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Frank Keith Morcombe DFC

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Frank Keith Morcombe DFC
Morcombe Frank Keith 1.jpg
courtesy AWM
Personal Information
Date of Birth 18 Aug 1913
Place of Birth Ceduna, South Australia
Death 5 Oct 1943
Place of Death East Sale, Victoria
Age at Enlistment 27 years, 5 months
Description 6'0½" (1.84) tall ; 161lbs
73.028 kg
; fair complexion ; blue-grey eyes ; light brown hair
Occupation farm mechanic
Religion Methodist
Address Po Box 36 Pingelly, Western Australia
Next of Kin wife , Mrs Alma Dorothy Morcombe
Military Information
Reg Number 406572
Date of Enlistment 3 Feb 1941
Rank Flight Lieutenant
Unit/Formation No. 2 Squadron RAAF
Post War Details
Fate Killed in air accident 1943
Monument(s) Armadale War Memorial
Australian War Memorial Australian War Memorial
Medals Distinguished Flying Cross
1939-45 Star
Pacific Star
Defence Medal
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45
United Stated Presidential Unit Citation



Pre War

On 20 Feb 1936 Frank married Alma Dorothy Broun in Pingelly. Son Michael was born c1938 and daughter Sue in Moora on 6 Apr 1940.

War Service

Enlisted in the Air Force Reserve on 3 Jul 1940. On enlistment was an Aircraftsman level 2, and on 3 Apr 1941 he was transferred to No. 9 Elementary Flight Training School RAAF where on 29 Mar 1941 he was appointed Leading Aircraftsman having trained on de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth aircraft. Awarded his Flying Badge on 24 Jul 1941, On 2 Jun 1941 he was placed on Aircrew Course No. 11 at the No. 4 Services Flight Training School RAAF flying Avro Anson aircraft. On completion of this course he was on 22 Sep 1941 discharged from the RAAF in order to be granted a Commission the following day as a Pilot Officer.


From 29 Sep 1941 until 16 Dec 1941 he attended the No 15 Navigation Course at 4 SFTS and having passed it, he was sent on a 'Hudson' (Lockheed Hudson) Conversion course at No. 1 Operational Training Unit RAAF. On 21 Jan 1942 he was posted to No. 14 Squadron RAAF, a maritime patrol squadron based in Western Australia initially as convoy escorts, but later as anti-submarine patrols in Lockheed Hudsons. Here he also had his first leave, from 13 - 20 Mar 1942. He again had a period of leave before joining an operational unit, from 19 - 24 Jun 1942.


On 7 Jul 1942 as a precursor to joining an operational squadron Frank was sent to the Reserve Pool at Birdum in the Northern Territory, and on 19 Jul 1942 Frank joined No 13 (City of Darwin) Squadron. Four days later his posting changed to No. 2 Squadron RAAF based in Darwin, responsible for reconnaissance and bombing patrols against Japanese shipping and installations in the islands. He joined the unit just before it began a series of raids on Japanese forces on Timor that resulted in them being awarded the United States Presidential Unit Citation for their work during August and September of 1942. While there, he was promoted to Flying Officer on 23 Mar 1942, and Acting Flight Lieutenant from 1 Jan 1943 until 1 Apr 1943. During that time he had been hospitalised in No. 3 RAAF Hospital from 10 - 29 Sep 1942. On 6 Jan 1943 Keith had lead a dive bombing attack on a Japanese destroyer. many hits were recorded bringing the ship to a standstill. From 15 Jan until 20 Jan 1943 he had enjoyed another period of leave, and on 1 Apr 1943 Frank had his rank of Flight Lieutenant confirmed.


On 4 Apr 1943 Frank was again posted very briefly to No. 13 (City of Darwin) Squadron RAAF, being posted on 17 May 1943 to No. 1 Operational Training Unit RAAF as an instructor. Here on 5 Oct 1943 he died in No. 4 RAAF Hospital at Sale as a result of an flying accident earlier that day at East Sale.

