29 May 1945
Liberator VI EW174 ‘P’
The aircraft was tasked with delivering US OSS agents by parachute into a jungle position in Siam. In the early morning shortly after dawn and in clear sky, the aircraft was attacked by nine Japanese ‘Oscars’. The first attack struck the top of the fuselage and the second caused the deaths of the co-pilot, navigator and one of the air gunners. Fire was returned by the crew and they claimed to have shot down one Oscar. The Japanese fighters made head on attacks, flying in line astern formation and all four engines were destroyed. The pilot; Flying Officer H V Smith, called the crew and passengers to their crash stations and then executed a landing amongst trees but was seriously injured whilst doing so. Flight Sergeant Draper was killed in the crash landing and Corporal Napierdlaki, one of the passengers, received injuries from which he died shortly afterwards. Three OSS agents; Major J Gildee, Lt R S Moore and Sergeant E J McCarthy, together with crew members; Sergeant R S Woods, Flight Sergeant C Copley, Sergeant F J Parsons, Flight Sergeant W A Pugh and Sergeant J R Rowe, were also injured to varying degrees. On escaping from the wreck, Flight Sergeants Copley and Rowe set off to seek assistance. These men quickly ran into some Thais who helped them and also arranged for the dead to be buried at the crash site. A series of adventures befell the survivors but they were aided by other OSS agents (Major Richard Greenlee and Captain Howard Palmer) working with the Thai police. Although several crew were interned by the Thais, the pilot and Flight Sergeant Copley were flown by light aircraft to a larger airfield where they were picked up by a Dakota of 357 Squadron and flown to safety. Copley had been flying the final trip of his second operational tour, having completed his first tour in the Middle East. Flying Officer Harry Vincent Smith RCAF was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 14th August and the citation makes particular mention of his high degree of skill and courage in the incident recounted above.
Flight Sergeant Brian Richard POOLE Co-Pilot
Flight Sergeant Peter Reginald Dann BRENCHLEY Navigator
Sergeant William John PINCKNEY Air Gunner
Flight Sergeant John Henry DRAPER 23 Bomb Aimer
Corporal NAPIERDLAKI US Army OSS Agent
Source – The Price Of Peace – C. Cummings.
Movement history of Liberator VI EW174
Delivered Dorval 8 April 1944
To India arriving at Karachi 24 April 944
To 358 Squadron.
On a Special Duties operation on 29 May 1945 the Liberator was attacked by nine Japanese ‘Oscar’ fighters over Alor Star and shot down crash landing in the Burmese jungle.