To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”




Brian Catlin


1919/12/10 - Born, Stockport, Cheshire

Son of John Henry and Nancy Catlin

1936 - Enlisted

Royal Air Force

413 Squadron



413 Squadron was a Canadian Squadron but in early in 1942 it was staffed mainly by British RAF and based in the Shetland Islands. After the Japanese entered the war 413 Squadron was moved to Ceylon as a reconnaissance force.

On 4th April 1942, 48 hours after their arrival at Ceylon, Squadron Leader Birchall and his crew, which included Brian were patrolling the Indian Ocean South of Ceylon in a PBY Catalina flying boat (AJ155/QL-A). Nine hours into the flight, with the plane about to return to base, ships were spotted. Squadron Leader decided to investigate and found it was a large Japanese fleet, the Nagumo Task Force. This force was involved in the attack on Pearl Harbour and including five aircraft carriers. The Japanese force was now heading for Ceylon, which at that time was the base for the Royal Navy's Eastern Fleet.  Birchall's crew managed to send out a radio message warning of the Japanese approach, but the Catalina was soon shot down by six A6M2 Zero fighters from the carrier ‘Hiry’.

The Japanese continued to fire on the wreck and Sergeant John Henzell, in the front turret, was seriously wounded. The Catslina finally sank taking both Sergeant Henzell and Warrant Officer Lucien "Louis" Colarossi with it. The Japanese continued their attack on those crew members who had taken to the water and Sergeant Davidson was killed. The Japanese destroyer ‘Isokaze’ picked up Brian and the  other five remaining crew members.

The Japanese attack on Ceylon went ahead but the warning from the Birchall’s crew put the Allies on the alert and allowed the harbour to be partially cleared before the ‘The Easter Sunday Raid’ went ahead.

Because of Squadron Leader Birchall warning he was nicknamed ‘The Saviour of Ceylon’ and Post War became .


Japanese PoW

1942/04/04 - Captured in the Indian Ocean

For the first few days the crew were locked in the ships paint locker. They were then moved to the Japanese flagship as the Japanese were worried that Ceylon had been warned of their approach, they were  brutally interrogated. By not telling the Japanese that a warning was given the attack had gone ahead.

Brian was taken with the rest of the crew to Yokohama, Japan and they were paraded through the streets, being stoned and spat on by the crowds in retaliation for a bombing raid by the Americans which had just taken place on Tokyo.

Ofuna Interrogation Centre awaited them just South of the Centre of Yokohama.

PoW No. II 155

Japanese Index Card - Side One


Japanese Index Card - Side Two


1945/05/12 - Transferred to Tokyo 13D (3715)

1945/05/14 - Transferred to Sendai 5B - Kamaishi











New Zealanders




1945/09/15 Liberated Sendai 5B, Japan


Post War

After Brian’s return from Japan he stayed on the RAF Serving again in Ceylon, and Singapore then returned to UK and was commissioned.

 On his return in 1946 he visited the familes of those who died, always seemed to have survivor guilt. 

Brian married Norma Warburton, a New Zealander. They had four daughters Arthena (Trevitt), Ngaire (Toubkin), Rowena (Gardner) and Verna (Marsh ) .

Grandparents to nine grandchildren kids and now three great granddaughters.

Brian had  tours in Malta, Germany and UK before retiring in 1977.

Brian was the longest lived of the crew and made a point of checking up on their widows ensuring that they were ok . He never had many post war friends but kept in touch with several chaps from his PoW days .

Brian died in 2016 -  a few weeks after meeting his first great grandchild.



Arthena Trevitt  - Daughter

Japanese Homeland Camps - Sendai 5B

Saviour of Ceylon

KEW Files:- WO 361/1970, WO 392/23, WO 345/9, WO 361/1983,


''Our Thanks are for being a Chapter in Life.''




Keeping The Candle Burning


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