Last updated: 17 December 2016, 17:58
The people who fought and in some cases
died serving with No.255 Squadron, RAF

This section of the website is the subject of ongoing development. Contributions and corrections are invited. Available so far: Mini-biographies of WWI aircrew, the Squadron Leaders during and since WWII, our Nickname Decoder (essential for making sense of the squadron’s unofficial records, especially files AIR27/1520 through 1522 in The National Archives), "Tales from the Dispersal Hut" and a modest number of photographs depicting individual squadron members.

Mini-Biographies of the WWI Aircrew


Born 15.May.1899 at Ramsgate, Kent, the son of Valentine Christopher ANDREWS and Alice Louise ANDREWS née CARPENTER. Married Gladys BLACKBURN in 1931 and had one son Graham Eric ANDREWS (1932-2005). In the 1939 Register Leonard appears as a Staff Officer of the Inland Revenue. Died 13.Sep.1981, resident of Combe Martin, Devon.


Born 31.Aug.1897 in Montréal, a Canadian citizen of French extraction. Eldest son of Narcisse ARCAND, Carpenter and Trade Union activist, and Maria otherwise Marie-Ann ARCAND née MATHIEU. Identified in the French language writings of Jean Côté (Adrien Arcand, Une Grande Figure de Notre Temps, ISBN 2-9801677-3-8 at p.9) to be the elder brother of ADRIEN ARCAND (1899-1967, full name as baptised at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Maisonneuve: Joseph Romuald Adrien Narcisse ARCAND), founder in 1934 of the Parti National Social Chrétien (Christian National Social Party, the Canadian Fascists), earning Adrien the nickname "The Canadian Führer". After WWI, Louis returned to Canada and reportedly, in league with his brother and as part of their social circle in Ottawa, introduced Joachim von Ribbentrop to the then Wallis Spencer, later Wallis Simpson. Their subsequent affair, because of its political overtones, heavily influenced the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936.


Born 03.May.1899 at Looe, Cornwall, son of Joseph BIRKBECK (c.1863-1930), a Methodist Minister, and Ella Blanche BIRKBECK née LIGHTBOURN(E) (c.1865-25.Aug.1943), originally of Nassau in the Bahamas and a British subject by her parentage (being the daughter of Paul and Adelaide Lightbourn(e)). Paul William BIRKBECK married 1925 to Laurena A.L. ROGERS; no known issue. In the 1939 Register, Paul appears as a Health Inspector. His widowed mother was a civilian casualty killed by enemy action during WWII as a result of an air raid on Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. Paul died 26.Aug.1988.


Born 06.Apr.1900 at Dundas, Ontario, fourth known child of Sampson Richard CHAFFE and Susan CHAFFE née COLE who came from the Kingsbridge/Plympton St.Mary areas of Devon, UK. Redvers signed up in Toronto whilst still age 17 (19.November.1917) apparently having received a call-up notice in consequence of holding British nationality. His Aviator’s Certificate was issued 03.April.1918 and gives his full address as "Glencairne", Waterdown, Ontario, Canada. He was officially stood down from military service when transferred to the Unemployed List 14.August.1919. By 1921, Redvers was back home with his parents and at college. The University of Toronto roll of alumni who fought in WWI shows him as having served with 255. It seems he studied Applied Science, but that didn’t become his career. Redvers married 06.November.1926 to Flora Regina SLATER at Wentworth, Ontario. From that point on, Redvers’ profession consistently appears as "Valuator". What he valued is unknown, but he travelled extensively and sometimes he took his family with him. For example, the passenger list of the Empress of France (Montreal to Liverpool, arriving 23.Jun.1950) shows him accompanied by his wife Flora R., age 50, Child Richard S. age 13 and "Student" Flora A., age 21 - fairly obviously their adult daughter. All four gave their destination as The Park Lane Hotel, London W1. Redvers died in 1990, the last surviving aircrew from 255 Squadron in World War One.


Born 27.Dec.1892 at Streatham Hill, London (birth registered Q1/1893 as Geoffrey STAPYLTON), son of Miles C. STAPYLTON, Electrical Engineer, and Helen STAPYLTON née PRESTON. Privately tutored at a small school in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent. Married twice; a widower for the first time before the compilation of the 1939 Register in which Geoffrey appears as "Senior Examiner, Aeronautical Inspection Directorate of the Air Ministry". Remarried 1964 to Alice M. SHAW. Died 20.Mar.1972 at Hitchin.


