Seven years ago when I first started collecting medals,
my father, whose group of medals was the first in my collection, said "You
should ask Aunty Aloma for Uncle Rohan's Medals. He won the DFC twice in the
last war." Fancy that, if not for my hobby I would never have known that my
father's relative was a war hero. After doing some research and with the
help of Mrs. Aloma Amerasekera and the offices of the RAF, London and the
SLAF, Colombo, and the No
640 Squadron Associations, I have pieced
together his story.
Ekanayake Edward Amerasekera was born in Kegalle, Ceylon on May 21, 1916,
and was one of the seven children of Edward Henry Ekanayake Amerasekera and
Joselina Amerasekera (nee' de Silva Samarasinghe Siriwardena). Orphaned at
the age of four, he was brought up by his uncle and aunt, Victor and Eda de
Silva Siriwardena and later lived with his eldest sister, Hyacinth and her
husband, Ashley Peiris at 'Ash Court', Kegalle. He received his education at
Wesley College in Colombo (1925-29), Kingswood College in Kandy (1929-32),
St. Mary's, Kegalle (1933-34) and at the Pembroke Academy (1935-39). Early
in his life an astrologer had predicted that one day he will be a great
commander, but young Edward could not figure out how that would come about.
At the outbreak of the war Edward joined the Army, but his sister and other
family members objected and somehow got him out before he was shipped
overseas. He, then, secretly applied to join the RAF on Sept 19, 1940, was
selected and left for England with the first batch of RAF Recruits from
Ceylon in June 1941 on the S.S. Exeter.
They reached England on Sept 28, 1941 and he enlisted at Euston on Sept 30,
1941 as an Aircraftman 2nd class RAFVR with the service number 1396932. He
was reinstated as U/T Observer on Nov 3, 1941 and posted to 5 ITW on Dec 13,
1941. On Feb 20, 1942 he was promoted to Leading Aircraftman and was posted
to 1 Empire Air Navigation School on May 2, 1942, followed by a posting to
the 1 Advanced Flying Unit on Sept 26, 1942.
As a young RAF Airman in training, England 1941
On Nov 30, 1942 he was remustered as an Air
Navigator, promoted to Temporary
Sergeant and posted to the 10 OTU in Abingdon, Berkshire, where he
'crewed up' with Sgt. Stan Emms' crew. They were sent on April 27,
1943 to the 1652 HCU to convert from Whitleys to the heavier Halifax
bombers and on June 13, 1943 they got their first squadron posting
to No 158 Squadron based at Lissett, Yorkshire.
This Squadron was equipped with Halifax II's and engaged in
strategic bombing duties. They flew their first mission on June 21,
1943 to Krefeld. Whilst with this Squadron, on July 29, 1943 he was
commissioned as a Pilot Officer, General Duties (Navigator) Branch
RAFVR with the Service number 155926.
By Sept 7, 1943 they had completed 16 Operations and it was at this
time that they were posted to
No 35 Squadron of the Pathfinder
Force. The PFF had asked for a volunteer crew from No 158 Squadron
and though they had not volunteered they were sent. They spent the
rest of September training with the PFF Navigation Training Unit and
when it was known to the PFF that they had not volunteered for
Pathfinder duties, they were posted back to No 158 Squadron in early
October, 1943 to continue their tour.
These transfers show up in the RAF Records as follows-
No 158 Squadron microfilm shows "...13 June 1943 arrived with crew
ex-1652 Conversion Unit. Sept 1943 Posted to No 35 Squadron." No 35
Squadron's records show "Amerasekera posted in W.E.F. 29 July 1943
from No 158 Squadron. Posted back to 158 Squadron 4 Oct 1943."
P/O Amerasekera flew a total of 20 missions with Sgt. Stanley W.
Emms and crew from 21 June 1943 to 18 Nov 1943 before he was
screened to do a tour of instruction. These missions were flown just
before the end of the Battle of the Ruhr, through the Battle of
Hamburg and at the beginning of the Battle of Berlin, and included
targets such as Krefeld, Wuppertal, Gelsenkirchen, Koln, Aachen,
Hamburg, Peenemunde, Berlin, Essen, Mannheim and Monchen-Gladbach.
Twelve of these missions were flown on the aircraft HR755/NP-X (Xpress
Surviving members of Emms' crew at a Squadron
Left to Right - John McGuire, Stan Emms and Geoff Almond
The crew consisted of F/Sgt. Stanley W.
Emms (Pilot), P/O E.E.Amerasekera (Nav), F/O P.H.Ackling
(B/A), W/O Geoffrey S. Almond (Wop), Sgt. D.G.Cree (M/U/G),
P/O John McGuire (R/G) and
Sgt. W.S.H.Strong (F/E). The crew
were decorated at the end of their tour, mainly for
dedication and bravery shown on Nov 11, 1943 on their
mission to Cannes. This incident is mentioned below in
Amerasekera's DFC Citation. Emms, Cree and Strong received
the DFM, Almond was awarded the Bar to his DFM (he had won
his DFM previously with
No 102 Squadron), which was one of
60 issued for WW2 & Amerasekera, McGuire and Ackling were
awarded the DFC. McGuire rose to the rank of Wing Commander,
receiving the OBE in addition to his DFC. Today, McGuire,
Emms and Almond are the only surviving members of that crew.
Amerasekera was promoted to Flying Officer on Jan 29, 1944
and was awarded the DFC (L/G Feb 15, 1944). The Citation is
as follows- "This officer has displayed a high degree of
courage and determination in navigating his aircraft to the
target and back, often under great difficulties. In November
1943 whilst on a flight to a distant target, the oxygen
supply failed early in the sortie. P/O. Amerasekera, though
suffering from lack of oxygen and extreme cold continued his
duties and the mission was
successfully completed. This officer has proved himself to
be a navigator of outstanding ability."
While on Instruction duties, Amerasekera had flown on one
Operation, of which details are unknown.
Upon completing his time as an Instructor, Amerasekera
joined the No 640 Squadron on Aug 16, 1944. No 640 Squadron
which had formed in January 1944 at Leconfield from the C
Flight of his old Squadron (No 158) and was now equipped
with Halifax III's. Initially he flew eight missions with
F/O Fred J. Papple (Pilot), F/Sgt S.I. McLean (B/A), Sgt.
R.G.Gunstone (Wop), Sgt. T.W.Dakin (M/U/G), Sgt. J.W.Burns
((R/G) and Sgt. D.S. MacDonald (F/E), replacing their
regular navigator 'Ade' Hyde DFC, who had been injured. The
targets included Gelsenkirchen, Boulogne, Neuss and Calais.
Fred Papple's Crew. Standing L ro R:
Sgt. Burns, Sgt. Dakin and Sgt. McDonald.
Seated L to R: F/Sgt. McLean, P/O Papple and F/O