To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”




John Henzell


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 John 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 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 .



Age 23



Loved Ones

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Henzell, of Byker, Newcastle-on-Tyne

Stepson of Hannah Henzell, of Byker



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