Northwest Thailand during World War II

Details of Aircraft Losses by Date


Text Notes

06 Oct 1944:[1] Note that this loss was one of three by the RAF this date on this mission, and individual details of the three have been sometimes difficult to differentiate. The three losses were BZ978, BZ992, and EV940.

A Liberator B.VI[1a] with the designation BZ992 was homebased with Squadron 159 at Digri Airfield, India[1b] (N22°46.93 E87°21.99):[2]

B-24J B.VI

And on or about this date, it participated in a 16 bomber raid on the Thai railway north of Bangkok.[3]

Ban Dara Flight plan

On a low-level bombing run on the Ban Dara Railway Bridge (N17°22.34 E100°04.60),[3a] the B-24 was hit by ground fire and immediately caught fire. The captain was able to gain sufficient altitude for five crew members to parachute safely to ground; four others were killed either in the attack or the subsequent crash of the plane. The survivors were eventually sent to a Thai-controlled "internment" facility.[3b]


Leo Arthur Barr (417002)
Reginald Thomas Hocking (407291)
Ronald W Derrick (1318896)
TW Rutter (1803261)
David McDonald Bruce (CAN.J12276)

Casualties: no known graves. Names are listed on the rolls at the Singapore Memorial:

John Arthur NELSON (423854)
John Squire RATCLIFFE (1894746)
Clive Symes SWAN (416627)
Patrick HOGAN (1522977)*

The wreckage can be assumed to have eventually found its way into a Japanese scrap metal drive.[3c]


Allied Eastern Air Command Weekly Intelligence Summary, 13 Oct 1944:[4]

Section I. Resume of Daily Air Operations, p 7:

06 Oct - Two Liberators of 159 Squadron missing from low level attack on Bangkok-Chiengmai railway [one of those being BZ992].

Section V. AA Fire Encountered-Week Ending 08 October 1944,
p 3 [and see Captain Bantao Punsri, directly below]:

Date: 6/10
Time: -
Place: DARA Bridge
Type: [Machine Gun]
Height: -
Accuracy: Acc.
Intensity: -
Reported by: 159 Sq. Libs
Remarks and Comments: From S end bridge. 2 a/c damaged [again, one of those being BZ992] . . . .

• Captain Bantao Punsri, Royal Thai Army[5]

Bantao story

Translation: Later Allied aircraft were attacking bridges, especially the one at Ban Dara, on the railway to the north. I was put in charge of installing anti-aircraft guns on the train and at the foot of Ban Dara bridge. The one on the train had a tripod mount which made it difficult to swivel round; so I got permission to change the tripod stand to a monopod so that I could turn the gun round when I shot. It worked so well that I shot a B-24 down at Uttaradit, and the gun at Ban Dara shot down another B-24. We took two prisoners at Uttaradit and five from Ban Dara; 15 were killed. [page 69]

His wife added details:

Bantao 2

Translation: Khun Bantao told me long ago that he had thought about how to improve a gun sight. He wanted it to be larger so that he could see a target more clearly: the one originally provided with the gun was a small square sight and he developed a larger oval one to replace it using rod from an umbrella frame. He told me about the number of prisoners and deaths from aircraft that had been shot down. He informed his commander in a telegram (which a kind soldier showed me so that I didn't need to worry about my husband) that he suspected two more aircraft had been shot down because he saw them leaving the target trailing flames. He learned later that he was right: one had been shot down at the border and another went down in the sea. [page 71]


•The two B-24s, BZ292 (here) and EV940 (over Uttaradit) were clearly brought down by ground fire, presumably faciliated by Bantao's innovation.
• The one that went down in the sea might well have been BZ978, also a possible victim (delayed) of ground fire, though not named in messages from BZ978 before it ditched (Umemoto doesn't commit to an identity for the "Shooter" of BZ978, leaving it to a Ki-43 or AA fire).
• But the aircraft shot down at the border is an unknown.

Ozel, Thai Air Accidents, p 2:

Just before midnight on 05Oct44, 16 Liberators from 159 Sqdn took off for a low level raid on the railway just north of Bangkok. . . . As they arrived just after dawn on 06Oct44, they were attacked by Ki-43 fighters from the Japanese 50th and 64th Sentai. The Japanese made two claims, one by Sgt. A. Kato and a second one by Cpls Yamaguchi, Ikeda, R. Yamamoto and W. Niwa. According to Kato the bomber he was firing at suddenly swerved and hit a second one, both going down, reportedly in the Bay of Bengal, north of Cape Negrais.

From BZ978, 5 killed . . . 3 survived . . . .

