Warrant Officer John Pretty BAILEY

Service No: 4240
Born: Boulder WA, 29 March 1912
Enlisted in the RAAF: 22 March 1939
Unit: No. 8 Squadron, Goodenough Island PNG
Died: Prisoner of War (Executed): New Britain PNG, 25 November 1943, Aged 31 Years
Buried: Rabaul War Cemetery PNG
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Gordon Oswald and Kathleen Bailey, of Leederville, Western Australia, husband of Alice Margaret Mary Bailey, of South Perth, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA
Remembered: Honour Avenues, Kings Park WA

On 21 October 1943, the two squadrons of Beaufort bombers (Nos 6 and 100) and one squadron of Beaufort torpedo carriers (No. 8) went out in search of two Japanese cruisers which a reconnaissance plane had reported off the east coast of New Ireland. The cruisers were trying to sneak down the east coast. It was a pretty dirty sort of night with a murky haze that made things hard to see.  But a warship, a three-funnel cruiser, was sighted off Cape Narum.  She was travelling towards Rabaul by way of Cape St. George.  As the Beauforts circled to attack, she turned and put up an anti-aircraft barrage.  Flying Officer Tuttleby (1) led the attack, with Squadron Leader Roberts (2), Commanding Officer of 100 Squadron, as his passenger.  Flying Officer Ray Smith made an accurate run through the barrage and scored a hit “that looked as though it went down the funnel.”  …  A Beaufort reconnaissance later sighted the damaged cruiser in Rabaul Harbour.  She still burned for a day after she reached there, then she was not sighted again.  Subsequent prisoner-of-war information revealed that much valuable equipment had to be dumped and that the cruiser was later towed back to Truk for repairs.  But the attack was not made without loss.  One Beaufort (A9-244) did not return.  Geoff Vincent was the pilot, with Skip Bailey, Allan Brown and (“Hooly-dooly”) Chas Vincent.  The following morning, nine Beauforts took off from Kiriwina in search of them, but without result.  That morning an Allied reconnaissance reported seeing four RAAF men come ashore in a raft on New Ireland to be captured by the Japanese.  It is more than possible that they were Vincent and his crew.  Ralph Finlay (3) and Flight Lieutenant Dudley Reginald Atkins (413940) were awarded the DFC after this action against the Japanese cruiser.

(1) Flight Lieutenant Clifford Ernest Tuttleby DFC AFM (2760) was discharged from the RAAF on 1 May 1947.
(2) Squadron Leader Ivor Gwilyn Roberts (251803) was discharged from the RAAF on 28 November 1945.
(3) Flight Lieutenant Ralph Harold Finlay DFC (405728) was discharged from the RAAF on 31 August 1945.

Extract from Graham, B. (Burton) and Frank Smyth, A Nation Grew Wings: The Story of the RAAF Beaufort Squadrons in New Guinea, Winterset House Publishers Melbourne VIC, 1946 – Page 62.  The events referred to in the extract occurred on 21 October 1943 and subsequent days.

The crew members of A9-244 were:

Warrant Officer John Pretty Bailey (4240) (Observer) PoW, Executed 25 November 1943
Flying Officer Allan Mervyn Brown (413955) (Wireless Air Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 5 December 1945
Flying Officer Charles William Vincent (404757) (Wireless Air Gunner) PoW, Executed 25 November 1943
Flight Lieutenant Godfrey Hubert Vincent (400866) (Pilot) PoW, Died 14 January 1944

In August 1948, Warrant Officer Bailey’s remains and those of 13 other RAAF members were found at Matupi, New Britain.  Those RAAF members were:

Flying Officer Francis O’Connell Anderson (403118) No. 11 Squadron
Warrant Officer John Pretty Bailey (4240) No. 8 Squadron
Sergeant David Stuart Brown (401489) No. 75 Squadron
Leading Aircraftman John Joseph Burns (19574) Headquarters RAAF Station Port Moresby
Flying Officer Frederick Arthur Donald Diercks (407708) No. 11 Squadron
Leading Aircraftman Vernon Holloway Hardwick (17635) (Wireless Operator)
Corporal Alfred Ronald Hocking (18005) Headquarters RAAF Station Port Moresby
Corporal Alfred Henry Lanagan (6853) No. 11 Squadron
Flying Officer Ross Bryan O’Loghlen (400662) No. 8 Squadron
Leading Aircraftman Ernest John McDonald (10253) No. 11 Squadron
Flying Officer Allan Leslie Norman MID (407006) No. 20 Squadron
Leading Aircraftman William Murdoch Parker (20343) No. 11 Squadron
Flight Lieutenant Godfrey Hubert Vincent (400866) (Pilot) No. 8 Squadron
Unidentified RAAF Member (possibly Flying Officer Charles William Vincent (404757))


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9845, 249


Eames, Jim The Searchers, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia QLD 4067, 1999 – Chapter 3: The Dance of the Rods
Wilson, S. (Stewart) Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications Weston Creek ACT 2611, 1990

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