Born 26.Jun.1891 (AIR76 documentation says 25th, apparently in error). Obtained his Aviator's Certificate before the outbreak of WWI. Married Q2/1919 to Enid W. DAWLINS, who died Q3/1936 age 46 apparently without issue and with death mis-indexed as Enid M. GARNETT. Walter remarried Q2/1939 to Mary O. SIDNEY by whom he had one son, Andrew W. GARNETT born Q3/1943. Walter appears in the 1939 Register as "RAF Retired". He died 14.Mar.1972.


Born 14.Nov.1894, son of Sidney GILLINGHAM, a house builder, and Louie GILLINGHAM née HEATH. Married Q4/1917 to Violet E. SWAFFIELD, who died 1923. Hubert died 26.Feb.1932, age 37, apparently without issue, having returned to the family building business in Dorset after the war.


Born 28.May.1899, son of William George GODDEN, a Police Constable, and Annie Elizabeth GODDEN née LANHAM. After the war, in 1922 he married Elsie M. GRIFFITHS. Strangely, their marriage appears to be registered twice: March quarter in Poplar and June quarter in Pembroke. 1939 Register: Working as a Sanitary Inspector in matters relating to the Food & Drugs Act. The London Gazette (30.May.1941, page 3109) lists a person of the same name being commissioned in WWII as an Acting Pilot Officer (Training Branch), Service Number 65900. It remains to be established whether this is the same person as flew with 255 in WWI. Death not traced.


Born 26.Feb.1885 (late birth registration, Q3/1885) at Wandsworth, son of Robert GOULD and Florence Jane GOULD née MARSHALL who had married at Limerick, Ireland, in 1880. Appears in the 1901 Census as a boarder at Park House, Tonbridge School. Death registered Q1/1965 age 79 at Hailsham.


Born 07.Nov.1895 in Johannesburg, South Africa, son of John G. HAMILTON and Elizabeth HAMILTON née ?. A boarder at Winchester School at the time of the 1911 Census. Married Olive Mary TURNER Q1/1920 and became a Stockbroker. Died 25.May.1956.


Born 30.Nov.1884 at Eccleshall (Sheffield), birth registered Q1/1885. Eldest child of Simeon HAYES, a steel wire merchant, by his second wife Alice Mary HAYES née ROPER. Married Eleanor Gladys THOMAS at Ongar, Q4/1911, and by her apparently had two children - Robert E. (1912-?) and Gwyn(n)eth Alice (1916-2002) before the parents separated. Awarded the OBE in the New Years Honours List, 1919. Robert Cholerton Hayes committed suicide 03.Jul.1927 in circumstances described in The Straits Times 30.Jul.1927.


Birth registered Q4/1891 at Hackney. Son of Harry Alexander HUNTER, Silk Agent, and Annie Louisa (otherwise Louise) HUNTER née AIRD (1874-?). Richard signed up as a member of the RFC on 15.Oct.1917 at Detroit, Michigan, where he was working as a salesman. No records found after WWI other than that his widowed mother resided at 232 High Road, Leyton, Essex, in 1918.


Born 27.May.1894 at ?. Son of Eugène François Louis LEGUEN-de-LACROIX by his first wife Helen Fleetwood LEGUEN-de-LACROIX née GROOM. Aleth remained in the RAF after the war and became an instructor at No.3 Flying Training School, Grantham. Retired on his 40th birthday, rank Flight Lieutenant. Married Mollie (Molly) Constance MULLENS Q2/1927 at Bridgewater. No known issue. Died Q4/1967, death mis-registered as LEUGEN-de-LACROIX.


