Gordon Bruce HODDLE

Poppy

HODDLE, Gordon Bruce

Service Number: 413156
Enlisted: 16 August 1941, Sydney, New South Wales
Last Rank: Flying Officer
Last Unit: No. 550 Squadron (RAF)
Born: Lindfield, New South Wales, 23 August 1921
Home Town: Pymble, Ku-ring-gai, New South Wales
Schooling: Sydney CofE Grammar, Shore
Occupation: Junior clerk (BHP)
Died: Killed in Action (flying battle), Bavaria, 25 February 1944, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Durnbach Cemetery, Germany
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

16 Aug 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2, SN 413156, Sydney, New South Wales
24 Apr 1942: Embarked Royal Australian Air Force, Airman Pilot, SN 413156, SS President Munroe, Sydney (disembarked San Francisco)
25 Feb 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, SN 413156, No. 550 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45

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Biography contributed by Anthony Vine

Flying Officer Gordon Bruce Hoddle

Gordon Hoddle was the son of George James Hoddle and Eva Gertrude Hoddle of Pymble NSW. At the time of his enlistment in August 1941, Gordon was a junior clerk with BHP.

In 1939, Gordon’s sister Valda married Squadron Leader Owen (Bill) Blomfield,[1] an Australian serving in the RAF. It is possible that Blomfield influenced Gordon’s decision to join the RAAF. Gordon’s elder brother Neville[2] joined the 2nd AIF on graduating as a surgeon from the University of Sydney in 1943. He later served with the 2/14th Field Ambulance. Gordon’s eldest brother Roy was in a reserved occupation and served in the Volunteer Defence Corps.[3]

Gordon served in the 7th Field Brigade of the Militia as a gunner from 1939 until he enlisted in the RAAF. He completed his initial training at Bradfield Park before becoming a member of Pilots’ Course 19 at RAAF Narromine in early December 1942.

Gordon had only flown four hours with Course 19 when he contracted mumps. He was hospitalised for ten days and back-classed to Pilots’ Course 20. He recommenced flying on 12 December. He found the pace fierce and, by the time he should have gone solo in late December, he was still struggling with his landings. It did not help that his instructor, Sgt Hill, was a junior instructor and that Gordon was required to be checked for his solo flight by a senior instructor. The Flight Commander, F-Lt Barker, had failed Gordon on a check flight on 29 December; he was allowed an extra hour’s instruction before re-presenting himself on 2 January. Another failure would have seen him removed from the course. The extra hour clearly worked. He was examined by F-O Munro and this time he passed the check and made his first solo flight of thirty-five minutes. His relief, expressed in a letter to his brother Roy, was very evident.

Gordon passed his elementary training on 19 February, his landing problems behind him. In April 1942, he was selected to complete his flying training in Canada. After a short period of leave, he embarked on the SS President Monroe for San Francisco on 24 April 1942.

At 10 SFTS in Dauphin, Manitoba, Gordon trained on the Cessna Crane aircraft. He soloed on the Crane within nine days of arriving and worked steadily towards gaining his wings.

On 15 July, Gordon was flying as a navigator to a Canadian trainee LAC Doug Magee,[4] when, in Gordon’s words:

This afternoon I was navigator on No 4 X Country & my trainee pilot, as he came in to land – did not see another plane at another altitude. As the other plane saw & evaded us, a collision was averted by 20 feet. I was writing my log & looked up to see this Air/C flash past our nose – it was an act of God, I am sure, considering our combined speeds (a second longer would have been fatal). It was a severe shock to my pilot & we would have been on the mat if there had been an instructor in the other plane instead of two of our boys.[5]

The ‘two of our boys’ were Tom Campbell and Arthur Benson, who agreed that they should keep the incident to themselves.

On 25 September 1942, Gordon graduated as a pilot, was awarded his wings and commissioned as a pilot officer. Gordon and fourteen other Narromine men were selected to proceed immediately to the United Kingdom. After a few days’ leave in New York with his mate Harvey Tonkin he proceeded to an officers’ embarkation depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Ironically, his new-found status as an officer worked against him; while his fourteen course mates, who were all sergeants, had a very quick, independent Atlantic crossing on the RMS Queen Elizabeth, Gordon embarked on the cargo liner SS Beaverhill,[6] which sailed in a convoy that was attacked by U-boats. The trip took almost three times as long as the Queen Elizabeth’s and Gordon did not arrive at 11 PDRC in Bournemouth until 8 November.

Within a couple of weeks, Gordon was on seven days’ leave to visit some English Hoddle cousins. In late December, he commenced advanced flying training at 15 AFU(P) at RAF Greenham Common. There, he flew on Oxford aircraft. He joined 27 OTU at RAF Lichfield in Staffordshire on 2 March 1943. On 25 March, Gordon was promoted to flying officer. At Lichfield, he formed the nucleus of his crew and they began their operational training on the same day he was promoted to flying officer..

 The training at 27 OTU was on the Wellington bomber. By late May, Gordon and his crew were at 1662 HCU at RAF Blyton in Lincolnshire learning to fly the Halifax bomber in preparation to join No. 166 Squadron RAF. At the HCU, the last members of the crew – the flight engineer and a second air gunner – joined them. After only a week of flying, their training was suspended as 166 Squadron had been directed to convert to Lancasters and priority was given to current members of the squadron ahead of new crews, and  Gordon’s crew had to wait almost ten weeks before resuming their training.

Within a month, Gordon had mastered the Lancaster. The crew were posted to C Flight,   166 Squadron RAF in late September 1943. On 1 October, they flew their first mission, to Hagen in the Ruhr. They flew with an experienced pilot, W-O Patterson, in command. Gordon was second pilot. Two days later, Gordon led the men on an operation against Ludwigshafen, followed by missions to Stuttgart on 7 October, Hannover on the 18th, Leipzig on the 20th, Kassel on the 22nd and Düsseldorf on 3 November. On 8 October, they had to abort a mission when the port outer engine became unserviceable (U/S).

