Flt Sgt Rawdon Hume Middleton VC

Discussion in 'Biographies' started by Adrian Roberts, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    I mentioned Flt Sgt RH Middleton RAAF in the thread on Newton VC, but he certainly deserves a thread of his own. His feat is one of the most moving examples of human endurance that I know of.

    "Ron" Middleton was born near Sydney on 22nd July 1916, and worked as a "Jackaroo" on the Wee Wang sheep station, near Brogan Gate NSW.

    On the night of 28th November 1942 he was captain of a Stirling bomber BF372 of 149 sqdn, on his 29th mission. They were to attack the Fiat works at Turin, which meant a flight across the Alps, four hours each way. Stirlings had limited altitude performance and only four out of the seven even managed to cross the Alps.

    Over the target, the aircraft was hit several times by anti-aircraft fire. A shell exploded in the cockpit. The windscreen was smashed. Middleton's right eye was torn from it's socket, his jaw was smashed, and he had more wounds in his body and legs. He lost consciousness temporarily, and his second pilot, Flt Sgt LA Hyder, who was also seriously wounded, managed to regain control at 800 feet and drop the bombs, before receiving first aid from the other crew.

    Middleton determined to bring his crew back to the UK. For four hours, in great pain and barely able to see, he stayed at the controls, back over the Alps in the dark; only the fact that his blood froze in his wounds in the 200mph blast through the windscreen prevented him from losing consciousness.

    They eventually staggered over the English coast with five minutes of fuel remaining. He ordered his crew to bale out, and five of them did so and survived, but the front gunner and flight engineer stayed to help their captain. Middleton knew that if he baled out at that point the aircraft would crash into densely-populated areas. He steered the aircraft out over the sea off Dymchurch, and he must have ordered the last two crew to bale out because they were found in the sea with their parachutes open; sadly they had died of exposure. Middleton went into the sea with the aircraft; his body was washed ashore at Dover on 1st February.

    He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. [The Wikipedia entry, which is not my sole reference, says that he was posthumously promoted to pilot officer, but I had not heard that this was done in the British armed forces, and I would prefer confirmation of this]

    The full crew were:

    F/S RH Middleton RAAF pilot +
    F/S LA Hyder 2/pilot
    P/O GR Royde Observer
    P/O NE Skinner W/Op
    Sgt JE Jeffery F/Eng +
    Sgt SJ Mackie F/Gnr +
    F/S D Cameron M/U/Gnr
    Sgt HW Gough R/Gnr

    Royde was awarded a DFC, Hyder, Cameron and Gough DFMs. Sadly Jeffery and Mackie could not be given awards due to the posthumousness rules.
  2. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    Seems he was promoted Adrian. One of the grave photos I do not have.
    (nick down and get it for me in your lunch hour please):becky: He was also the great nephew of one of our most noted early explorers (Hamilton Hume)

    MIDDLETON, RAWDON HUME (Victoria Cross)
    Pilot Officer
    Royal Australian Air Force
    Row D. Grave 1.

    Roll of Honour circular
  3. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Meant to do the same, AR, but got way laid by, of all things, work! Despite his formidable strength of will to stay at the controls, what amazes me the most is how long it took for his body to be washed ashore. Very sad.
  4. morse1001

    morse1001 Guest

    Nice to see SNCO aircrew being recognised for their bravery. I would be interested to find out more about this promotion because I knew the japanese did it but never heard of it in he RAF!
  5. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    Pilot Officer Rawdon H. Middleton VC


    from: http://users.tpg.com.au/adsls7ld/middleton.html

  6. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    perhaps the greatest captain of aircraft under whom any crew will ever have the honour to serve, and of a front gunner and engineer to whom comradeship and company of that captain meant more than the certainty of safety

  7. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    Thanks for your quote Spidge; this is a fine and inspirational piece of writing.

    Unfortunately thats the way the tides work in the English Channel. It might also be to do with how long a seat harness takes to disintegrate in the sea. Eugene Esmonde's body was also not washed ashore for several months.

    I'm glad Morse also hadn't heard of this! It must certainly have been very rare.

    Unfortunately I never have occasion to go to Suffolk. Its not that far away, maybe a couple of hours drive, but in England that is a big deal because everything is on a smaller scale than in Australia, and for those of us who live south of the Thames, anything North of the Thames is a different country! I've spent more of my life on the European Continent than North of the Thames. The RAF Museum and the Shuttleworth Collection and Duxford are the only interesting places up there. (Now wait for Morse and Kitty to read this :peep:)
    But seriously, I have taken photos of the graves of some of my other heroes, mainly on the Western Front, and if I am anywhere near Suffolk, Middleton's grave would be high on my list.
  8. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    I was only joking.
  9. morse1001

    morse1001 Guest

    Ahem! There is the Museum of Flight at east Fortune! Its still growing! The annual airshow is a bit of a let down but its still worth a visit. Oh! and yes! you can get a sarnie from the cafe which is own by one of "the fat ladies"!
  10. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    It was indeed done a fair bit. When Spidge was doing his death by rank comparisons, I posted them on rafcommands, and was told that the rank as held on the CWGC was not always indicative of the rank that they held at the time of their death.

