James Morphett (Jim) Henderson (1915 – 1942) was the only son of Leo Morphett Henderson (1874 – 1965) and Dorothea Nevill Henderson née Cudmore (1876 – 1925). Dorothea was the sister of my great grandfather Arthur Murray Cudmore and thus Jim was one of my grandmother’s many cousins.

SONS of EMPIRE. (1942, March 19). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), p. 15. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38425838

On 3 February 1941 at the age of twenty-five Jim Henderson enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force at Perth, Western Australia. He was assigned service number 406560.

Hopelands. (1941, June 13). South Western Advertiser (Perth, WA : 1910 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article149834946

Jim, a noted polo player, was farewelled by family, friends and well wishers on 2 June 1941.

He was trained in Vancouver, a participant in course 33 of No. 7 Service Flying Training School of the Royal Canadian Air Force Station at McLeod, Alberta. The 11th Draft sailed from Sydney on 13 June 1941 and arrived at Vancouver on 3 July. (http://rcaffortmacleod.blogspot.com.au/2012_12_01_archive.html)

Flying officer Henderson was assigned to the Royal Air Force 95 Squadron. In 1942 95 Squadron was based at Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. Jim was a pilot on a Sunderland flying boat.

 Short Sunderland, T9040 ‘SE-E’, of No. 95 Squadron RAF, moored in Fourah Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.© IWM (CM 2564-83-36)
A Short Sunderland Mark III of No. 95 Squadron RAF, based at Jui, Sierra Leone, flying along the coast of West Africa on a patrol, photographed from another aircraft of the Squadron.

© IWM (CM 4868)

Letter to Leo Morphett Henderson advising that his son has been reported missing. NAA: A705, 163/35/191 Page 34 of 39

Jim was a pilot on a Sunderland flying boat L5805, which had been detailed to escort a ship to Freetown, Sierra Leone on 11 June 1942. Jim’s plane went missing flying over the Atlantic about 135 miles west of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The aircraft was last seen circling the ship on a bearing of 284 degrees approximately 135 miles from Freetown in the early hours of 11 June, after which it flew off in a north easterly direction. At 14:00 hours what was possibly a white light was sighted at a low height, but no sound of engines was heard. During the next three days extensive air and sea searches were carried out, but no trace of the aircraft or crew were found. It was presumed that the aircraft ditched at sea during the night patrol and that the crew were killed.

The Operations Record Book (ORB) records that on 10 June 1942 L5805 Sunderland B/95 was airborne at 22:55 on patrol. The official records for that week recorded bad weather. Searching aircraft from 95 Squadron over the next days saw nothing but oil patches, apparently recent. 

Jim was the only Australian on board the aeroplane. His stepmother wrote inquiring if his [former] co-pilot Harry Horner was with him at the time. The answer was no. Harold Vincent Horner born 1911, service number 406595, survived the war and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Harry had also trained at Fort Macleod in Canada.

NAA: A705, 163/35/191 Page 33 of 39

James Morphett Henderson’s nae is on the Malta Memorial at Valletta together with those of almost 2,300 airmen who lost their lives during the Second World War while serving with the Commonwealth Air Forces. They flew from bases in Austria, Italy, Sicily, islands of the Adriatic and Mediterranean, Malta, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, West Africa, Yugoslavia and Gibraltar. All of these men have no known grave.

The Serpentine Polo Club remembered their former team mate with a trophy named in his memory. (POLO 4 Teams To Compete For J. M. Henderson Memorial Shield. (1951, February 15). South Western Advertiser (Perth, WA : 1910 – 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article149807405)

As at 2015 the Serpentine Polo Club still plays for the Henderson Shield.  It is played for as part of the WA State Handicap tournament and is the B grade competition’s main trophy.  It is very coveted and treasured by the players.  They normally play the tournament in March every year. (email 28 April 2015 Serpentine Polo Club)

Additional sources