ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 52

All about the Calderas: Setting straight aviation history

With reference to the article in 'The Sunday Times' PLUS of May 20, 2007 titled 'The dashing Flamer Caldera's' (sic) by Tita Nathanielsz, and with due respect to the author, I crave space in your columns to point out some inaccuracies with regard to the late Shelton Flamer-Caldera.

I offer these corrections in a spirit of constructive criticism and a desire for historical accuracy, drawing on information and knowledge I have painstakingly acquired over several years as a serious researcher of military and civil aviation history in Ceylon/Sri Lanka.

Shelton Flamer-Caldera did NOT fly in the Battle of Britain. And he was NOT awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The Battle of Britain was fought - and won by the RAF - in 1940. But Shelton Flamer-Caldera and his batchmates, who constituted the first group of Ceylonese men recruited for flying service with the RAF, did not arrive in the UK for training until September 1941.

I have in my possession a Ceylon newspaper cutting reporting the untimely death of Sergeant-Pilot Shelton Flamer-Caldera, yet nowhere in that report - which includes a photo of the deceased and details of his funeral arrangements - is there any mention of his having been awarded the DFC. Surely, if he had received that honour for service in the Battle of Britain (already shown to be an erroneous claim on Mr. Nathanielsz's part) - or indeed for any other acts of merit as a RAF pilot - that obituary report would have made mention of it.

In any case, as a non-commissioned officer, he would have received the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM), not the DFC - a significant difference. But there is no record of Flamer-Caldera having received the DFM either.

As for the actual circumstances of his fatal crash - which, according to a reliable eyewitness, occurred at Minneriya, not Sigiriya, as Mr. Nathanielsz recalls - Shelton Flamer-Caldera was flying a Hawker Hurricane, not a Supermarine Spitfire, in an exercise known in the RAF as a 'tail chase'.

According to my source (one of Flamer-Caldera's original Ceylon-born RAF batchmates, now also deceased, and whose identity I cannot disclose) having only recently converted from the Spitfire to the Hurricane, Flamer-Caldera was being checked out in the latter type while being put through his paces by a Flight-Sergeant 'M' (full name withheld), of British origin, flying another Hurricane. The object of the exercise was for Flamer-Caldera to closely follow behind the more experienced Flt Sgt and copy the latter's every move.

But, according to the eyewitness who described it to me a few years ago, Flt Sgt 'M' put his Hurricane into a steep dive before pulling out and climbing away with only a few feet to spare between his Hurricane and the ground.

Unfortunately, probably because of his lack of experience on the Hurricane, Flamer-Caldera was unable to react as quickly as Flt Sgt 'M' and ploughed into the ground with fatal consequences.

I trust this sets the record straight.

By Roger Thiedeman, Melbourne, Australia

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.