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The Royal Air Force as seen by John Cooper

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Service Personnel Names


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The following personnel I have made contact with in my research re Hastings TG579, names, addresses and telephone numbers will only be passed on with the named persons approval, if you require your name to be deleted from this list please contact me on the 'contact header':

A

Chris Applegarth, Flight Lieutenant, current RAF pilot
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George Applegarth, Flight Sergeant, co-pilot of
Hastings TG579
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Ian Andrew,detached RAF Gan for 3 weeks in 1959 ex 214
Squadron Valiants supplying fuel to Javelins
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Ian Atherton, relation of Geoff Atherton DFC and Bar, Wing
Commander and OC RAF Katunayake
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B.

Bill Barker, SAC Motorboat crewman Pinnace 1374 on RAF Gan
MCU/ASR on 01/03/1960
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Alan Bass, LAC Stores RAF Gan 1/1959 to 10/1959
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John Bawden, Ops Air Traffic Control RAF Gan 1959-1960
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George Beckenham, Britannia propeller specialist at RAF Seletar/Changi 1959/1961.
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George Bish, Master Engineer, 48 Squadron Changi 1957/1960
involved in two Hastings accidents at RAF Thorney Island
and RAF Nicosia with 242 OCU
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David Bloomfield, SAC MT driver RAF Katunayake/Negombo 1957/1960 passenger on TG579.
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Alan Boothby, Junior Technician Engine Fitter 48 Squadron RAF Changi 1957/1960
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John (Mo) Botwood, Air Signaller on board 205 Squadron reserve Shackleton RAF Gan on 01/03/1960, also founder of Shackleton Association website
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Tony Burslem, Communication Centre RAF Katunayake/RAF Gan 1959/1960
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Mike Butler, Junior Technician CCSR section RAF Gan 1959/1960 also author of 'Return to Gan'
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Dave Buxton, MT Mechanical Section Gan waded out on to the reef looking for survivors 01/03/1960
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C.
 
John 'Spike' Castle, Junior Technician Engine Fitter SASF Katunayake and passenger on Hastings TG579
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Flight Lieutenant Constantine, General Duties pilot HQFEAF
Fairy Point on 01/03/1960
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John 'Gary' Cooper, SAC Engine Mechanic RAF Seletar/Gan/Katunayake 1958/1960, Passenger on TG579.
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Neville Cooper, Aircrew on 205 Squadron and FECS Changi
1957/1958
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Edgar Cooray, Royal Ceylon Air Force aircrew Katunayake
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Alistair Currah, webmaster RAF Gan website
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D.

 

Patrick Duncan, Air Signaller 47 Squadron 1951-54 {Nov '49 to Mar '94}

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Peter Dunn, Aircrew 224 Squadron RAF North Front, secretary of The Shackleton Association
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Don Ellis, Flight Lieutenant and First Navigator on reserve Shackleton at RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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E.


F.


G.

George Gatcum, Air Wireless 205 Squadron Changi in 1960
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Dave Green, SAC Station Signals RAF Gan 1960/1961
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Tony Green, SAC Airframe Mechanic RAF Kai Tak/Katunayake
1957/1960, passenger on TG579
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Keith Greenwood, Cpl Air Traffic Control on 01/03/1960
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Pete (Jimmy) Gould, Airframes 48 Squadron Changi 1967
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H.

Terry Harvey, Fireman RAF Katunayake (later Seletar), Should have been a passenger on TG579.
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Harry Heywood, Cpl. working in RAF Gan Air Traffic Control
the night that 579 crashed.
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Pete Hill on duty SASF on 01/03/1960
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Tony Hill, SASF RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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Peter Holc, Master Signaller on board TG579 of 48 Squadron
Changi as crew member.
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Bob Howe, Navigator of RNZAF who was passing through Gan on the 01/03/1960

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Andy Hunt stationed on RAF Gan in 1976 (it's closure)
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Ian Hunt, on SASF RAF Gan in 1971, Webmaster of a Gan website
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I.


J.

Derek Jack, Sergeant Air Quarter Master crewman of 48 Squadron RAF Changi who was on board TG579.
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Neil Jones, Squadron Leader ex Hastings pilot of 70 Squadron
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Roger Jones, Flight Lieutenant ex Hastings pilot 70 squadron
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Graham Jones, LAC Catering Office, RAF Gan 1960
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John Joyce, Junior Technician Marine Fitter at RAF Seletar 1958
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K.

Alec Keith, SASF RAF Gan 1959
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L.

Brian Lloyd, Secretary of The Changi Association
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Geoff Lunn, 48 Squadron up to Nov 1959
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M.

