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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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6 squadron
6 Squadron Hurricane IV LB997 F/O. William Tye

Operation: Offensive Reconnaissance

Date: 23rd May 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 6 Squadron (motto: Oculi Exercitus - 'The eyes of the army')

Type: Hurricane IV

Serial: LB997

Code: EM-?

Base: Grottáglie, Italy

Location: Adriatic Sea

Pilot: F/O. William Tye NZ/411957 RNZAF Age 24. Missing - believed killed


At 06:30 hrs 6 aircraft took off to Vis in Yugoslavia to refuel. Sq/Ldr. James Hardie Brown 43955 RAF, Fl/Lt. Robin Harry Langdon-Davies 67060 RAFVR, F/O. P.B Stewart, F/O. John Neville Grey 125837 RAFVR, F/O. Frederick John Nicoll and F/O. William Tye NZ/411957. They landed at 07:30 hrs.

Four of these then took off at 11:15hrs accompanied by 2 Spitfires from 253 squadron to carry out a recce of the Podgorski Channel flying at 3000 ft in good visibility.

No movements were seen but Sq/Ldr. Brown sighted an armed schooner and attacked machine-gunning the target in Cherso Harbour at 12:15 hrs. F/O. Tye followed firing rocket projectiles from 50-100 yards. His salvo struck amidships blowing away the superstructure and the mast. He then called up informing that his engine was running very trough and so he was instructed to return to Vis. He failed to arrive and nothing further was heard from him.

F/O. Stewart together with F/O. Grey also attacked with no results observed. F/O. Grey called to say that his aircraft was damaged. Sq/Ldr. Brown then attacked with rocket projectiles and blew away the stern of the schooner which then sank. No crew were seen in the water. During their return to Vis F/O. Grey flying Hurricane KZ321, reported his engine was cutting out and his oil pressure was falling so he was told to bale out. He was observed to clear his Hurricane at 1800 ft but his parachute failed to open fully before he hit the water at 12:55 hrs. The remaining two pilots circled the area but no sight of the pilot was found. The two escorting Spitfires saw a pilot floating in his Mae West surrounded by a pool of blood. Returning aircraft landed at Vis 13:30 hrs.

Fl/Lt. Langdon-Davies and F/O. Nicoll took off at 14:30 hrs the following day with 2 Spitfires of 253 squadron on an armed recce and to search for the two missing pilots but failed to locate them. They continued on the recce and aw a 2-3000 ton ship, both pilots attacked and managed a direct hit causing a considerable explosion. They left the area leaving a huge ball of black smoke. They then saw another vessel flying the German flag and moving east at around 15 knots they attacked with machine guns, the spitfires firing their cannons. Target armed with 20 mm flak guns stopped firing and was left stationary, facing west.

The following day Fl/Lt. Langdon-Davies and F/O. Nicoll took off at 05:30 hrs as a dingy had been observed 25 miles southwest of Vis but nothing was found.

Burial and personal details:

F/O. William Tye. Malta Memorial. Panel 16. Column 2. Born on the 14th of April 1920 in Marton. Educated at Wanganui Collegiate. A customs clerk for Gollin and Company in Wellington. Enlisted at Levin as a pilot under training on the 23rd March 1941. Trained with No. 4 Elementary Flying School on the 03rd May 1941. Embarked for Canada on the 22nd of August 1941. With no 6 Service Flying Training School on 18th August 1941. Pilot badge awarded and promoted to sergeant on the 07th November 1941. Embarked for England on the 14th of November 1942. With 3 Personnel Reception Centre 01st December 1941. 56 Operational Training Unit 23rd December 1941 flying the Hurricane.

Attached to 147 squadron 24th March 1942 and carried out 7 operational sorties. Embarked for Gibraltar 14th December 1942 then by Dakota to Algiers 19th December 1942. Joined 253 squadron on the 04th March 1942 and carried out 39 operational sorties. Commissioned on the 14th July 1943. By Dakota to England 31st August 1943 After various units as a staff pilot embarked for Egypt on the 14th January 1944.

With 71 Operational Training Unit as instructor 06th February 1944. With Middle East Training School on 16th April 1944 for rocket projectile training. By Dakota to Italy 08th May 1944. Joined 6 squadron on the 16th May 1944. Son of the Revd. William Tye, B.A. and of Jane Tye (nee Smith), of Masterton, Wellington, New Zealand.


F/O. John Neville Grey. Malta Memorial. Panel 13. Column 1. Son of Thomas E. Grey, and of Amy Grey, of Low Fell, Co. Durham, England.

Sq/Ldr. James Hardie Brown. DSO. DFC. Malta Memorial. Panel 12. Column 2. Son of Capt. James Hardie Brown, M.C, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action in France, 07th June 1918, age 32, and Lena Hardie Brown. B.A., Hons.(Cantab): Pembroke College.

Above: L-R: Rear; Sadler, Moynihan, Rutherford, Walker, Norris, Rice, Wells, Wilson.
Centre; Momo, Shanahan, Stead, Small, Young, Paape.
Front; Sloan, Tilley, Yeatman, Flying Officer Turnbul, Tye, Waddel, Peart. (Courtesy Air Museum of New Zealand)

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, Air 27-77-05/06 National Archives, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 01-07-2022

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