Born 24.Mar.1896 at ?, son of ? and ?. Remained in the RAF after WWI, transferring from Aeroplane and Seaplane Branch to General Duties Branch. In 1935: Flight Lieutenant (acting Squadron Leader), RAF HQ Palestine and Transjordan. 1936: British Liaison Officer, Syria. Retired in the second half of 1936, shortly after his 40th birthday. The 1939 Register finds him at 219 Kenmore Aveune, Harrow, as a "Squadron Leader on civilian duties at Air Ministry". First marriage: Q3/1925 to Marjorie W. MEEK at Sculcoates, by whom he had a daughter Susan who died in infancy (1934), Second marriage: Q4/1943 to Ann A. GAIRDNER at Chelsea. Died ?


Born 09.Oct.1892, son of Walter L. NICHOLSON, a Gamekeeper and Dog Trainer, and Alice NICHOLSON née SEVILL. Married Amelia BRUNT Q2/1912 at Stoke-on-Trent, by whom he had four known sons, William (1912), Charles (1915), Reginald (1920) and Colin (1924). DoB incorrect in 1939 Register, which gives his occupation as Motor and Aero Engineer. Died Q2/1966.


Born 12.Jun.1898, son of Joseph PEEBLES, a Surveyor’s Assistant, and Rose Ada PEEBLES née PASSMORE. Awarded the AFC in the 1919 Birthday Honours List. Married Q4/1919 to Mabel M. GODFREY at Wandsworth. No known issue. 1939: Working as a Quantity Surveyor. Died Q4/1966 at Carlisle, age 68.


Born 24.Aug.1893 (always known as Rhys), son of Hezekiah Greensmith SOAR (Colliery Manager) by his second wife Catherine SOAR née DAVIES. Rhys’s first wife, Kathleen Maud R. SOAR née LANCASTER (M-Q1/1918) died whilst Rhys was serving with No.255 Squadron at RAF Pembroke. He remained in the RAF after WWI and remarried Q2/1921 at Selby to Laura SMITH. His last known posting was No.20 Squadron (No.3 Indian Wing, Quetta) in December 1923. He returned to civilian life in 1924 and became a Quantity Surveyor. The 1939 Register finds him in Cowbridge, Glamorganshire, accompanied by his third partner Lily. Died Q1/1971, buried at Martletwy, Pembrokeshire.


Born 20.Jun.1888 at Great Wakering, Essex, son of Robert STALLIBRASS and Amy Jeanie STALLIBRASS née McGAVIN. In the UK, Robert Stallibrass gave his occupation as "Of independent means". In the 1901 Census, Trevor is found at an orphanage/boarding school in Redhill, Surrey. His mother had died in 1893 at Hendon, UK, and his father died 30.Sep.1897 at The City Hospital, St.Louis, Missouri, USA, having contracted Typhoid Fever whilst working as a Horse Trainer. In 1915 he obtained probate in the UK in respect of his late father’s UK assets. Trevor married 23.Sep.1916 to Evelyn Joyce HUMPHREYS (02.Jul.1897 - 13.Nov.1985) by whom he had one daughter Patricia Ruth STALLIBRASS (b:10.Aug.1917, known as Anne, alive May 2016 and a contributor to this record). In 1927 Trevor appears in Kelly’s Directory as residing in the village of Tannington, Suffolk, but for years he worked as a tea planter in India. He died 22.May.1983 at Coddenham, Suffolk.


Born 03.Jan.1899 at Clapham (Wandsworth Registration District), Surrey, son of Morgan TAMPLIN, Newspaper Manager, and Amy Mary A. TAMPLIN née TYSON, Harold’s birth registration uses the more usual spelling of his middle forename "Llewellyn". Soon after Harold’s birth his parents moved to Swansea; the 1901 Census finds them at 31 Trafalgar Terrace, with Harold mis-registered as Harald. Possibly after a return to London (there is some suggestion of them residing in the Croydon area c.1904), Morgan TAMPLIN set out alone for the New World. His family followed in 1910 aboard the vessel "Siberian", landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia. A very garbled entry exists in the 1911 Census of Nova Scotia showing Morgan as a Farmer and Book-keeper accompanied by his family at an address in Cornwallis Township, Kings County. After WWI, Harold returned to Nova Scotia and studied Engineering at Acadia University, Wolfville, winning both the A.M.Wilson Prize and the A.G.McIntyre Prize in his year group. [Marriage, Issue and Death (1989?) still being researched]