Tom Masterson, Engine Fitter, RAF lyneham 1953/1958
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Gordon Mepham, WRE RAAF Edinburgh Field, South Australia
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Hank Moffat, Squadron Leader Hastings pilot 202 Squadron
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Dave Minns, SAC Medical Orderley on RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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Keith Murphy Hastings Navigator on 511 squadron early 1950's, Keith involved in two Hastings accidents, one tragically fatal
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Andy Mutch, Cpl. Air Wireless Fitter, SASF RAF Gan on duty on 01/03/1960
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N.

Mike Nash 48 Squadron Hastings First Pilot RAF Changi 1959-1961
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John Nowell, 205 Squadron pilot 1958/1961
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O.
 

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Frank Ogden, Flight Engineer Hastings ex 24 Squadron RAF Lyneham.
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Brian Orchard, MT driver RAF Changi 1957-1960 also The Earl of Bandon's (C-in-C Far East) driver.
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P.

Name withheld at that persons request, Squadron Leader from #224 group HeadQuarters who set up the Board of Inquiry at RAF Gan in mid March 1960 re TG579.
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Ron Pearsall, Flight Lieutenant Navigator 48 Squadron RAF Changi 1960
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David Phillips, Shackleton Pilot 205 Squadron RAF Changi 1960
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Roy Pontin, 48 Squadron, RAF Changi 1960/1963
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Q.


R.

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George Reeve, Chief Technician Engine Fitter a friend of AQM Derek Jack AQM on TG579
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(Ronald) Jack Riley, Squadron Leader  Air Movements and later HQFEAF Fairy Point 1960
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Chris Roberts, 202 Squadron Hastings pilot 1960/1962
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Clifford Rogers, on 205 Squadron RAF Changi 1959/1960
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Rod Rumsby, Cpl. Airframe Fitter ASF RAF Changi 1957/1960
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Harry Russell, Flight Lieutenant Equipment Officer who closed RAF Katunayake in 1961 and was a personal friend of W/C Geoff Atherton DFC OC Katunayake.
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S.


Robert (Bob) T.D. Scott, pilot and captain of Hastings TG579 Located February 2002
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Brian (Ricky) Smith, SAC SASF RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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Bunny Lees-Smith, Flight Engineer Hastings 24 Squadron 1952
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Roger (Steve) Stevens, Cpl. Fireman RAF Gan 01/03/1960
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T.

Bruce (Jock) Thompson, Station Signals, RAF Gan 1960/61
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Ginge/Ron Tucker SAC Airframe Mechanic RAF Katunayake passenger on board TG579
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Stewart Tucker, SAC Radar Mechanic RAF Katunayake passenger on board TG579
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U.

V.

Rod Venners, SAC Engine Mechanic SASF RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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Ralph Vincent, SAC Engine Mechanic SASF RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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W.

David Walker, Second Coxswain MCS RTTL 2747 RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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Ray Webster, of  Dental Section RAF Katunayake on 01/03/1960 and who should have flown on TG579 with the dental equipment but there wasn't enough seats! 
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Reg Wheatley, Station Signals Officer and also Station Duty Officer on RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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Geoff Willis, SAC MCS RAF Gan 1958/1959
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Brian Wilmer, SAC SASF RAF Gan on 01/03/1960
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Y.

Robert (BOB) Young, ASF RAF Changi 1960
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Wing Commander Geoffrey Charles Atherton OBE DFC and Bar
1919-1980
Born in Tasmania in 1919, Geoff started his Air Force career with the Royal Australian Air Force on 10th April 1940 at Hobart, this was the date of his Oath of Affirmation. His actual date of enlistment to the RAAF was on 19/07/1940 as an Aircraftsman II Service # 408030, here follows his wartime career: 
 
19/07/1940 Enlistment for the duration of World War 2 'and for a period of 12 months thereafter'.
16/09/1940 Promoted to Leading AircraftsMan (LAC)
11/03/1941 Promoted to (Flight) Sergeant
10/09/1941 Promoted to Pilot Officer
10/03/1942 Promoted to Flying Officer
10/09/1943 Promoted to Flight Lieutenant
13/06/1943 Promoted to Squadron Leader (Acting)
01/01/1945 Promoted to Squadron Leader (Temporary)
17/01/1945 promoted to Wing Commander (Acting)
 
His units:
July 1940..................# 1 ITS
September 1940.......# 7 ETS
November 1940.......# 1 FTS
March 1941..............Posted to # 25 Squadron
January 1942............Posted to # 24 Squadron
March 1942..............Posted to # 75 Squadron
January 1943............Posted to #  9 Fighter Sector HQ
April 1943.................Return to # 75 Squadron and to Command this Sqn on 12/06/1943
December 1943........To  Command # 82 Squadron
April 1944.................RAAF Staff College
July 1944...................Returned to # 82 Squadron and to Command on 20/07/1944
September 1944........To # 78 Wing HQ and to Command on 10/11/1944
June 1945..................To Command # 8 OTU
November 1945........To Air Force HQ
February 1946...........To Command Air Defence HQ, Brisbane.
28th June 1946...........Demobilisation.  
Due to the nature of movements during WW2 there were many other 'postings' that cannot be recorded here.
 
