Northwest Thailand during World War II

Details of Aircraft Losses by Date
24 Nov 1944: KW403 (location unknown)


Text Notes

24 Nov 1944: Two flights of two RAF 177 Squadron Beaufighters were dispatched from their home base at Chiringa, India on this date to strafe traffic on the road connecting Lampang and Chiang Rai in Thailand.[1]


Two of the 177 Beaufighters flew out at 0700 hours on the mission; finding the valley obscured by a 2,000 foot cloud base, the two diverted west to the Chiang Mai-Fang Road for the same purpose, and with some success, and returned around 1245 hours. At 1400, two more 177 Beaufighters, KW403 and NV376, flew out on the same mission. NV376 lost power in its port engine near Pyinmana and returned to Chiringa about 1715, leaving KW403 to carry on the mission alone. KW403 never returned.

The assumed flight path is shown below:[2]


Pyinmaya is called out because NV376 turned back at this point. That location suggests that the flight was headed for Lampang, rather than Chiang Rai, to begin its sweep.

Entry in Summary of Events in 177 Squadron Operation Record Book for disappearance of KW403 on 24 Nov 1944:[3]


Text, transcribed, expanded, reads:

Four Beaufighters [two leaving at 0700 hours and returning at 1245; two leaving at 1400, with one returning at 1715 and the other not returning]. Attack on roads CHIENGRAI - LAMPANG. Mist falling in valleys on morning sorties but otherwise clear. One [motor transport] destroyed and one steam roller damaged. Of the afternoon sortie one aircraft (S/Ldr HB HUNT DSO, DFC) lost power in port engine owing to failure of throttle control and aircraft returned to base to land safely. The remaining aircraft was left to proceed to the target area. No news was received of this aircraft and the crew (1388715 F/SGT HUDSON, WJ and 1578244 F/SGT SMITH, JK) are reported Missing Particulars unknown. They had not been long with the Squadron but they will be missed.

Entry in Records of Events in 177 Squadron Operation Record Book for disappearance of KW403 on 24 Nov 1944:[4]


Text (referring to NV376) transcribed, reads:

Aircraft went out on track until 1635 to position 30 miles east and slightly north of PYINMANA. The port engine lost power owing to failure of throttle control and aircraft returned making a safe landing at base.

On 22 September 1949, a brief letter from the British War Office to the British Air Ministry recorded that the American Graves Registration Service (GRS) had discovered the remains of the KW403 crew in the Chiang Mai area and disinterred them, and asked for information about the current location of the graves:[4a]

The response dated 30 September 1949 was timely, but indicated no answer from the Americans, and referred to a previous communication of 09 May 1949 from the Air Ministry as basis for statusing them as "Graves not located".[4b]

A Chiang Mai diarist, Pastor Meungjai Chaninpan, whose jottings helped identify two air crashes in the Chiang Mai, those of an IJAAF Ki-48 on 06 June 1943 at Chiang Mai Airport and a USAAF P-38 near Mae Rim on 27 May 1945, recorded six B-24s bombing the railway station area on 24 November 1944,[4c] but nothing of the downing of a single Allied aircraft in the area on that date.


The crash site has not been located and the names of the two crew members are carried on lists in the Singapore Memorial in the Kranji War Cemetery:

Within Kranji War Cemetery stands the SINGAPORE MEMORIAL, bearing the names of over 24,000 casualties of the Commonwealth land and air forces who have no known grave. . . .The memorial also commemorates airmen who died during operations over the whole of southern and eastern Asia and the surrounding seas and oceans.[5]


• Shores, 2005:[6]

. . . on 24th [November 1944] one of four 177 Squadron aircraft was lost during a strafe when Flt Sgt WHJ Hudson's KW403 failed to return, the pilot and his navigator, Flt Sgt JK Smith, both being lost.

• Umemoto, 2002:[7]

Entry for Hudson (Umemoto, v 2, p 523)
English translation
  24 Nov 1944
117Sqn [sic]
  117th Squadron
  WO Hudson
  Northern Thailand
  Engine failure
  M/S Smith on board;
  both missing in action

  Umemoto comment:[8]


On the 24th, Squadron 177 dispatched a patrol to Northerrn Thailand. "Mike" Hunt's wingman, WO Hudson, with M/S Smith, complained of an engine malfunction and turned back. It is unknown what happened to them.[9]


• It would appear that Umemoto received a garbled version of the event in which the roles of "Mike" Hunt and WO Hudson were reversed.

• Though not showing in Royal Air Force Commands webpages pertinent to this action, "Mike" as a nickname for HB Hunt appears elsewhere.[10]


Afterword: the location of the crash site of Beaufighter KW403 with WO Hudson and F/Sgt Smith remains unresolved.


Revision List
2022 Jan 02
First published on Internet
2023 Aug 04
War office correspondence added; title changed; links updated



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1.^ Photo: Bristol Beaufighter TF Mark X, RD767






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














3.^  Operations Record Book, in RAF and Commonwealth Air Forces, No.177 Squadron Summary of Events, AIR-27-1117-19, pdf page 7.













4.^ Operations Record Book, in RAF and Commonwealth Air Forces, No.177 Squadron Records of Events, AIR-27-1117-20, pdf page 24.






4a.^ Part 202245-Liberator BZ992 Washington Eng.pdf, provided by Ben Svasti email of 11:51 06 Apr 2022.

4b.^ Ibid



4c.^ The Official Chronology of the US Army Airforce in World War II: 1944 does not mention such an attack.




5.^ SINGAPORE MEMORIAL: Hudson is listed on Column 433, while Smith is listed on Column 435.



6.^ Shores, Christopher, Air War for Burma, Bloody Shambles, Vol Three (London: Grub Street, 2005), p 288.



7.^ 梅本弘 [Umemoto, Hiroshi], ビルマ航空戦・上 [Air War in Burma, Vol 2] (Tokyo: Dai Nippon, 2002)], pp 523.






8.^ Umemoto, ibid, p 328: text covering activities on 24 Nov 1944.


9.^ Japanese translations by Google Translate; edited by author.



10.^ Brown, A. Sutherland "Indian Days and Burmese Nights: Flying Beaufighters in Southeast Asia with 177 RAF Squadron." Canadian Military History 4, 2 (1995), p 12.