    There were a number of reasons:

    1) For officer ranks, the CWGC makes no differentiation between given ranks, temporary ranks and acting ranks. So if an individual is listed as Squadron Leader, one would need to go through the London Gazette to check promotions, and what type they were. However, temporary ranks were not usually gazetted, causing a fair bit of confusion for anyone researching an individual. For ORs, it was either because the paperwork hadn't caught up or as a reward.

    2) Commonwealth and Allied personnel who were not serving in British units were not usually LGed, so to find out their promotions etc one would need to go to their country of origin. Australia is the best served for government databases, and so one could find a fair bit of info. Unfortunately, the other countries are more difficult to check

    3) In some cases a posthumous promotion was the only way of recognising an individual because, as you state, Adrian, most medals could not be awarded.

    4) We also don't know whether, in this case, the promotion was a direct award for his bravery or that the paperwork had already been completed and was being processed. His service file has not been digitised yet and so I cannot check.

    However, he was definately promoted as evidenced by the fact that his citation states Sergeant and his CWGC/Australian Nominal Roll state Pilot Officer.
  11. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    'The Angry Sky'

    Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton VC.
    [Courtesy of Australia Post]

    '...In the face of overwhelming odds...'
    His devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds is unsurpassed in the annals of the Royal Air Force.
    [From Victoria Cross citation, Flight Sergeant Rawdon Hume Middleton]
    Funeral for Flight Sergeant Middleton.
    [AWM SUK10498]

    Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton, 149 Squadron RAF, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his courage. During a raid on Turin, Italy, on the night of 28-29 November 1942 a shell burst in the cockpit of his Stirling bomber. Although he was badly wounded, Middleton managed to fly the damaged aircraft back to England so his crew could bail out. He then flew out to sea and crashed the bomber to avoid hitting any houses. His body was washed up near Dover two months later. He was buried in the churchyard of St John’s, Beck Row, Mildenhall, Suffolk with full military honours. His Victoria Cross is in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
  12. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    I was about to ask if that was a recent stamp release and then saw the price on the stamp. We're now on 50c for letters, in case anyone is wondering what I'm on about, and have been for 10 years or so. Was this done on the 50th anniversary?

    Great quote from the link from a 3 Sqn man:
    … your whole time in operations you lived day by day.
    You don't think of tomorrow.
    There ain't no tomorrow…
  13. Janine Lawrence

    Janine Lawrence Nil illegitimum carborundum!

    Hi there
    I'm new to this website and live within a couple of miles of St Johns, Beck Row. I happened upon the church just this week (we haven't lived in the area long) and have taken some photos of Ron Middleton's grave and the cemetery. Shall I post them for you?
  14. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    Hi Janine,

    That would be a lovely gesture as he was certainly a hero. I do have his photos and those of the other 2,906 RAAF Australians who lie or are memorialised in the UK but would love to see how his headstone and the cemetery is being looked after today.

    Cheers from Oz

  15. Janine Lawrence

    Janine Lawrence Nil illegitimum carborundum!

    Hi Spidge will gladly do! I tried to download them onto the sit, but they're too big! Is there another way?
  16. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    Hi Janine,
    Send them to me full res and I will resize and send them back to you to post.
    Spidge AT bigpond.net.au
    Change the AT to @

  17. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    Hi Janine,

    Finally succeeded.


    Geoff P1000682.JPG P1000683.JPG P1000684.JPG P1000685.JPG P1000686.JPG P1000687.JPG P1000689.JPG
  18. Janine Lawrence

    Janine Lawrence Nil illegitimum carborundum!

    They look great! Thanks for that, Geoff. Much appreciated.
  19. Chive

    Chive New Member

    (Quoting from Stuart Bill's excellent biography "Middleton VC"): Pete Gough...recalls that Middleton had known he was to be commissioned:
    "Ron expected notification of his commission and had his officer's uniform folded in his room ready for wearing. He was a super pilot and could land anything. On one occasion I saw him make a daylight belly-landing when the undercarriage was useless, only bending the propellor tips and slightly damaging the bomb doors. When special tests were required, the CO always singled out Ron for the job" (Bill 1991, pp. 158-9).​

Share This Page