Wartime Honours and Awards:
The Distinquished Flying Cross (DFC) 16/06/1944
The Bar to the DFC                                    19/10/1945
Mentioned in Despatches                        26/03/1943
The 1939-45 Star
The Pacific Star
The 1939-45 War Medal
The Australia Service Medal 1939-45
Plus much later (24/05/1966) The OBE, more on this later.
 
 
     
 

I have no information regarding the award of the DFC, but the Bar to this was awarded whilst Geoff was with 78 (F) Squadron where he led a formation on 120 sorties over a six month period against heavily defended (Japanese) positions. He showed aggressive leadership with courage, skill and keenness, much praise was afforded Geoff, for his leadership qualities from his superiors and colleagues throughout the duration of the war.
 
His award of Mention in Despatches was as a result of his leadership qualities in the strafing of barges and airfields especially at Goodenough Island whilst a Deputy Flight Commander. 

Geoff Atherton flew as Captain or Co-Pilot the following aircraft types during the duration of the War:
Tiger Moth/Moth Minor/Piper Cub/Hawker Demon/Wapiti/Fairey Battle/Wirraway/Kittyhawk/Lightning/Norsman/DH Dragon/Avro Anson/Vultee Vengeance/C-47 Dakota/Spitfire Vc/ P47 Thunderbolt. His total flying hours totalled 1666 hours with the majority on Kittyhawks (866 hours) and the Wirraway (422 hours).
 
My thanks go to The National Archives of Australia Canberra.   
 
During 1942/43 Geoff Atherton was credited with destroying 5 Japanese Zero's/Zekes with another half share and two 'probable'. Whilst flying a P-38 Lightning he received a bullet in the buttock, later he crashed into the sea and was picked up by a Catalina amphibian flying boat.  
 
After hostilities had ended General MacCarthur, Supreme Allied Commander for the Pacific Theatre, returned some photographs to Geoff that he had taken on P-38 Recce Missions duly signed by 'Mac'. 

GEOFF ATHERTON THE WAY I AND OTHERS KNEW HIM
 
Wing Commander Geoff Atherton OBE DFC and Bar was the Station Commander at Royal Air Force Katunayake, Ceylon having succeeded Wing Commander P O V Green AFC and Bar (Later reached an Air Rank), Geoff's reign at Kat lasted partly in 1959/60 and was the last Senior Officer to command the station.
 
Terry Harvey a Fireman at Kat recalls a 'new chap' working behind the bar in the NAAFI unloading cases of beer. The 'new chap' asked Terry what the station was like for morale etc, Terry replied 'That it was OK and that morale was quite good', when Terry asked 'the new barman' how long since he arrived at Kat, he said 'today', for this 'barman' was nothing more than Geoff Atherton the new CO! He was getting the feel of the place, this was the sort of guy he was.   
 
Dave Bloomfield an MT Driver, drove the CO's car on many occasions (a couple of photos can be found on the RAF Katunayake/Negombo photo album by clicking on to the link below), not only on the Station but to other bases on the island such as Trincomalee (China Bay) and Diyatalawa. Dave says that Geoff  would always let the driver smoke whilst on duty, again this was the way he was, I know that he was never one for a lot of administration and in his time there I cannot recall having to do a parade.
 
Often, when seeing in or out Senior Diplomats/Politicians/VIP's/etc from the aircraft apron, he would always banter with the aircraft mechanics whilst the aircraft was taxiing in or out, something I cannot recall too many other Station Commanders doing. I do know that he kept a very tidy ship with his fellow officers and one Equipment Officer, who replaced him as CO on the run down of the base until its closure in 1961, called him a martinet, and he was feared by some, but it was something I never encountered. Quite the reverse to the Squadron Leader Senior Engineering Officer who continually hounded us erks, perhaps he did this in retribution!   
 
Ben Fenton, an Air Wireless Mechanic often flew in the Station Flight Pembroke (WV750) with POV Green, when he was CO. Ben recalls 'I heard that he had a bit of a fright when some of the circuit breakers kept popping out, these were positioned within the tail section so he would have had a hairy time getting these reset. As a result he never flew alone after that and since I was handy ( I was also able to tune the HF radio to get the cricket commentaries!) he would often ask me if I fancied a trip. Of course I always did.  When POV Green left and was replaced by W/C Atherton, I can only imagine that my name was passed on to him as a useful companion when flying hours were put in!'
 
