAF. Age 25. Killed
AC1. William John Lewis 1522390 RAFVR. Age 22. Killed
AC1. Oliver Taylor 1480296 RAFVR. Age ? Killed
Fg.Off. Frederick William Cawthorne 175610 RAFVR. Age ? Killed
Flt.Lt. Frederick Grant Jackson J6209 RCAF. Age ? Killed
Lt.Col. Paul Evan Rodgers Dawson 45436 Royal Artillery. Age ? Killed
Lt.Col. Robert Frank Courtney Weallens 33375 Royal Engineers. Age 39. Killed
Lt.Col. Edward Ronald Pettit MC. 44155 Royal Armoured Corps. Age ? Killed
Maj. Ernest Hicks EC/16 Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Age ? Killed
Maj. Gerald Francis Keen 199543 General List. Age 24. Killed
Maj. Thomas Atkinson Walton 58986 Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment). Age 31. Killed
Mr. Seth Drucquer civilian serving with the Bengal Government

Note: We welcome any additional details regarding this loss and the members of the crew - several variations exist on the passenger manifest, but we feel that we may have it correct.


The aircraft took off on a routine mail run with passengers to Delhi.

Some 2.5 hours into the trip they flew into cumulonimbus clouds (associated with thunderstorms and atmospheric instability) and very heavy rain and severe turbulence. The pilot lost control and the aircraft broke up with an initial fracture of the port mainplane root fillet leading to a more general disintegration.

A report following the accident stated that in addition to the pilot being fatigued after flying over 130 hours in the previous month, the aircraft's artificial horizon was unserviceable which may have contributed to the pilots inability to maintain control. (see below for credits for this information)

The aircraft crashed some 50 miles East of Varanasi - killing all the crew and passengers.

Above Taken in England showing RAAF pilots who had trained on the No. 5 Course Empire Training Scheme L-R: Fg.Off. David Forman, unidentified, Davies, Plt.Off. Leslie Hancock 400368 RAAF killed whilst with 1651 Operational Training Unit. Flying Stirling I N6102 on an operation to Hamburg when the aircraft went missing. Fg.Off. Horace Spencer Fordyce 400396 RAAF PoW on OADU flight to Malta on Wellington IC HX580 30th July 1942, Flt.Lt. Harry Leggo 400370 RAAF (courtesy AWM)

353 Squadron personnel photograph circa 1945. It is not known if this image pre-dates or post-dates the loss of FZ597 (Courtesy of Michael Cowdrey)

Burial details:

The killed were initially buried at the scene of the crash in one common grave. In 1947 the bodies were interred at the Ranchi War Cemetery on the 13th of December 1947. Graves described below as Special Memorial - buried near this spot.

Images of a funeral parade which may have been held in the honour of the those that lost their lives in the loss of FZ597 (Courtesy of Michael Cowdrey)


Fg.Off. David Crawford Forman AFC. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.5. Born on the 2nd December 1920 at East Malvern, Victoria, the son of George and Florence May Forman, of Glen Iris, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "He That Believeth In Me, Though He Were Dead, Yet Shall He Live".

Fg.Off. Forman was posthumously awarded the AFC, gazetted 1st January 1945

WO. Frederick Walter Handley. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.6. Born on the 21st June 1914 at Melbourne, Victoria, the son of Walter and Amy Beatrice Handley, of East Malvern, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Well Done, Thou Good And Faithful Servant".

WO. Kenneth Martyn Anthony Sexton. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.5. Son of Michael A. Sexton and Olive M. Sexton, of Maida Hill, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "Bird Songs At Eventide" Over The Quiet Hills Slowly The Shadows Fall R.I.P".

Plt.Off. John Beebar. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.1. Born on the 27th August 1921 at Paddington, New South Wales, the son of John A. Beebar and Barbara Beebar, of Kingsford, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Dearly Loved, Sadly Missed. We Carry You In A Locket Of Gold".

Pax (Passengers):

Sgt. Charles Edward Church. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.2. A Flight Engineer serving with 353 Squadron. Son of Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Church, of Hayes, Middlesex, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Loving Memory Of Our Dear Son. Always In Our Thoughts. Mum And Dad".

Flt.Sgt. Stanley Wilson. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.7. Serving with 353 Squadron. Son of John and Nancy Wilson, of Stockport, Cheshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember".

AC1. William John Lewis. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.1A. Serving with 353 Squadron. Son of Joseph and Annie Elizebeth Lewis, of Markham, Monmouthshire, Wales, husband of Pearl Christine Lewis.

AC1. Oliver Taylor. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.4. Serving with 353 Squadron. No further details, are you able to assist?

Fg.Off. Frederick William Cawthorne. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.1A. A Wireless Operator serving with 194 Squadron. No further details, are you able to assist?

Flt.Lt. Frederick Grant Jackson. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.1A. A pilot serving with 273 Squadron. Son of John Edgar and Esther Banting Jackson, of Ballycroy, Ontario, Canada. The family also lost his brother, Plt.Off. Ross Banting Jackson J19031 RCAF who was killed on the 22nd October 1943 serving as an air gunner with 408 Squadron. See further details here.

Lt.Col. Paul Evan Rodgers Dawson. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.3. Commander of the 21 Mountain Regiment, Royal Indian Artillery. No further details - are you able to assist?

Lt.Col. Robert Frank Courtney Weallens. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.6. Son of Lt.Col. William Weallens, The Northamptonshire Regiment and of Helena Cicely Weallens (née West) of York Cottage, London Road, Camberley, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: "I Have Fought A Good Fight, I Have Finished My Course, I Have Kept The Faith".

Lt.Col. Edward Ronald Pettit MC. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.2. Serving member of the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers. Son of Colonel Hubert Ronald Pettit, D.L., J.P., and Isobel Margaret Pettit, J.P and husband of Margaret Godfrey Pettit, of Castle Weir, Lyonshall, Herefordshire, England.

Maj. Ernest Hicks. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.E.7. No further details, are you able to assist?

Maj. Gerald Francis Keen. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.1. Son of Wilfred George and Frances Keen, of Barford St. Martin, Wiltshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "In Proud And Very Precious Memory Of Our Darling Boy. Au Revoir, Gerry Dear".

Maj. Thomas Atkinson Walton. Ranchi War Cemetery, India. Special Memorial 5.F.5. Son of Thomas and Ethel Agusta Walton and husband of Phyllis Mary Walton, of Duffield, Derbyshire. A.C.A. Grave inscription reads: "To Live In The Hearts Of Those Left Behind Is Not To Die".

Mr. Seth Drucquer - no further details - are you able to assist?

Above: The parents grave at Alliston Union Cemetery, Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada (see credits)

Researched for the family of Flt.Lt. Frederick Grant Jackson, who also supplied some of the photographs. Dedicated to relatives of the crew and passengers. For further details our thanks to Colin Cummins author of 'Though Without Anger' - published by Nimbus ISBN: 978-0-9526619-6-2. With thanks to 'Closet Skeleton Genealogical Society'. Copyrighted Image of the family grave for the Jackson's, used with Permission. Thanks to Sqn Ldr Mike Cowdrey RAF (retd) for the image of the Funeral and Squadron personnel. (His father R A Cowdrey 954947 served as a WoP on 353 Squadron at the time of the loss of FZ597).

RS 21.08.2020 - Addition of funeral and Sqn personnel images and update to narrative

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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