DAKOTA KN633

Posted on November 9, 2013 by


A Royal Air Force Dakota, KN633, of the 110 Squadron, was lost on 12th November 1948, approximately six miles east of Rawang, while on an SAR sortie, searching for a Spitfire Mk. FRXVIII (Fighter/Reconnaissance), TP321 that had crashed while carrying out dive bombing operations against communist fighters in the jungle. The pilot of the Spitfire Flying Officer F.M. Sketch had failed to recover from a steep dive and the aircraft had flown into the ground. Not knowing whether Sketch had managed to bale out or not,

Squadron Leader Hayes and his crew, Flight Lieutenant P.G. Ballard and Major R.Q. Gaitley, were sent off from the units base at Butterworth to search for him.

Squadron Leader Hayes (42836) had served during the early year of World War 2 and had flown with 37 Squadron on Wellingtons. On the night of 29-30th September 1940 he was the co-pilot of Wellington bomber, serial number R1350, that had taken-off from Feltwell at 2100 hours for operations at Bitterfierld. Whilst in the vicinity of Osnabruck it was attacked by a night-fighter flown by Oberlieutenant Heinrich Greis of 1/Njg and Flying Officer Dingle and the other four members of the crew were killed.
The young pilot officer Hayes somehow managed to escape the deluge but not being captured and he became a prisoner of war. Squadron Leader Hayes, who had taken over Command of 110 Squadron in March 1949, was given P.o.W. number 1271 and a prisoner in Stalag Luft 3, the scene of the renowned ‘Great Escape’ but also Offlag IX. Rather ironically, in January 1949, barely a month after his death, Squadron Leader Hayes was awarded a Permanent Commission by the Royal Air Force.

Over the last few years a small number of crash sites have been excavated, including those of Liberator KL654 from 356 Squadron, that crashed in August 1945 just a few days after the war with Japan had ended and another Dakota, KN630 from 52 Squadron that crashed in August 1950. In both cases it took a lot of effort and campaigning to persuade the MoD to do the right thing and recover the airmens’ remains from the jungle and give them a decent burial appropriate to their beliefs.
At one point in 2011 the campaign for the crew of KL654 involved the Counter Terrorism police, seemingly to create a situation where the MoD could effectively take control of both the families of the crew and subsequent events. The remains of those on board KN630 were only recovered after the intervention of a certain high ranking British Officer, but it is not know what his motivation was. The remains of Flying Officer Geoffrey Carpenter (Navigator) and other members of KN603 were finally laid to rest in Cheras Road Cemetery, in March 2012 and those of Flight Lieutenant Watts and the crew of KL654 in October 2012, also in Cheras Road Cemetery Kuala Lumpur.
In the week of Remembrance it would be good if the MoD would change its stance and allow the remains of the Squadron Leader Hayes and his crew to be exhumed and buried alongside his fellow servicemen. However it looks unlikely and in a recent letter from the Air Historical Branch, dated 6th November, it acknowledges that the crew were buried near the aircraft but clearly states, “the grave should not be disturbed by any persons.” Presumably that wording is aimed at the Malaysian team of archaeologist who have done splendid work on the sites of KL654, KN630 and several others.
We have always accepted, that the expressed consent and wishes of those families involved should be a priority in making decisions about exhumation and reburial, but at the same time we do not think that the MoD has the right to say who gets buried and who gets left behind. In all the cases we have come across the relatives have always thought it better that their loved ones should be buried in cemeteries where they can visit and pay their respects. The Malaysian jungle is a dense wild area that is sparsely populated
and no place to trek, even for the experienced teams who work with the army. The MoD needs to rethink its policy and respond.

 

Arthur Lane

 

 

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