Signed felt pennant : Sergeant A L Hewish, Empire Air Training Scheme, Canada

Accession Number REL33899
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Flag
Physical description Cotton, Felt
Maker Unknown
Place made Canada: Alberta
Date made 1941
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Blue felt souvenir pennant with yellow and blue felt applique design featuring a RAAF crest and the words 'EDMONTON CANADA / "A" FLIGHT / MCH 1941 / NO 2 AOS ', all in individually applied letters. A sheet of white cotton is sewn to the reverse and bears the signatures and towns of 39 Australian course participants, in two columns, and Sergeant Arthur Hewish's service number, 402353. Legible names are, top to bottom (left column) Jim Courtney, Q'land; Cliff A Giles, NSW; J D Hunter, Vic; GS ?, NSW; W R Payne, NSW; Wallace H Betts NSW; H K Bedwell, Q; H Parsons, NSW; J ? Qld; H L Croydon, NSW; L A Tait, Qld; L A Sayers, Vic; N H Kobelke, Lismore NSW; T L Walker, Cairns NQ; Bob Murphy, Sydney NSW; Laurie Pooley, Melb Victoria; Alan G Sands, Sydney NSW; Jack H Dyson, Sydney NSW; Bob Johnston, Sydney NSW; (right column) Tom O'Donohue, Brisbane Qld; E Graham Gympie Qld; D J ?, Doncaster Victoria; Joffre B Bell, Clifton Qld; J F Connelly, Mosman, NSW; T G Williams, Brisbane, Qld; Wallace A Rylance Brisbane, Queensland; H D Grimes, Brisbane Qld; Wallace Martin Murrurundi, NSW; N S Rose Sydney NSW; J E Hart Melbourne Victoria; A H Locke Premaydena Tasmania; G H Higgins Brisbane, Qld; W ? Melbourne,.Vic; E J N MacDonald Brisbane, Q; Harold F Connely Brisbane Qld; E S Ball Sydney; J D Garrow, Brisbane Q; the remaining two names are illegible. A pair of suspension tabs are sewn to the upright .

History / Summary

402353 Sergeant (Sgt) Arthur Leslie 'Billie' Hewish of Albury, NSW was born 24 October 1917 and enlisted on 19 August 1940. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS), Hewish received his initial training in Australia and completed training in Canada. Pennant relates to 2 Air Observer School at Red Deer airfield, Edmonton, Canada. Members of the March 1941 course - all Australians - signed the reverse of this pennant at the conclusion of the course and of the 40 names appearing (of which six are illegible), 15 later died. They are 404092 James Geen Courtney, died 21 February 1942; 402334 Clifford Argo Giles died 8 March 1943; 404165 Horace Kempton Bedwell, died 30 April 1942; 402229 Harold Leslie Croydon, died 9 April 1942; 400420 Charles William Lawrence Pooley, died 26 March 1942; 402578 Alan George Sands, died 30 November 1941; 402360 Robert Johnston, died 8 December 1941; 404487 Thomas John O'Donohue, 29 February 1944; 404381 Thomas Gordon Williams, died 1 November 1941; 404532 Harold Dawson Grimes, died 15 October 1941; 402450 Wallace Martin, died 6 December 1942; 404484 Graham Henry David Higgins, died 11 August 1942; 404346 Edward John Norman MacDonald, died 6 January 1942; 404529 James David Garrow, died 5 January 1942. Hewish qualified with 2 AOS as an air observer navigator on 12 April 1941; passed No 2 Bombing & Gunnery Course at Mossbank, Saskatchewan on 26 May and completed training on 22 June at No 1 Air Navigation School, Rivers, Manitoba. Upon arriving in England, he converted to Wellington bombers at 11 Operational Training Unit at Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, and in early September 1941 was finally assigned as an observer to 458 (Wellington) Squadron, RAAF, based at Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire. Here his training continued, and from early November he was flying in a Mk IV Wellington serial S1312, in conjunction with his ultimate operational pilot and co-pilot, fellow Australians Herbert Garland and Ian Higlett. His first operational mission was flown against the docks at Ostende on 16 December 1941. His second mission started at 4.30 on the morning of 9 January 1942 in conjunction with two other 458 Squadron Wellingtons on a bombing mission to Cherbourg, France aboard Wellington S1312 commanded by 404456 Sgt Herbert Garland and co-pilotted by 404454 Sgt Ian Higlett. The Squadron Record Book states that Garland was 'unable to identify target. Hit by flak. Aircraft went into steep dive over Dorset - hit high tension cables, burst into flames and crashed. Captain and 2nd pilot in hospital rest of crew dead.' The crash occurred at 7.45 am, eight kilometres from Shaftsbury; apparently the Wellington was still carrying its full bomb load. Chorley's book 'Bomber Command Losses (1942)' adds (p 13): 'To this day, villagers can still recall with clarity those final minutes as the aircraft flew low over the Dorset countryside near Gillingham, the slipstream buffeting rooftops and in one case snuffing out the candle by the bedside of a young boy getting ready to celebrate his birthday. One lady rushed out to see the Wellington pass low overhead, the faces of the crew clearly visible in the early morning light. Moments later she heard a cracking sound, followed by a muffled explosion, as the bomber first clipped a line of high tension cables before smashing into a hillside on the outskirts of Fifehead Magdalen. Miraculously both pilots survived and one was soon found, dazed and bleeding by a local schoolmistress who took him to the local rectory for treatment. Later that same morning airmen from a nearby listening post helped to recover the bodies of those who died.' Hewish and his fellow crew members (402471 Sgt Dudley George Taylor, wireless operator; 407209 Sgt Peter Harold Smith, forward gunner and 402028 Sgt Thomas Leslie Brown, rear gunner, all Australians) were buried at Brookwood cemetery. Hewish's epitaph reads 'His Duty Fearlessly and Nobly Done We Remember.'