Squadron Leaders, 1940-1946

The following table lists all Commanding Officers since the creation of the modern rank structure between the two World Wars. The symbol indicates that the officer was killed whilst serving with the Squadron. "Gongs" show only if awarded before or during service with the squadron. Subsequently, Smith was awarded an OBE, Kelly was awarded a DFC, Stewart picked up both a DSO and a CBE (Mil.) and Kempe became a CVO:

Service NumberWar Substantive RankNameDates commanding
37129Squadron LeaderRoddick ("Dick") Lee SMITHNov 1940 - Jun 1941
34037Wing Commander John Stuart BARTLETT, DFCJun 1941 - Aug 1941
26193Wing Commander Charles Mervyn WINDSORSep 1941 - Dec 1941
33168Wing CommanderDillon Piers Denis Gerard KELLYDec 1941 - Mar 1943
40316Wing CommanderJohn Howard PLAYER, DFCMar 1943 - Aug 1943
42490Wing CommanderHugh William ELIOT, DFCAug 1943 - Feb 1944
40646Wing CommanderCharles Leopold Walker STEWART, AFCFeb 1944 - Nov 1944
72078Wing CommanderJohn William Rolfe KEMPENov 1944 - Jul 1945
39997Wing CommanderJames Ronaldson Herbert LEWIS, DFCJul 1945 - Apr 1946

Nickname Decoder, 1940-1946

The following nicknames, not all flattering, appear in a number of sources. Many will have been duplicated elsewhere in the Royal Air Force. Therefore this Decoder should be regarded as applicable only to No.255 Squadron and those in the immediate chain of command, plus the Radar/GCI (AMES) units acting as the squadron’s Controllers. Ranks are those appearing in the official record at the approximate time that the nickname was in use. Subsequent promotions are not listed - for example, both Bing and Huff-Puff rose to the rank of Air Chief Marshal before retiring. Awards (DFC, MBE and so on) are omitted for brevity and to avoid apparent inaccuracies arising from frequent changes.

NicknameReal IDFunction
Andy106674 Flight Lieutenant Walter Thomas CUNNINGHAMSenior Navigator
Bing29065 Air Commodore Kenneth Brian Boyd CROSSAOC No.242 Group
Blondie66570 Flying Officer Geoffrey HUMESPilot
China *40646 Charles Leopold Walker STEWARTSquadron Leader
Cobber116694 Flying Officer Roland Hope KANENavigator
CrackersFlying Officer CRACKNELLIntelligence Officer
Crackle26193 Wing Commander Charles Mervyn WINDSORSquadron Leader
Dibber748632 Flight Sergeant Walter BARKERPilot
Donald DuckFlight Lieutenant ROEBUCKGCI Controller
Farmer121291 Flying Officer David GILESPilot
Führer, The33168 Wing Commander D.P.D.G. (Piers) KELLYSquadron Leader
Grandad/Kneebone(s)136496 Flight Lieutenant George Wiseman ELEYNavigator
Hickie109497 Flying Officer Edward Stanley HICKMORENavigator
Huff-Puff04113 Air Vice Marshal Sir Hugh Pughe LLOYDAOC NACAF
Incendiary127032 Kevin Thomas Anthony O’SULLIVANPilot
Jock973558 Flight Sergeant John WILLINSNavigator
MaryAir Marshal Sir Arthur CONINGHAMAOC NATAF
Master Scrounger, The112517 Flying Officer Ronald WYNZARNavigator
Masterly Manipulator, The81940 Flight Lieutenant Freddie LAMMERNavigator
Quack171081 Pilot Officer Frederick Maurice DRAKENavigator
Sandy111977 Flying Officer Louis Henry SANDOWNavigator
Sultan of Sopley, The74440 Squadron Leader John Laurence BROWNGCI Controller
Tinker, also Snow White39632 Squadron Leader Dennis HAYLEY-BELLPilot
Titch65559 Flying Officer Michael John GLOSTERPilot
WallyFlight Sergeant W.G. HOODNavigator
Wilbur45393 Flight Lieutenant Percy Charles WRIGHTEngineering Officer

* This nickname appears in Andy Cunningham’s book Tumult in the Clouds. Within the Squadron, he was more often known as Stew.

