Special Flight - 159 and 160 Squadron
and 1341 Flight
Radio and Radar Detection in SEAC
Liberators operated many roles in SEAC. One of the more specialized tasks was the detection of Japanese Radio and Radar signals. This task was carried out by a "Special Flight". Documentation on this flight is very limited due to the "secret" nature of its operations. However enough information can be gleaned from the official records to provide a minimum outline of its history. In addition, recollections of ex aircrew and ground crew who served on this flight have added some addition details.
The "Draft" Chronology is now available in PDF format.
Here is a Brief Chronology based on the above document.
December 1943, the first of the crews who will fly the special duties arrive at 160 Sqn. based in Sigiriya
January 1944 First "special duties" operational flights. Undertaken by F/Lt. Bradley and Crew and F/Lt. Connor and crew from Sigiriya Ceylon
May 1, 1944 Unit transferred to Salbani: upon arrival, it was determined that there was not enough room for the flight to operate from this base
May 4, 1944 Unit moves to Digri (note the ground crew traveled by train to the new station, a trip of about 6 days.) The flight is still controlled by 160 Sqn.
May 10, 1944 First operational flight from Digri
June 30, 1944 Digri, Flight ceases to be controlled by 160 squadron Both A/C are scheduled for major overhauls, and the first two crews are "tour expired".
Digri, Officially recorded as "C" Flight 159 Squadron (and the aircrew are now considered to be part of 159 Sqn. However, the original ground crew for this flight from 160 Sqn may have never been officially transferred to 159 Sqn, (or, if they were, no one ever told them that)
April 1945 Detached to --- Ceylon
May 1945 Digri Last operational flight under 159 Sqn. control.
(The flight then became part of 1341 Flight)
The Aircraft (partial list)
BZ939, Liberator V "Y" delivered by F/Lt. Bradley to 160 Sqn on Dec. 24, 1943 (Lost November 11, 1944)
BZ938 Liberator V "W" (may have been delivered by F/Lt. Connor when he arrived at 160 Sqn on Jan. 10, 1944) (Lost January 31, 1945)
KH170 Liberator VI
Operational Losses (partial list)
January 31, 1945 BZ938 "W"
S/Ldr. Bradley -- POW
F/O A.G.Jeffrey -- POW
F/Sgts Bellingan, Woodage Snelling and Woodbridge -- beheaded
F/O W.J.J.Lowery W/O A.R.Williams F/Sgt J.Adams - missing
(see Japanese Atrocities for fate of some of the crew)
Crews: (based on data from the official records-- however, for certain periods, this information is not recorded in detail)
Known Captains (partial list)
F/Lt. Bradley (later S/Ldr.)
F/Lt. Connor, RCAF
F/ Lt. O'Reilly
He first arrived on 160 Sqn when he delivered BZ939 with his crew on December 24, 1943, and along with F/Lt. Connor, was one of the "founding" captains of the special flight. When the flight relocated to Digri, he was listed as the "officer commanding". His involvement as "The Boss" continued with the fight until the crash of BZ938 in Burma on Jan. 31, 1945. He was captured and was a POW of the Japanese until his release following the fall of Rangoon in 1945
The official records of 159 and 160 Squadrons
The Forms 540 and 541 for both these squadrons have been transcribed.
Links to them are on the 159 Squadron page and the 160 Squadron page.
The "official progress reports"
The following are transcriptions of the progress reports prepared by ACSEA. These records were discovered in various files held at Kew.
The log book of F/Lt. J. A. Pritchard, D.F.C.while on the Special Flight
F/Lt. Pritchard served as a "special operator" on 159/160 Special Flight from Dec. 1943 to Oct. 1944. Thanks to the generosity of his daughter, we have been able to transcribe his log book for this period, and place a copy on the site.
F/Lt. J.A. Pritchard, D.F.C.'s full log book
A transcription of all entries for his total time in service with the RAF, starting with his initial training and ending in 1945.
It includes details of his operational flights in the Mediterranean Theatre, plus his time under training and his time as an instructor.
LAC Gregory's Story of his time in India
LAC Gregory served in the RAF from March 1944 to May 1948. He trained as a Radar technician in England and was posted to 1341 Flight in SEAC. This was the flight that had been sent to SEAC with Halifax aircraft and took over the operations (and aircraft) of the 159/160 Squadron's "Special Flight" in 1945. He served with the flight and 159 Squadron until 1946. He had a "UK mid term leave" in 1946, and returned to India and served there until June 1947. He has kindly allowed his story which tells of his time in India (and includes many photographs) to be shared via this web site.
My sincere thanks to all those who have contributed to as well as inspired this page, but especially to those who served on the flight: E. Cocks, J. Greenstein, and V. Donnelly.
Note: This page, and the transcripts are a "work in progress" and will be subject to corrections, and additions as more information is obtained, either from the official records of other sources. Any additional information, suggestions, or corrections are welcomed.
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Last updated Dec. 8, 2014.