Award Comment

The lengthy citation for his award reads as follows:

Flight Lieutenant MORCOMBE was posted to No. 2 G.R./B. (No 2 General Reconnaissance / Bombing) Squadron on the 23rd July 1942, and since that date has completed many hours of operational flying against the enemy including many day and night strikes, reconnaissance, offensive and seaward patrols.

As commander of B Flight, his constant example of determination, tirelessness and courage and his efficiency as a leader have had a tremendous influence on the other personnel of the squadron.

On the 4th December 1942, Flight lieutenant MORCOMBE was the leader of a formation of three Hudsons on an offensive patrol in search of enemy shipping along Wetar strait north of Timor. Despite persistent and close attacks by enemy fighters which commenced at the beginning of the Strait, he continued down past the enemy fighter base at Dilli and completed his mission. One aircraft was damaged in the hydraulic system which caused the under-carriage to drop and so retard its speed. By skillful leadership of the formation and the use of meagre cloud cover be brought the formation back along the Strait and home to its base without further mishap. The courage and devotion to duty displayed in this episode is typical of the fighting qualities of this officer.

Flight Lieutenant MORCOMBE has continually volunteered to participate in the more dangerous sorties as indicated by the high proportion of strikes in the sorties in which he has participated. On one occasion he scored direct hits on a Japanese Destroyer, disabling it.

Flight lieutenant MORCOMBE has proved himself to be a capable, enthusiastic and courageous leader whose devotion to duty has been in accordance with the highest traditions of the Service.
  • Sale War Cemetery
  • Frank Morcombe's gravesite.


WA FLIER KILLED IN AIR CRASH

MELBOURNE, Fri — A flying instructor who won the Distinguished Flying Cross last year and a trainee pilot were killed when an aircraft from an R.A.A.F. station in Victoria crashed, on Tuesday on a training flight.

They were Flight Lieut. Frank Keith Morcombe, D.F.C., 30, of Pingelly, Western Australia, flying instructor, and Sgt James Cameron, 28, of South Australia, trainee pilot. Flight Lieut. Morcombe won his D.F.C. last December when he led a formation of three R.A.A.F. Hudsons in offensive patrol in search of enemy shipping in Wetar Strait, north of Timor. Though attacked repeatedly by Japanese fighters he continued on past the enemy fighter base at Dilli and completed his mission. His plane was damaged and slowed down but he skilfully led his formation back to base without further mishap. On another occasion he damaged a Japanese destroyer with direct hits. 'Morcombe proved himself a capable, enthusiastic and courageous leader,' the official citation to award stated. Flight Lt. Morcombe was married and the father of two children. He was the second son of Mr and Mrs W. G. Morcombe, of Armadale, and was farming before he joined the R.A.A.F. more than two years ago. Last year he was stationed in North Australia and afterwards was appointed to an instructional role. He was educated at Northam High School where he excelled in tennis and cricket. His brother, John, also joined the R.A.A.F.[1]

Notes

No. 2 and 13 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force were awarded the United States Distinguished Unit Citation for their service in the Timor area in August to September 1942. Despite being awarded in October 1942 the citation was not officially presented to the Squadron until May 1990. The Distinguished Unit Citation was redesignated after World War II as the Presidential Unit Citation. Planes flown DH82A; Anson; Hudson. No. 2 Squadron also won a United States Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with attached valor device for its service in Vietnam between April 1967 and May 1971.

Planes flown DH82A; Anson; Hudson.

Alma had remarried in 1948 to James M Mathews and was living at Ti Tree Cottage, Third road, Armadale.

Frank's older brother John Henry enlisted in the Air force in Adelaide, and served as a leading Aircraftman based at Laverton Vic. Another brother, Brian had gone to Sarawak as a Missionary in 1941, was captured by the Japanese about 10 months after their invasion and was held from October 1942 in a civilian internment camp in Kuching, North West Borneo by the Japanese. Along with other missionaries Brian was released in early September 1945.

  1. Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), Friday 8 October 1943, page 6

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