From BZ992, 4 killed (Patrick Hogan, George Kernohan, Kenneth Gordon Prichard & John Squire Ratcliffe); 5 bailed out and survived as POW's (Leo Arthur Barr, David McDonald Bruce, Reginald Thomas Hocking, T. W. Rutter & Ronald W. Derrick)

Comment: available accounts from RAF crews and Umemoto's text do not support Japanese pilot Kato's claim that RAF aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision.

Royal Air Force Commands: Liberator BZ992 (Sep 2019)[6]

Liberator BZ992
Aircraft Accident / Loss Entry
Date of Crash: 06 Oct 44
Aircraft name: Liberator VI
Serial Number: BZ992
Unit: 159 Sqdn

Missing from attack on Siam-Burma railway.

Takeoff 0001hrs. Detailed to attack Bangkok-Chiang Mai railway targets in daylight at low level. At approximately 0615 hrs ground fire from the defense of Ban Dara Bridge, Siam ignited the aircraft. The skipper, 417002 W/O Leo Arthur Barr RNZAF, gained height to about 800 feet and five, including W/O Barr, were able to bail out and land safely. The other four members either died in the aircraft or in the resultant crash; they have no known graves. Local villagers turned the five survivors over to the local police, with no ill treatment. Japanese soldiers tried to persuade the Thai police to turn over the prisoners, but in the confusion of a Liberator attack the police spirited the airmen to safety. Turned over to the Siamese army on 7 Oct, the men were sent to internment in Bangkok where they were released on 20 August 1945. They were treated well in Thai custody.

Extracts from an affidavit [edited] of David Bruce, BZ992 navigator:[6a]

On October 6, 1944, I was attached to 159 Squadron, RAF Group 231, operating from Digri, Bengal. We were flying Liberators. At 0001 hours we took off to do a low level attack on railways in Northern Siam. The crew was composed of myself as navigator and bomb aimer; Warrant Officer Barr as first pilot (RNZAF); Flying Officer Hocking, RAAF, as mid-upper gunner; Sergeant Derrick, RAF, as wireless operator; Sergeant Rutter, RAF, as flight engineer; Sergeant Kernohan, RAF, as ball gunner; Sergeant Kenneth Prichard, RAF, second pilot and Sgts John Ratcliffe and Patrick Hogan.

At approximately 0615 hours ground fire from the defence of Ban Dara Bridge, near Ban Dara town, N17°22.42 E100°04.60, ignited our aircraft and the skipper gained height to about 800 feet and five of us were able to bale out and landed safely. The other four members either died in the aircraft or in the resultant crash.

The five of us who landed safely were Barr, Hocking, Derrick, Rutter and myself. We were captured by local villagers and we eventually ended up in a European Internment Camp in Bangkok. We were soon joined by the two surviving crew members of BZ978 which had been shot down during the same raid.

• Shores, 2005:[7]

Saturday, 07 October 1944

During the last minute of the previous day, 16 Liberators of 159 Squadron took off for a raid on the railway north of Bangkok at low level; they were joined by eight more bombers from 355 and 356 Squadrons. . . .

204th Sentai pilots claimed another Liberator near Bangkok, and yet another was claimed by AA crews. . . .


• The date is incorrect per review in footnote 1.

• BZ992 is recorded by affidavit of crew member as having been brought down by ground fire, possibly the aircraft here credited to anti-aircraft crews (claim for "another Liberator near Bangkok" is not supported by RAF records).

• Umemoto, 2002:[8]

Entry for 159 Squadron B-24 (Umemoto, v 2, p 519, line 4)
English translation
  06 Oct 1944
159 Sqn
  159 Squadron
  B-24 Heavy Bomber
  Warrant Officer LA Barr
バンコック チェンマイ間
  Between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
204 •—式戦II型または対空砲火 
  204th Sentai: Ki-43 II or AA fire
  3 interned, 5 killed in action

  Umemoto comment:[8a]

翌10月6日、5時30分(現地時間、日本時間なら8時、以下同)、目標上空に達した第159飛行隊 のB24は爆撃を開始。リベレーターは編隊を組まず、単機ずつで攻撃を行った。まず、バール准尉のB 24が行方不明になった。だが、38日後、バール機の搭乗者8名のぅち、3名が捕虜になっていることが 判明した。

The following morning, October 6, at 5:30 (local time . . .), 159th Squadron B-24s reached the target area and started attacking. The Liberators did not maintain any formation, but one aircraft simply followed another in to attack each target. Warrant Officer Barr's B-24 [BZ992, targeting Ban Dara] first went missing. 38 days later, it was discovered that three of the eight crewmembers on the Barr plane had been taken prisoner.


