Albert John BAILEY

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BAILEY, Albert John

Service Number: 409976
Enlisted: 7 November 1941
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: Base Torpedo Unit (Nowra)
Born: Nareen, Victoria, 21 August 1920
Home Town: Coleraine, Southern Grampians, Victoria
Schooling: Konongwootong State School
Occupation: Farming (tractor and truck work)
Died: Accidental, Jervis Bay, New South Wales, Jervis Bay, Australia, 14 April 1943, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Nowra War Cemetery
Grave B. A. 2, Nowra War Cemetery, Nowra, New South Wales, Australia
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

7 Nov 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, SN 409976
7 Nov 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 409976
31 Jan 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman
24 Sep 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant
14 Apr 1943: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 409976, Base Torpedo Unit (Nowra)

Help us honour Albert John Bailey's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Karen Standen

Albert John Bailey was born on the 21st August 1920 in the Nareen farming district, located west of Hamilton in Victoria. His parents, Thomas ‘Dixie’ Frederick Bailey and Mary Bailey, had moved to the area prior to the outbreak of the First World War.

Schooling for their children was often difficult in the early years, as many schools in the area were upwards of 12 miles apart. This became much easier for Albert when the Konongwootong North State School (No 4362) opened in 1927. He was among the first students to attend this school and gained his merit certificate at age 13. Albert left school to work on the family farm. While this was not unusual, for Albert’s family it was a necessity. His father had died two years earlier, in 1931.

Albert was a typical country lad who enjoyed swimming, playing cricket and had a long running rivalry for district tennis champion, with another local boy, Patrick Murtagh. He worked hard and having grown up in the small community was well known throughout the district, as were his family. Albert’s mother Mary, remarried in 1936 to local man Arthur Ingham.

The Second World War was well into its second year when Albert, not yet 21, completed his RAAF ‘Application For Air Crew’ form and asked his mother, Mary Ingham, to sign her consent. Albert received a Rail Warrant from the RAAF Recruiting Centre in Melbourne, requesting he attend an interview and medical in the city at 8 am on Thursday 26th June 1941. Albert was accepted and enrolled in the RAAF Reserve. It would be four months before he received his call up, enlisting on the 7th November 1941.

Albert’s first three months in the RAAF, were spent at the No 1 Initial Training School (1ITS) near Somers in Victoria. This was followed by six months at the No 2 Wireless Air Gunners School (2WAGS) in Parkes NSW and a further month at the No 2 Bombing and Gunnery School (2BAGS) in Port Pirie SA. On completion of these courses, Albert was remustered to Wireless Operator Air Gunner (WOAG) and promoted to Temporary Sergeant. He was then sent to the No 1 Operational Training Unit (1OTU) in Bairnsdale, Victoria for two months, before joining the Base Torpedo Unit (/explore/units/1478) (BTU) in Nowra NSW, on the 18 December 1942.

While stationed at BTU, Albert was granted two periods of recreational leave. One of those included eight days over Christmas 1942, the additional two days travel time, enabling him to return home to Coleraine.

On the evening of Tuesday the 13th April 1943, Albert was assigned to the crew of Beaufort A9-27 for the following days flying program. This aircraft, piloted by Flying Officer Green, was to be the lead aircraft of Red Flight. Their task was to perform a number of torpedo demonstration flights for the accredited war correspondents and photographers visiting Jervis Bay.  

As the program was drawing to a close, Red Flight was 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 and as a result, the BTU Commanding Officer who was on board the ship, radioed the aircraft, instructing 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. 

Albert’s body was recovered from the wreckage of Beaufort A9-27 by divers on the afternoon of the accident. As next of kin, his mother Mary, received the telegrams advising her of her son’s death and funeral.  

Sergeant Albert John Bailey was buried with Full Air Force Honours in Grave B. A. 2., at the Nowra War Cemetery (/explore/cemeteries/3206), on Thursday the 15th April 1943, aged 22. Buried beside him on the same day were fellow crew members, pilot Raymond Sydney Green (/explore/people/630215) and navigator Maurice Francis Hoban (/explore/people/632336).  The last member of their crew, and fellow WOAG, Eric William Sweetnam (/explore/people/649028) was buried alongside them two days later.   

The crew of Beaufort A9-268, who had been flying in the number two position, were never recovered. A burial at sea service was conducted for, pilot David George Dey (/explore/people/511977), acting observer Jack Norman (/explore/people/510692), wireless operator Rex Lindsay Solomon (/explore/people/647917) and turret gunner Hugh Sydney George Richardson (/explore/people/644801), at 1030 Sunday the 18th April 1943 on Jervis Bay.

Mary Ingham nominated Coleraine as Albert’s ‘Roll of Honour’ location.  Leaning against the Coleraine WW1 Cenotaph, is a large granite tablet engraved with the 48 names of those from the district ‘who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II’.  F/SGT BAILEY A.J. is one of those listed, as it would appear is his old tennis rival PTE MURTAGH P.

 

Principal Sources:
National Archives of Australia: 
NAA: A9301, 409976 and NAA: A705, 32/22/220.

Karen Standen 2016

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