David George DEY

Poppy

DEY, David George

Service Number: 280627
Enlisted: 8 January 1940, Parafield, South Australia
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Last Unit: Base Torpedo Unit (Nowra)
Born: Port Pirie, South Australia, 20 August 1915
Home Town: Port Pirie, Port Pirie City and Dists, South Australia
Schooling: Port Pirie High School, St. Peter's College, Adelaide University
Occupation: Student (Mining Engineer)
Died: Accidental (plane collision), Jervis Bay, New South Wales, 14 April 1943, aged 27 years
Cemetery: Sydney Memorial (within Sydney War Cemetery)
At Sea
Memorials: Adelaide WW II Wall of Remembrance*, Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Port Pirie Gates WW II*, Port Pirie HB04 St Peters Congregation WW II*, Port Pirie O3 St Peter's Anglican Church Window*
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World War 2 Service

8 Jan 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, SN 280627, Parafield, South Australia
9 Jan 1940: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, SN 280627
14 Apr 1943: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, SN 280627, Base Torpedo Unit (Nowra)

Help us honour David George Dey's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Karen Standen

David George Dey was the eldest son of George Dey (/explore/people/331726) and Mary Louisa Dey. Born after his father had embarked for the First World War, David was an independent two years old when George returned in 1917. David’s only sibling, Arthur Alexander ‘Sandy’ Dey (/explore/people/515364), was born four year later. The boys grew up against the industrial backdrop of the Port Pirie smelters.

At the outbreak of World War Two, David was in the final stages of an Engineering degree at Adelaide University. Four years earlier, he had been awarded the prestigious Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy prize for his paper entitled, “Mining Methods at Iron Knob, SA”.

On the Sunday before David enlisted in the RAAF, his parents travelled down to Adelaide to wish him well. Air Cadet Dey arrived at South Australia's RAAF Parafield, on the 8th January 1940 to undertake the eight week beginner's course at the No 1 Elementary Flying Training Schools (1EFTS). Having gained the mandatory 50 hours flying time, David proceeded to Point Cook in Victoria for his advanced flying training at the No 1 Service Flying Training School (1SFTS). By July 1940, he was flying reconnaissance patrols off the east coast of Australia with No 6 Squadron.

Arriving in Singapore on the 17th April 1941, David joined No 8 Squadron. Eight months later, at the outbreak of hostilities in Malaya, the squadron's aircraft attacked Japanese shipping and suffered heavy losses. The squadron was withdrawn to Sumatra and resupplied with six aircraft, enabling them to continue reconnaissance and bombing missions. No 8 Squadron was eventually disbanded at Batavia (Jakarta) on the 16th February 1942, and its personnel returned to Australia. It was during this chaotic period that David was promoted to Flight Lieutenant.

The following month, David was posted to RAAF 100 Squadron. He flew anti–submarine patrols, firstly in North Queensland, between Cairns and Horn Island, and later from Laverton in Victoria. While at 100 Squadron, David was granted leave and returned briefly to South Australia. During this break, David married Ruth Millicent Beckwith, at St. Peter’s Cathedral on Saturday morning the 9th May 1942.

In mid-July, David was posted initially to RAAF Nowra’s Station Headquarters, but later joined the newly formed Base Torpedo Unit (BTU). In February the following year, his duty status changed from flying to under instruction. David was less than a week into his course when news came through that his brother Sandy was missing over the Mediterranean Sea. It was also while under training that David became a proud, first time father, with the birth of his daughter Josephine on the 29th March 1943.

On the evening of Tuesday the 13th April, David was assigned Beaufort A9-268 for the following days flying program. He was to fly in the No 2 position, with Flying Officer Green in Beaufort A9-27 taking the lead of the Red Flight formation. Fellow South Australian, Flying Officer Geoffrey Rex “Barry” Schlank (/explore/people/510274) was assigned the No 3 position. Red Flight were to perform a number of torpedo demonstration flights for the accredited war correspondents and photographers visiting Jervis Bay.   

As the program drew to a close, Red Flight was preparing to finish with a low fly by off HMAS Burra-bra’s starboard before returning to base. Running over time, the ship had sailed past the original rendezvous point. As a result, the BTU Commanding Officer who was on board the ship, radioed the aircraft and instructed them to change their approach and conclude with a Prince of Wales break up instead. A manoeuvre that hadn’t been practiced.

What transpired, was captured by Fox Films cameraman, Eric Bieve. The surviving 16 seconds of silent, black and white images show three Beaufort Bombers flying towards, then alongside the ship at 185 knots and just 50 feet above the water. As the flight commences the breakup, two of the planes clip each other and plummet into the bay, sinking in 100 feet of water. 

Deteriorating weather conditions on the afternoon of the accident continued other the next few days, hampering divers in their attempts to recover the crew of Beaufort A9-268. Efforts which were eventually discontinued on the Saturday and Ruth was advised that her husband’s body could not be recovered.

The Burial At Sea service for Flight Lieutenant David George Dey and his crew, acting observer and fellow South Australian, Jack Norman (/explore/people/510692) (WAOG), wireless operator Rex Lindsay Solomon (/explore/people/647917) (WAOG) and turret gunner, Hugh Sydney George Richardson (/explore/people/644801) (WAOG), was held on Jervis Bay on Sunday morning the 18th April 1943.

The crew of the lead aircraft, pilot Raymond Sydney Green (/explore/people/630215), navigator Maurice Francis Hoban (/explore/people/632336), and WOAG’s, Albert John Bailey (/explore/people/618701) and Eric William Sweetnam (/explore/people/649028), were recovered and buried at the Nowra War Cemetery (/explore/cemeteries/3206).     

David is officially remembered on the Sydney Memorial, along with other servicemen lost off Australia’s East Coast. In his hometown of Port Pirie, David and his brother, Sandy, are remembered on a number of memorials including the Port Pirie Memorial Gates and at the church where the family worshipped. Both boys' names appear on the St Peter’s Church Honour Board however it is stained glass window dedicated to their memory that conveys the depth of loss felt by both David's parents, his wife Ruth and the newborn daughter he never got to see.

 

Principal Sources:
National Archives of Australia: 
NAA: A9300, DEY D G and NAA: A705, 32/22/220.

Karen Standen 2016

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