1.5 inch Flare Pistol Cartridge

Accession Number REL45377
Collection type Technology
Object type Munition
Physical description Brass, Cardboard
Maker Unknown
Date made 1941
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

An expended 1.5 inch calibre pyrotechnic cartridge developed for a wide range of signal applications. The cartridge produces a single star, or combinations of them, in the standard colours of red, green, white or yellow. The cartridges may be fired in most British and American signal pistols with a calibre of 1.5 inches (38mm.) The cartridge case is manufactured from cardboard and the case head is drawn from brass. The cartridge is fired by a percussion primer. Flare cartridges are painted with a colour band denoting the colour of the star signal. In this instance the colour of the signal is red. The star signal may burn for up to thirty seconds and give illumination of approximately 50,000 candellas. Stencilled on the outside of the cartridge above a maker's or checker's mark is 'T.W.H 5-41 V.T LOT 6'.

History / Summary

Associated with the service of Frederick Stephen William (Fred) Dyer, who was born on 1 August 1921 at Adelaide and was working as an apprentice sheet metal at W J Rawling (a tinsmith and iron monger business) when he enlisted in the RAAF on 18 July 1942 under service number 417820 and mustered as a navigator. He received basic training at schools in Australia (mainly in South Australia) and rose to the rank of temporary sergeant before embarking for further training in Canada as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Just before his departure from Brisbane he married Martha, who settled in Ethelton where his parents also lived.

Arriving in Canada in May 1943, he was attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force and continued his training, advancing from Avro Ansons to Lockheed Hudson before converting to Douglas DC3 Dakotas with 31 Operation Training Unit (OTU). He completed his Canadian training in November 1943 with the rank of flight sergeant and transferred to England where he continued his training at 107 OTU and was eventually assigned to 233 Squadron (RAF Transport Command) in late June 1944, with the rank of pilot officer. Based at Blakehill Farm, Wiltshire, 233 Squadron had operated on D-Day, towing gliders and carrying troops from the 3rd Parachute Brigade; they also flew over twenty resupply flights later that day. Pilot Officer Dyer was one of a number of replacements for crews who were casualties on D-day and the days following.

The squadron was used for casualty evacuation from the beachhead, before flying 37 sorties on the first two days of the Battle of Arnhem and 35 supply missions. The Battle of Arnhem started on 17 September; on 21 September, flying a supply flight in Dakota KG-399 to drop oil and mortar bombs in front of the Hartenstein Hotel at Oosterbeek, Dyer’s plane was first hit by flak over the drop zone (but only received light damage) and then strafed by a Focke-Wulf 190 on its return. This started a fire which took hold with the “port wing on fire and fuselage” (quotes taken from his Evader Report on his Service Record). Dyer and wireless operator Flight Sergeant Jack Hickey “baled out at approx 800 ft. A/C was in control at time of baling out. Landed in clearing in forest and after being fired on, ran until got to a Dutch farm house”. The Dakota crash-landed 3.5 kilometres from Hooge Mierde, and about 110 kilometres to the south west of Oosterbeek and very close to the Belgian border.

Dyer elaborated on his story years later: “One shot came though the cabin just in front of Mike’s feet and out through the top of the cabin.” The Dakota was carrying four army personnel to push the load out as well – although he didn’t see them, they jumped after him, but were captured. By this time “the forward part of the fuselage had been enveloped in flame … the pilots were trapped and died of burns near the crash.”
After they landed, “we heard rifle shots … and heard a couple of hits in the trees near us, but after about an hour things quietened down, and we hid in some thick undergrowth to work out a plan.” They decided to put themselves at the mercy of a Dutch family called Valckx who occupied a large farm nearby. The family (with eleven children) hid them in their barn, fed them (“a meal of bacon and eggs”) and clothed them – Dyer noted that “as I had been working in my shirt-sleeves, my jacket was left in the aircraft, so the eldest daughter gave me a pair of old overalls and a red woollen scarf”. They hid in the barn or in the woods in the daytime and slept a lot for the first two days. Altogether they spent twelve days hidden, by which time it became obvious the Allied advance from Normandy had stalled.

Overhead the resupply operation to Arnhem continued - ”night and day the air was almost unceasingly humming with aircraft engines (all Allied)… During our last four days …we heard artillery firing and shells bursting to the east, north and south, the nearest was about a mile away. On October 3 they decided to walk to British lines, accompanied by two Dutch guides – “we had only got as far as the village when we saw an armoured car patrol from the Welsh Division... we rode back with them to Reusal, 8 kilometres to the east, where heavy fighting had been in progress for the last four days. We were stupefied when we heard that Arnhem was evacuated.” The next day they were in Brussels; two days later they were back in England.
When Fred Dyer was reported missing by the RAAF, Fred’s parents were informed, but not his wife Martha, who was told by his father (they lived two minutes’ walk from each other). It would be another seventeen days before they found out he was safe, on 9 October.

Jack Dyer was promoted to flying officer just prior to returning to Australia in December of 1944; he transferred to the Reserve and was discharged from the RAAF on 15 August 1945.