Captain Frank Lawlor Wentworth Austin
(1918 - 2001)
Frank Austin was born in Cofimvaba, Transkei in August 1918. He was educated at St Aidan's College, Grahamstown, matriculating there in 1936. He joined the SAAF in February 1941 following an initial brief posting to the South African Corps of Signals.
After training as a navigator at 65 and 66 Air Schools at Youngsfield, Cape Town, he was posted to 24 Squadron SAAF in August 1941. He served with 24 Squadron throughout the Western Desert campaign and was Mentioned in Despatches on 1 January 1943.
In July 1943 he survived a ditching in the Med when the Boston he was navigating was hit by ack-ack after a raid on Paterno, Sicily, and lost an engine. It was rare for a navigator to get out of the nose of the Boston once it was in the water but he did, somehow. He suffered severe injuries on impact and spent a year recovering in the Union afterwards. On being declared fit to resume operational flying he returned to 24 Squadron in September 1944.
He was then posted as senior navigation officer of 26 Squadron SAAF, operating from Takoradi, on the Gold Coast (Ghana) in October that year. He served with 26 Squadron until the cessation of hostilities the following April. In December 1944 he survived another forced landing, this time in a Wellington. The aircraft was ferrying a number of personnel, including himself, back to Takoradi following a
period of leave in the Union. It lost its starboard engine between Ikeja and Asafa but due to some skilful flying by Major Collins it made a belly-landing without any injuries to either crew or passengers (See Logbook Page 3 below). They all completed the journey to Takoradi on foot, by canoe and by car! Included in the gallery below are 6 pages from his logbook covering his time with 26 Sqn (Words and pictures courtesy of Brian Austin).