• In the event table,

• The "Shooter" is identified as either a Ki-43 which would have been flown by the IJAAF or ground-based anti-aircraft fire. No pilot's name is potentially credited for the shootdown.

• In "Details", the death count of "5" differs from RAF records which show 4, while the number of crewmembers interned, 3, differs from RAF records which show 5.

• In the text,

• The text continues with the error of three, not five successfully bailing out.

• The text does not address the reason for giving a choice of "Shooters" in the event table.

Summary of reported locations of BZ992's crash site:[9]

No information is available.


Revision List
2021 Dec 22
First published on Internet
2022 Jan 05
Crewmen list added




References are provided in this column to encourage the reader to do further research. Please advise author of any errors or possible additions.

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1.^ Dates recorded for the event are not consistent, and that seems partly a function of the flight having taken off around midnight:

Royal Air Force Commands: Liberator EV940 records 06 Oct 1944, and is assumed to be correct per "Circumstantial report on Liberator "W" 978 - missing from operations on morning of 06 Oct 1944", Item 4: "The aircraft took off from Digri as briefed at 23.33 hrs. 5.10.44."

Umemoto [梅本弘, ビルマ航空戦・上 [Air War in Burma, Vol 2] (Tokyo: Dai Nippon, 2002)], p 519, line 6, records 06 Oct (MIA on attack on Bangkok-Chiengmai railrway, Thailand/Burma).

USAF Serial Number Search Results records EV 940 (Consolidated No 64088) as "Lost Oct 8, 1944".

Shores appears to use 07 Oct 1944 [Shores, Christopher, Bloody Shambles, Vol Three (London: Grub Street, 2005), p 270 (see References below).

1a.^ Liberator B.VI was the RAF designation for Consolidated B-24Js delivered to the RAF under Lend-Lease (Liberator VI/VIII for RAF, website maintained by Joseph F. Baugher).

1b.^ Digri Airfield.

2.^ Coordinates per Digri Airfield, about 100 km WNW of Kolkata (Calcutta). Photo is from Liberator B VI.

3.^ Extract from Google Maps; annotated by author with Microsoft Publisher.

The waypoint shown, Cheduba Island (N18°52 E93°29), is an assumption since a USAAF B-24 flying to bomb Kuang Luang Bridge on 21 Nov 1944 used Sagu Island (now Saku) on the east side of a channel from Cheduba, while an RAF Liberator B.VI which crashed near Nakhon Sawan on 29 May 1945 is recorded as having used Cheduba.

3a.^ Coordinates per Google Earth.

3b.^ Royal Air Force Commands: Liberator BZ992. *But note that while an affidavit (excerpted in the Text below) states four casualties, the website only names three; Matt Poole adds HOGAN.

And see Essex New War Memorial, which differs, replacing:
  KERNOHAN (1796515)
but note that RAF Commands lists these two in the BZ978 crew. Essex offers no reference for its version.

3c.^ As described in ชีวิตของมาซาโอะ เชโตะ ผู้ถูกพ่อและญี่ปุ่นทอตทิ้ง เล่ม 1, แปลจาก : Seto Masao no Jinsel (ชีวิตของมาซาโอะ เชโตะ), แปลโดย : บ้ณทิต ประดิษฐานุวงษ์ [Seto, Masao, Life of Masao Seto, Book 1,
p 160 [my ref: 03400 Boggett/Seto xlatn]

4.Excerpt from Eastern Air Command Weekly Intelligence Summary (aka EAC-WIS), 13 Oct 1944, Section I, page 7, and Section V, page 3, from the US Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, AL, provided by Sakpinit Promthep via his email 01:00 13 Dec 21.

5.^ Memorial of the Royal Cremation Ceremony of Air Chief Marshal Ajai Punsri, M.D., TCSC, 25 Sep 2001, pp 69, 71; per Sakpinit Promthep email of 18:00 12 Dec 2021; translated by Wiyada Kantarod.
































6.^ More information is available at "Related Posts" in RAF Commands, Liberator BZ992 webpage with input relevant here by Matt Poole.












6a.^ Matt Poole, RAF Thread: POWs held in Thailand, 10 Sep 2019.
















7.^ Shores, ibid, p 270.












8.^ Umemoto, ibid, p 519, line 6. Translated by Google Translate, edited by author.





8a.^ Umemoto, ibid, p 293. Translated by Google Translate, edited by author.















9.^ To add a personal note, the author is interested in tying down the crash site location for the historical record; but also for a visit to the area to possibly interview anyone --- witnesses, or those, more realistically these many years later, with second hand information about the crash.