Blackwell, Arthur Frederick (Flight Lieutenant, b.1919 - d.2006)

Accession Number PR03882
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 4 cm; Wallet/s: 2
Object type Document, Log book
Maker Blackwell, Arthur Frederick
Royal Australian Air Force
Place made Australia, Canada, United Kingdom
Date made 1941-1992
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copying Provisions Copying is permitted for the purposes of research and study, subject to physical condition

Collection relating to the Second World War service of 403980 Flight Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Blackwell, 500 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Mediterranean and Australia, 1941-1992.

Wallet 1 of 2 – Contains two folders of material relating to Flight Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Blackwell’s training and service with 500 Squadron.

Wallet 1 of 2, Folder 1 of 2 consists of one log book of Flight Lieutenant Blackwell, containing entries dated between 26 August 1941 and 12 April 1945. This log book covers the period of Flight Lieutenant Blackwell’s training in Canada and the United Kingdom, and service with 500 Squadron in the United Kingdom and Mediterranean. It records details such as dates and times of flights, aircraft types and numbers, pilots, and purposes of flights. Some of the recorded purposes of flights include navigation and air observer training, bombing and gunnery training, reconnaissance training, aircraft conversion, anti-shipping patrols, leaflet drops, escorting convoys, transportation, reconnaissance, searching for enemy submarines, and instruction at an operational training unit. Notably, this log book records the flight in which Flight Lieutenant Blackwell earned the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, on 23 April 1943.

Wallet 1 of 2, Folder 2 of 2 consists of 11 pages of navigation logs, dated between 12 November 1942 and 23 February 1943. The logs were created by Flight Lieutenant Blackwell while he was serving with 500 Squadron in the Mediterranean. The logs record information such as dates and times of flights, crewmembers, weather conditions, flight courses, navigational observations, and general observations.

Wallet 2 of 2 – Contains two folders of material relating to Flight Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Blackwell’s training and service.

Wallet 2 of 2, Folder 1 of 2 consists of one notebook of Flight Lieutenant Blackwell. This notebook contains notes created by Flight Lieutenant Blackwell during his navigation training in Canada and the United Kingdom between 1941 and 1942. The notes cover subjects such as codes, air reconnaissance, signals, submarine searches, direction finding, ship identification, and bombing procedures.

Wallet 2 of 2, Folder 2 of 2 consists of documents relating to the service of Flight Lieutenant Blackwell. This folder contains:
1x Identification card, Royal Air Force Station, Stornoway, Scotland, c1942.
1x Royal Australian Air Force Certificate of Service and Discharge, issued 5 June 1943. This certificate was issued upon Flight Lieutenant Blackwell’s appointment to a temporary commission.
1x Royal Australian Air Force Certificate of Service, Australia, issued 19 May 1992.

History / Summary

Flight Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Blackwell enlisted to the Royal Australian Air Force on 31 March 1941. Mustering as a Navigator and given the service number of 403980, Blackwell conducted initial training in Australia, before travelling to Canada and the United Kingdom to undertake further advanced navigational training. After passing all of his training he was promoted to Sergeant and posted to the United Kingdom based 500 Squadron, Royal Air Force (RAF) in July 1942. This unit flew as part of the RAF Coastal Command on anti-submarine, convoy escort and patrolling missions. 500 Squadron was deployed to Gibraltar in November 1942 to patrol the vital approaches to the Mediterranean. A detachment of the Squadron was forward deployed to Tafaraoui airfield in Oman to provide further protection for Allied convoys and to detect and sink any enemy submarines.
In April 1943, Flight Lieutenant Blackwell was the navigator of a Lockheed Hudson that was conducting a night time anti-submarine patrol in the western Mediterranean. Using airborne radar on the aircraft, the crew detected a German U-boat and proceeded to attack it from low altitude. As the aircraft passed very close to the submarine a burst of anti-aircraft cannon fire from the submarine hit the cockpit, instantly killing the pilot and damaged the aircraft.
Quickly working with other members of the crew Blackwell removed the pilot from the seat whilst maintaining control of the aircraft. He then occupied the pilot s seat and safely flew the damaged aircraft back to base. Once over the airfield the remaining aircrew successfully bailed out of the Hudson. Blackwell then successfully belly landed the Hudson near the airfield.
For his actions that night, and his 'displayed exceptional leadership and captaincy which inspired his comrades in trying circumstances' Blackwell was immediately awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM). Second only to the Victoria Cross for naval and air personnel, his was the first CGM awarded to a member of the Royal Australian Air Force.
After flying 443 combat hours with No.500 Squadron, his active tour with the unit ended in August 1943. Blackwell returned to the United Kingdom for several instructional postings, where he was promoted to Flying Officer in December 1943. In March 1945 Flying Officer Blackwell was presented his CGM by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. Later in June 1945 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant before returning to Australia the following month to begin his demobilisation. Flight Lieutenant Blackwell was discharged on 22 October 1945.