Press reports from August 1941 relating to the Squadron’s time at RAF Honiley suggest that one Flight adopted nicknames taken from the Brothers Grimm story Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This is known to have been Dennis Hayley-Bell's Flight; a photograph exists in the Hayley-Bell family archive showing Snow White painted on the cockpit of his Beaufighter. It implies that the others were Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Happy, Bashful and Grumpy. Unfortunately no who’s-who survives. Dennis Hayley-Bell’s contemporaneous nickname of Tinker undoubtedly originates with J.M.Barrie’s character Tinker Bell in Peter Pan, so there was a common thread of children’s fables. The same newspaper reports accurately mention the relative informality that characterised 255 Squadron – men of differing rank regularly addressing each other by their first names even when on duty.

Tales from the Dispersal Hut

Dispersal Huts were, by their very nature, remote from the main buildings of any airfield. They afforded aircrew not only a place to relax whilst awaiting a "Scramble!", but also a considerable degree of informality. Ideal for exchanging gossip, as well as tales of both daring do and misfortune. This section of the website is a compendium of such yarns known to have at least some basis in fact...

The Broken Leg

2 April 1942 : Pilot Officer Davison (Pilot) and Sergeant Blackburn (Radio Operator) of No.255 Squadron became obliged to abort a take-off from RAF Shawbury. The aircraft involved was R2460, a Beaufighter Mk.II, which veered off the runway and crashed into a hut occupied by a civilian watchkeeper. The elderly man went into severe shock... “this no doubt due to the grave disability he suffered when he realised that his wooden leg had been broken”.[1]

The bemused Naval gunner

14 Dec 1942 : Squadron Leader Player [Pilot] and Freddie Lammer [Navigator/Radio] went off on a dawn patrol and thought what fun it would be to do an A.I. sweep out to sea at nought feet. This they did, and fun it was until they made an uncomfortably close acquaintance with several 4.5" shells from a cruiser lurking in the vicinity. Being blissfully in ignorance of the correct letter and colours of the day (after all, they were roughing it at Souk and can’t be expected to provide all the latest, pansy conveniences) a quick conversation was held (bang!) between Johnnie and Freddie and it was decided (bang!!) to fire off a "red red" which had for simplicity’s sake been appointed our permanent colour of the day (bang!!!) just for luck. The firing miraculously stopped at once and our crew departed from the scene of action in perfect peace.

The statement made on landing by our pilot and navigator i.e. that on firing the "red red" signal cartridges they distinctly saw the gunner on board the cruiser scratch his head and then fidget with several printed sheets of paper in a file, looking lost and bewildered all the while, was not given due credence by their fellow aircrews. Some ignorant fellows who did not shrink from going to ridiculous extremes in their injustice, actually called it "shooting a line".[2]

Farmer and Quack’s Concert

"Farmer" Giles and "Quack" Drake flew together on night sorties as members of 255 Squadron. On one particular night, flying over the Adriatic, the patrol was uneventful and dull. Farmer and Maurice had been up all night and were both desperate to sleep but had another hour and a half of flying before they could return to base. Farmer decided the only way to stave off sleep was if they both sang for a while. Half an hour and a multitude of songs later, both were wide awake and up to facing the rest of the sortie. They thought that was the end of that, but about a year later an RAF Intelligence Officer who was reading through German Intelligence reports found transcripts from a plane that Farmer and Maurice had been flying. He was astonished to find not sensitive military information but page upon page of extremely bawdy songs and one in particular that caught his eye – Bang away, bang away Lulu, Bang away good and strong. One thing led to another and before long Giles and Drake were summoned to face the music. The Group Captain pointed out that they could both have been court-martialled for negligence in leaving the intercom on Transmit if they had been discussing the secrets of radar or squadron movements. As it was, however, he decided highly to commend the pair of them since German Intelligence had clearly spent hour upon hour trying to discover what new code was involved in all those four-letter words that had been filling the airwaves![3]

Follow that kitbag!

