F/O William Charles Hailstone J10642
THE BILL HAILSTONE STORY
As noted in the Operational Records for 12/13 July 1943 stated that "Unfortunately the torpedo carrying aircraft of which F/O Hailstone was the Captain, failed to return rom this operation. A sighting report of vessels seen at La Maddalena was received from his aircraft but nothing further was heard from it." The report then went on to list the missing crew members.
As far as was evident at that time there was no explanation of what had happened which was not unusual when aircraft went missing when on patrol. However, sixty years after the end of WWII the attached letter was received from an Australian Navigator of a crew sent out on the same operation and who offered an eye-witness account of what happened to the Hailstone crew that night.
To attack a ship already in a heavilly defended port was extremely dangerous and chances of survival slim to none, however, Bill, who had successfully attacked and sunk a ship on the night o 11 April 1943, was a very dedicated and determined person and obviously decided to make the attack and he and his crew paid the ultimate price. Few would have made the same choice.
Bill and I were close friends on the squadron and we enjoyed playing catch together during our liesure hours and playing softball against the Yanks and other ranks teams on a ball field that we arranged to have graded by a nearby USA construction unit with their equipment. The ball teams were mainly composed of Canadians until three all-Canadian crews went missing over a three-day period.
I entirely agree with the letter-writer's opinion that Bill deserved a decoration for his devotion to duty if all the facts had been known. Postwar, a number of lakes were named across Canada as memorials to those who were lost during the war. As the attached RCAF obituary for Bill notes "Hailstone Lake" was dedicated in northern Saskatchewan in his honour. The attached photo shows the plaque in place at this lake as well as the photo of his crew on 458. The crew's names are also commemorated on the Malta Memorial.
I believe this story should be included in the new website, Unfortunately, I have no contact with any of his surviving family members and I do hope that they were made aware of his brave actions sixty years after the event.
Service - RCAF
Unit No. - 458 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force
Rank - Flying Officer
Service number - J10642
Date of death 13/07/1943
Cause of death - killed in action
J10642 Flying Officer (No. 458 Squadron RAAF pilot) William Charles Hailstone (b.1917) of Regina was KIA 13th July, 1943, and is commemorated on the Malta Memorial, Valetta, for airmen from the Mediterranean theatre who died with no known grave. Hailstone's Wellington failed to return from a sea search off Sardinia. He was the son of Charles and Annie (nee Coleman) Hailstone who came from England. William was born at Weyburn, educated at Ceylon and was working for Greyhound bus lines at Regina when he enlisted at Edmonton in 1941.