|GILLIN, Robert Clark, DFC|
|Royal Canadian Air Force|
|13 October 1917 - Brantford, ON|
GILLIN, F/L Robert Clark (J11211) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.31 Squadron - Award effective 30 October 1945 as per London Gazette dated 6 November 1945 and AFRO 133/45 dated 8 February 1946. Born in Brantford, Ontario, 13 October 1917; home there. Enlisted in Hamilton, 28 July 1942 and posted to No.4A Manning Depot. To No.3 ITS, 1 September 1942; graduated and promoted LAC, 7 October 1941; to No.10 AOS, 25 October 1941; to No.1 BGS, 30 January 1942; graduated and promoted Sergeant, 14 March 1942; posted that date to No.2 ANS; graduated and commissioned 13 April 1942. To "Y" Depot, 14 April 1942, To RAF overseas, 8 May 1942. Posted from No.217 Squadron to No.31 Squadron. Promoted Flying Officer, 13 October 1942. Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 13 April 1944. Repatriated to Canada, 5 September 1945. Released 22 October 1945.
This officer has taken part in a large number of operational missions. These include the first Chindit operation, the siege of Imphal and supply dropping to the Fifth and Seventh Indian Divisions in the Arakan. He is a navigator of outstanding ability whose courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds has been a source of inspiration to the other members of his squadron.
On 21 November 1942 he was a passenger in Wellington HX578 of Temporary Wellington Flight, Waterloo, on a convoy escort flight. On its completion the aircraft was to land
at Robertsfield. The crew consisted of J8430 P/O F.P. Bartkiewicz (WOP/AG, killed), R69363 Sergeant J.J. De Marco (WOP/AG, killed), J8218 P/O C.J. Radford (pilot, injured, survived), 119657 P/O A.E. Abraham,
RAF (second pilot, survived). J9565 P/O P.V. Lyon (navigator, injured survived) plus J11211 P/O R. Gillin, passenger. Radford had 189 hours 20 minutes flying on type and 396 hours 45 minutes total. Problems
began after about 90 minutes flying and 60 miles from the convoy. The aircraft crashed at 6 degrees 50 minutes North, 13 degrees 10 minutes west. Aircraft was cruising when a knocking developed in port engine
and smoke was seen to issue from the port engine cowling. There was as yet no apparent loss of power. Oil began streaming over port nacelle. After some time there was an explosion and the top of the port
cowling burst open. From this point onwards power dropped. Pilot attempted to jettison depth charges but they hung up. Normal release system also failed. The engine then failed completely and pilot tried to
ditch, closing the bomb doors before alighting at about 60 knots. Apparently preoccupied by a DC-3, pilot did not jettison petrol, and aircraft sank within seconds of ditching, taking down one crewman. The
dinghy had inflated about 50 feet away and the crew boarded it; they were eventually spotted by a Hudson and picked up by ASR launch and six and one-half hours after ditching.
The specific evidence of Gillin (given just prior to posting to India) was as follows:
I am an observer in a Hudson crew in transit at Waterloo aerodrome. I was a passenger on Wellington HX578, which was detailed to take off from Robertsfield at 0630 hours 21 November 1942 on convoy escort duty, returning Waterloo about 1430 hours. At approximately 0815 I went forward to second pilot's seat while the captain of the aircraft, P/O Radford, went to the astro-hatch to take a sun sight. I was still in the second pilot's seat when, at about 0830 hours, the port engine began to make a pop-pop popping noise easily heard above the usual sound of the motors, accompanied by small bursts of gray-white smoke. The captain immediately came forward and took over the controls. I returned to the cabin, where the Wireless Operator, P/O Bartkiewicz, instructed me to get the fire extinguisher ready as the fuselage was beginning to fill with smoke. I took the extinguisher from the bracket and walked aft into the fuselage but the source of the smoke appeared to be under the navigation desk. On returning to my position before the main spar I put my Mae West on and slipped the water bottle inside it. I noticed the cowling had split on the top and caved in at the sides; oil was streaming back over the nacelle.
About five minutes after my return to the main spar I heard the captain give the wireless operator instructions to transmit S.O.S. and the I.F.F. to the distress position. During that time the captain and the second pilot had been trying to release the depth charges, but the rear gunner, Sergeant De Marco, did not see them go.
On the order "ditching stations" I braced my back, head and shoulders against the main spar, facing forward. I saw the wireless operator leave his seat and stuff the Verey pistol and cartridge into his pocket while continuing to operate the Morse key with his left hand. I did not see him get onto the floor, although he may have done so at the last minute.
The initial impact was not severe and the plane seemed to wheel to port before all forward motion stopped. I stood up and turned facing the astro hatch which the second pilot was climbing through. The navigator, P/O Lyon, was getting up from the floor behind him. Water, which was coming from forward and below, was already up to my knees and the plane was filling rapidly. My head was not above water for more than eight seconds.
As the water came over my head I felt a shock of some violence, which spun me around and threw me off my feet, although I was not stunned. The fuselage appeared to disintegrate. The force of the explosion was definitely not upward as I had to swim upward through wreckage about fifteen feet to reach the surface.
Pilot Officer Radford, P/O Lyon, P/O Abraham and P/O Bartkiewicz were already on the surface and P/O Abraham was calling out that Bartkiewicz was injured. There were pieces of wreckage (parachute packs, fabric, a piece of the mainplane) on the water, which did not show any signs of upheaval caused by the explosion. The dinghy was about 40 yards from me. My eyes were stinging with petrol and I had swallowed a good deal of petrol and sea water.
The dinghy was about half-inflated, right side up and puckered by its ropes. On reaching it I almost fainted but though better of it. I helped Radford close the larger of the two leaks with a leak stopper and two shoe laces, while Bartkiewicz was placed in the dinghy. I saw no signs of life in his body at any time. Later, Abraham was assisted into the dinghy which shipped a good deal of water. I was in the water about three-quarters of an hour, repairing the leak, and blowing up the dinghy by mouth. Radford stayed in the water some time after me. When he finally got in, the dinghy was still half-inflated and the slightest movement on the part of any of the four of us brought water over the side. After a thorough examination Bartkiewicz was slipped over the side.
Later we found the pump, and baled out water so that the dinghy rode better. The dinghy medical kit was opened and a field dressing was placed on Radford's leg.
I noticed that my watch had stopped at 0846. It had been synchronized in the morning before take off so that 0846 was definitely the time of ditching.
SOURCE: Air Force Association of Canada website & Hugh Halliday (August 10, 2010).