Grenville ’Bart’ Onyette
Royal Canadian Air Force
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 Bart 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 Bart 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 .
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.
Bart 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. 4618
Transferred to Tokyo 16B - Kanose
Work Carbide Mill owned by Showa Denko Co.
1945/09/02 - Liberated
Saviour of Ceylon
KEW Files:- WO 361/1970,