In early November, the men had a break from operations. On 22 November, they flew their first mission to Berlin in a Lancaster JB145. It was their fifth operation in the aircraft and it would also be their last operation with 166 Squadron.

In late November 1943, No. 550 Squadron RAF was formed at Waltham, near Grimsby, North Lincolnshire. Its nucleus was Gordon’s C Flight, from 166 Squadron. The following month 550 Squadron moved to nearby North Killingholme. Gordon set off on his first mission with the new squadron on 16 December, but had to return when the vital rear gun turret became U/S. The crew then had bouts of illness that prevented them from flying, followed by leave over Christmas. They did not fly again until the turn of the New Year, when they had three operations to Berlin in four days, a feat they repeated again at the end of January 1944 – all in a new Lancaster, LM310.

By now Gordon was one of the most experienced pilots in the squadron. His crew had successfully completed fifteen of the seventeen operations to which they had been assigned. And on his next mission, to Berlin in mid-February, he had F-Lt Waycott,[7] the squadron’s senior air gunner flying with them. They would fly again on 17 February to Leipzig, to Stuttgart on the 20th and to Schweinfurt on the 24th – all in their faithful LM310.

The following night, 550 Squadron provided twelve aircraft to bomb the Messerschmitt factory in Augsburg. Gordon and his crew departed North Killingholme, not in LM310, but this time in Lancaster LL836. It was not a perfect night for operational flying. The sun had set over two hours before, but it was only one day after a full moon, making the bombers visible to enemy night fighters and anti-aircraft batteries.

Nothing was heard from Gordon’s aircraft after take off. It was brought down near Türkheim, a largish town to the south of Augsburg. Whatever happened, it must have been catastrophic. Only one member of the crew, the flight engineer Sgt D. P. Dingle,[8] survived the crash. Gordon Hoddle, F-O John Bryan (N),[9] F-Sgt Ken Fairbairn (BA),[10] Sgt Stan Hubbard (WO/AG),[11] F-Sgt Jim Boothroyd (AG)[12] and Sgt Tom Quine (AG)[13] were all killed. Dingle was taken prisoner. He later reported that he believed Gordon had still been on board when the aircraft crashed.

In a letter to Gordon’s father the following day, his commanding officer wrote:

 

Gordon had been with this squadron since its early days and had carried out many successful sorties against some of the most heavily defended areas in Germany and had proved himself to be an excellent Pilot whom we could ill afford to lose.[14]

 

On 28 March, he received a second letter. This one was from Dennis Dingle’s father, who was convinced that the men would be found safe. He told him that Dennis had described Gordon as a ‘wizard’ pilot.[15]

The men were buried in a communal grave in Türkheim. After the war, the bodies were exhumed and reburied at the Durnbach War Cemetery forty-five kilometres from Munich. The Germans had removed the men’s identity discs but Gordon’s body was positively identified by his RAAF tunic and his pilot’s brevet (his wings).

In 1948, Gordon’s parents booked tickets on the RMS Orion to visit the UK and Europe, to see Gordon’s grave and visit his sister Valda, who lived in England. Sadly, George Hoddle passed away suddenly one week before the liner sailed. Despite her loss, Eva took the trip to visit her daughter and the only survivor of Gordon’s crew, Sgt Dennis Dingle.

Flying Officer Gordon Bruce Hoddle, RAAF is buried in the Durnbach War Cemetery, Bayern, Germany alongside five members of his crew.

 

                             CHAPTER 20



[1] Sqn Ldr Owen Hugh Dunon (Bill) Blomfield; electrical engineer, psychoanalyst and psychiatrist; b. 28 Sep 1912; d. 6 Jun 2000.
[2] Capt Neville George Hoddle, 2nd AIF; medical practitioner of Pymble NSW; b. Lindfield, NSW, 11 Mar 1920; d. 9 Jul 1977.
[3] Pte Roydon James Hoddle, 8th Bn VDC; wool buyer of St Ives NSW; b. Annandale, NSW 30 Sep 1911.
[4]  F-Lt Douglas Thomas Magee, DFC, 14417, RCAF.
[5] G. Hoddle, diary entry for 15 Jul 1942.
[6] SS Beaverhill CPR Cargo Liner, 10,000 dwt, built Glasgow 1928, wrecked off New Brunswick in 1944.
[7] F-Lt William Hugh Waycott, DFM, RAFVR; KIA 11 Apr 1944, aged 22.
[8] Sgt Dennis P. Dingle, 1604425, RAFVR; Dingle was held at Stalag Luft V in Wolfen.
[9] F-O John William Bryan, 143853, RAFVR; KIA 25 Feb 1942.
[10] F-Sgt Kenneth McLean Fairbairn, 1393603, RAFVR; of Edinburgh, Scotland; KIA 25 Feb 1942, aged 25.
[11] Sgt Stanley George Hubbard, 1333708, RAFVR; of Welling, Kent, UK; KIA 25 Feb 1942, aged 21.
[12] F-Sgt James Kenneth Boothroyd, 1359010, RAFVR; KIA 25 Feb 1942.
[13] Sgt Thomas Frederick Quine, 1524562, RAFVR; of Andreas, Isle of Man; KIA 25 Feb 1944, aged 23.
[14] National Archives of Australia: A705, 166/18/298.
[15] Letter from Frederick W. Dingle to George Hoddle, dated 28 Mar 1944.

 

Reference: High in a Sunlit Silence, Vivid Publishing, 2017, by Commander Tony Vine RANt, uploaded by author

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