Beaufighters, Bravery and Lost Airmen
By John Quaife
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $32.99 in paperback | ISBN 9781922615428
The story of Beaufighter pilot James Hakewill and his navigator Fred Sides who died on 5 December 1944 when their aircraft slammed into a German gunboat in a fjord in Norway came to light through the work of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal.
Author AVM John Quaife (retired) chaired the panel that considered the pilot for the award of a posthumous Victoria Cross. While it was determined the award was not possible, Quaife was granted access to the material assembled in support of the review. It is this that inspired him to write the story of this little known act of sacrifice.
In fact official records from no 455 Squadron contain no mention of the aircraft hitting the ship. No one in the squadron knew what had happened. In all, 157 young men were killed over a period of just four years while serving with No 455 Squadron.
Viking Boys tells the stories of these two men and reveals the experiences of young Australians who fought and flew against German shipping in the fjords of Norway – and called themselves the Viking Boys.
At the entrance to Orsta fjord, down an overgrown path, a granite stone stands on a rocky outcrop at the water’s edge. Roughly inscribed in English, it records the loss of two young Australians. The stone was erected in 1947 by parents grieving the loss of their son. Each year villagers of Orsta pay homage to the sacrifice of these two young Australians who died to restore their freedom.