Ben continues 'The first time I flew with him (Geoff), shortly after his arrival as CO, he said that he wanted to see wild elephants and, handing me a map of Ceylon, asked where we could go. Somehow I got him over thick jungle and after a while we spotted a herd of elephants making for a water hole in a clearing. Geoff Atherton executed a smart 180 degree turn and flying over the beasts for the second time, smartly whipped out his camera, stood the Pembroke on its wing tip (well it felt like that!) and proceeded to rattle off a series of photos with the kite barely above the trees (again it felt like that!)'   
 
My thanks go to Ian Atherton, David Bloomfield, Alan Cooper, John (Ben) Fenton, Terry Harvey, Allan Magnus and Mick Quinn for providing me with some of the above information, I would also like to thank the National Archives of Australia and the Museum of Edinburgh Library for their assistance. 

GEOFF's EXPLOITS ON 01/03/1960
 
Some 15 years after the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific Theatre of WW2, Geoff a hero of this war, became a hero again. This story has really gone unrecorded for 40+ years but for the sake of posterity, I would like my Grandchildren and others to know the company that I was in on this night in particular.
 
14 passengers and 6 crew embarked on to RAF Hastings TG579 on the afternoon of  1st March 1960, Geoff Atherton, the Commanding Officer of RAF Katunayake was one of the passengers, for what reason I do not know. The 'home page' of this web site contains the subsequent crash of this aircraft off RAF Gan on a storm-ridden night, what I want to portray is the unselfish way that Geoff saved the life of Flight Sergeant George Applegarth the co-pilot of 579.
 
George had exited the aircraft via the starboard window of the cockpit and was the only person to have left the aircraft on this side for whatever reason. He slid down the side of the nose of 579 and clung on to the Instrument Landing System (ILS) aerial, he was wearing his Mae West life preserver, but due to the ferocity of the weather and the huge waves prevalent George was washed off the aerial and ended up where Number Three Engine had detached itself from the wing root, he clambered on to the starboard wing until another huge wave washed him off this and ended up clinging to the starboard tailplane. The two starboard wing dinghies were ripped to shreds and were unusable, fortunately the other survivors on the port side of the ditched aircraft had by this time entered usuable dinghies, when we heard the screams of Help! (I and others still live with this plea). Geoff Atherton who was in an adjacent dinghy to mine, heard these cries for help and dived into the water without any hesitation, we had only just done a head count where everyone had to remember what number they were, one person was missing George Applegarth. That dive of Geoff's is as clear to me today as it was 42+ years ago, for some reason I saw Geoff swim in the direction of the nose of 579, the long way round to the tailplane but at this time we didn't know where George was, except that he was in distress.
 
I cannot emphasize the point strong enough here but Geoff Atherton dived into a fuel and oil laden sea with one hell of a thunderstorm raging, waves that must have been 4-6 foot high, lightning flashing, thunder so loud that usually you are indoors (or take some sort of shelter) that is deafening in the open, with monsoon type rain belting down stinging your face. The presence of sharks and other deepsea beasties did not come into the equation here. Geoff had gone to help a fellow human being in distress, no matter what the risks were to himself, he did what he had to do on the night, he found George in these terrible weather conditions with only the lightning to guide him on his way, the remarkable thing is that he was able to stay with George (a non swimmer) for over two hours until the ASR Pinnace 1374 picked them up.

I dread to think of the circumstances if George Applegarth was left to fend for himself that night, Geoff Atherton to me deserved a meritorious award worthy of at least another Bar to his already gained DFC and Bar he received for his bravery during WW2. He received NOTHING, Alan Cooper (no relation) has trawled through the London Gazette where he found that Geoff had received an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) on 24/05/1966 over 6 years after the event. There is some reason why he was not recognised for his gallantry and I can only surmise it was that if the then Air Ministry had awarded a meritorious medal it would have attracted much attention from the media, something that the authorities obviously did not want to happen, if that was the case then SHAME ON THE AUTHORITIES AT THAT TIME!
 
23rd September 2003 sent in by Neville Rourke, Melbourne, Australia.
 
Queen's Award To Airman
LONDON, July 8, A.A.P. Reuter. - The Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct has been awarded to Wing Commander Geoffrey Charles Atherton, and Australian stationed at the R.A.F. staging post at Katayumake (Ceylon).
It was awarded for courage after an aircraft crashed into the sea near the Island of Gan. Wing Commander Atherton swam to the recue of a member of the crew.
Wing Commander Atherton already holds the Distinguished Flying Cross.
 
I have had many people, over the past 18 months say that he (and Flight Lieutenant Bernie Saunders OC the Gan Marine Craft Unit) received MID's Mentioned in Dispatches but there is no date evidence on any official record including the LG to suggest this.
 
I have admired many men and women for their courage in the course of their duty, the likes of Nelson, Wellington, Churchill, Bader, etc., but to me Geoffrey Charles Atherton stands head and shoulders above them all.....................  
 
Copyright  John Cooper

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