A Collection of Medals to Second World War Royal Air Force Casualties

Date of Auction: 17th July 2019

Sold for £600

Estimate: £140 - £180

Three: Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator / Air Gunner) H. A. Oliver, 27 Squadron, Royal Air Force, who was killed in action when his Blenheim was shot down by Japanese flak whilst on a bombing sortie attacking invasion ships in the Bangka Straits, Java Sea, off Sumatra, on the day that Singapore fell, 15 February 1942

1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; War Medal 1939-45, with named Air Council enclosure, in card box of issue addressed to ‘Mrs. J. Oliver, 7 Orchard Court, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey (Bridge St.)’, nearly extremely fine (3) £140-£180


Henry Alan Oliver was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on 2 March 1921, and joined the Royal Air Force as a boy entrant on 24 May 1937. He served during the Second World War as a Wireless Operator / Air Gunner with 27 Squadron, flying Blenheims, and was killed in action when Blenheim K7173, attached to 62 Squadron and piloted by Squadron Leader Banks, was shot down by Japanese flak whilst on a bombing sortie attacking invasion ships in the Bangka Straits, Java Sea, off Sumatra, and crashed into the Mosi River on 15 February 1942. Oliver was the only crew member killed.

On 7 December 1941 (Pearl Harbour) the Japanese landed a large invasion force at Kota Bharu on the East coast of Malaysia. No. 27 Squadron were immediately ordered to leap frog down the West coast to stay ahead of the invaders. They were part of “Norgroup” the air defence of Northern Malaya. During this period they lost a considerable amount of aircraft and crew to Japanese air raids. On 8 December Japanese air attacks rendered 8 of the Squadron’s 12 aircraft unserviceable within 7 minutes. It was clear by the 9th December that the Squadron had begun to disintegrate.

On 12 December 1941 the remainder of the Squadron was ordered to Butterworth airfield and then Kallang airfield in Singapore. As the inexorable fall of the Colony approached the Squadron, after repeated attacks, flew the remaining 4 patched up Blenheim's in early February 1942 to a secret airfield known only as P2, 50 miles South West of Palembang, on the island of Sumatra.

On 15 February 1942 the Squadron was ordered to attack part of the inbound Japanese invasion force. At 14:50 in the afternoon Oliver, as part of Squadron Leader Banks’ crew took off in Blenheim K7173. Air records confirm that this aircraft was a No. 27 Squadron aircraft and crew but that it was being used by No. 62 Squadron, as the total aircraft losses for Nos. 27, 34, 60, and 62 Squadrons had been so catastrophic they could barely muster a complete Squadron between them.

Bloody Shambles, by Christopher Shores and Brian Cull, records the following details:
‘At 14:50 hours Squadron Leader Banks (No. 27 Squadron) was ordered to lead 4 Blenheim 1’s of No. 27 Squadron from P2 (some miles from Palembang) on a strike against invasion forces in the Banka Strait... Squadron Leader Bank’s K7173 also sustained damage the aircraft coming down in the Mosi River on its way back to P2, the gunner Flight Sergeant Oliver suffered fatal injuries.’

Further reports suggest that two of the aircraft were shot down immediately by the intense Anti-Aircraft fire from the Japanese Convoy. Bank’s aircraft suffered severe damage and was lost trying to regain the airfield at P2. However, Banks and his Observer survived the ditching and were picked up by a small vessel towing five RAF launches.

The Pacific Island Guide gives the following account of the Japanese invasion:
‘The amphibious assault force staged from Cam Ranh Bay, Indochina, landing elements of the 229th Infantry, 38th Division on Banka Island on the 14 February. The main body of the 229th reinforced by a Battalion of the 230th arrived at the mouth of the Mosi River on 15 February and moved upwards towards Palembang on the 16 February. They were delayed by the approach of a Dutch/British/Australian Cruiser and Destroyer force detected North of the Sunda Strait. Japanese land and carrier based aircraft drove off this force on the 15 February. The RAF attacked Japanese shipping in the Banka Strait launching from aerodrome P2 which had not been discovered by the Japanese. The air attacks inflicted some damage but they were unable to halt the advance inland.’

Singapore fell the same day. Oliver is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial. His medals were sent to his mother Mrs. Jean Oliver.

Sold with copied research.