A few days ago Tony contacted me re his research of a downed Wellington Bomber, and in particular the Wireless Operator, Sergeant Edward James Cuming (1270898). (note the spelling) As always I find things such as this interesting in so many ways. During Tony's research he discovered the wireless operator came from this area yet was not one of those mentioned on the Braintree and Bocking WW2 War Memorial site that I created. That indeed intrigues! I had no details of this man and it appears like so many others he has left little imprint on the area, although by 1939 Braintree had around 7500 of a population. From the details given I looked around but nothing comes up which always annoys me. Plenty of RAF sites and some indication regarding the operations at the time but nothing re the man's home or family. However it is indeed amazing what arises when you search 'Cuming!'
The Bombers story commences at the RAF base at Protville in Tunisia at six thirty in the evening of the 16th September 1943. It must be remembered that the Italian campaign had only just begun, Italy surrendering on the 3rd of September, the war at this time was far from over and victory uncertain, and the crew knew they were flying into heavily defended territory. Nevertheless the Wellington Bomber, FU-K, of 458 Squadron (An RAAF, Royal Australian Air Force Squadron, flown by RAF personnel) headed out into the night on a routine scouting mission along the coast of Italy beginning at Civitavecchia and heading up to the Savona Gorjona islands from where they intended to turn towards Bastia in the north of Corsica, and then run down the coast of Sardinia and home. This appears to have been a common routine for this squadron at the time with the danger being clear as several others were shot down, alone, in similar fashion. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. One man's body was however recovered, Flight Sergeant E.L.Wilson, the second pilot, who now lies buried in the Florence War Cemetery. This indicates the plane came down as it approached or passed over the islands but the wreckage has so far not been discovered. Was there engine trouble, did enemy fire deal with them, German anti aircraft fire was very effective, or did a night fighter bring them down? The second pilot got out and possibly the rear gunner, why not the others? If they got out they may have landed in the sea, and during the day this was hazardous, at night such a situation would be perilous! No message was sent, does this indicate the wireless operator or his equipment were hit and put out of action? German pilots entered details of their hits into the squadron log, I expect German efficiency required anti-aircraft guns to report in similar manner. One day the details may hopefully be discovered
The crew of FU-K comprised:-
RAF FO Driver, P R Captain (Pilot)
RAF Sgt E L Wilson (2nd Pilot)
RAF FO Holt, G (Navigator)
RAF Sgt E J Cuming, (Wireless Operator)
RAF Sgt G R Potter, (SE/Operator)
Sgt D A E Salt, (Rear Gunner)
Driver, Holt, Potter and our man E.J. Cuming, are commemorated on the RAF Malta memorial to those missing in the the Mediterranean area. Wilson in the Florence Cemetery and it appears no record can be found re Sgt D.A.E. Salt, possibly he survived, but like so many other war mysteries it may never be known what happened to him. He, like so many others, remains 'Known unto God.'
With so little details regarding Sgt Cuming it would be good for Tony to discover more about this man and his family. Sadly people often leave so little trace and no details of their lives are ever found. The hope is one day more information will arise. I have placed Edward James Cuming on our memorial along with two others who were not placed on the official memorial by their relatives. On occasion there are good and various reasons the names are withheld. It would be good to know why those omitted were left off the memorial also.