18 August 1944 at Foggia Main, Italy : Around 16:00 hours the weather became overcast and many miniature whirlwinds sprung up. One of these increased in intensity and went through "C" Flight dispersal, wrecking all the tents and blowing about stationary aircraft. [A Beaufighter, empty, weighed around 7 tonnes.] It continued, with a great roar and much clattering of tins (collected in its spiral) towards the officers quarters where it completely demolished one tent, flinging a kitbag as far away as 150 yards. Shortly after the whirlwind’s disappearance the clouds burst and a great deluge started. There were hailstones as big as golf balls, and a fierce storm developed which flooded the camp.[4]

Individual and Group Photographs taken privately

If you can help add to this collection, please make contact using the mail link at the foot of the Site Map page. Snapshots taken by squadron members were often processed using stale developer left over from more official work such as the processing of gun camera film. Many were 'muddy' as a result, but modern digital image manipulation can rescue them - so don’t throw them out!

From the family photo album of LAC Austin Jones

Photo Photo Photo
LAC Austin Jones
Somewhere in N.Africa...
Wilbur’s Laddies
Use your browser controls to magnify each image

Precious few photographs of "Erks" and other ground crew exist; here are some welcome exceptions submitted by the descendants of LAC Jones. The photograph of Austin Jones himself is believed to have been taken in Naples - which implies 1944. The middle image shows LAC Jones (middle-left), two unidentified colleagues and a local 'helper'. Probably taken in the first half of 1943 in Algeria. Finally “Wilbur’s Laddies”, photographed 15 October 1943 in Sicily. These men were core members of the ground crew, the staff of the Squadron’s long-serving Engineering Officer 45393 Percy Charles WRIGHT – known as Wilbur because he was born in the year of the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk.

Derek Smith offers the following IDs in respect of Wilbur’s Laddies depicted above:
Top row, left to right: [1] "Taffy" Jones, [2] Austin Jones, [3] Jack Sharp, [4] Unknown, [5] Cpl. Len Church, [6] Possibly Harry Martin? [7] "Lofty" Helsdon.

Bottom row, left to right: [8] Len Roper, [9] Len Wightman, [10] Mark Holton, [11] Possibly Sgt. McClure? [12] Cpl. "Jake" Jakins, [13] Possibly Ted Danson? [14] Unknown.
Further photographs are held by 255 Squadron Association (courtesy of Derek Smith) and are believed to show the following members of the Squadron circa 1944. If you can help by confirming IDs, please get in touch:
Fred ANDERTON, (Rank/Forename?) BLACK, Nöel BLAKE, Charlie BOLLAND, Harry BROADBENT, Eric CALLOW, Len CHURCH, F/Sgt CROSS (radio specialist), Cpl. DAKIN, Frankie DARLINGTON, Archie DICKINSON, F/Lt. DUCKWORTH, W/C ELIOT, F/Sgt. ENSOR, Doug FELGATE, John FOXCROFT, Tex FRANKLIN, Alf GARLAND, Bert GOODWIN, Johnnie GOW, F/Sgt. HARDING (Stores), Lofty HELSDON, Mark HOLTON, (Rank/Forename?) HOSKINS, Len HUNT, Cpl. JAKINS, Jimmy JAMES, "Pop" JOHNSTON, Cpl. JOHNSTON (Stores), Jack JONES (Electrician?), Taffy JONES, F/Lt. LAVER, Dickie LEA, Harry LOBLEY, Paddy McCAFFREY, Sgt. McCLURE, Frank McNEIL, Len MADDOX, Sgt. MARSHALL, Harry MARTIN, Cyril MAY, Freddie MAYER, Jimmy NIELD, Bert NYE, Len ORCHARD, Stan ORGAN, Denis PAYNE, Joe POYNTER, Jack SHARP, Dave SHRIMPTON, Ray SKELCHER, Steve SKELLAND, Norman SMITH, W/C STEWART, Alec TRUETT, Roy WARD, Harry WHITFIELD, Len WIGHTMAN, Doug WILSON, "Timber" WOOD, "Wilbur" WRIGHT.

Citations and Footnotes

Click on the ^ symbol to return to the text you were reading.

1. ^ TNA : AIR27/1518 folio 72 side 1.
2. ^ TNA : AIR27/1521 folio 19 side 2. An extract from the December 1942 section of the squadron’s unofficial 'alternative' war diary. Unfortunately, not all of this highly revealing document survives.
3. ^ Transcript of the eulogy delivered from the pulpit of St. Nicholas’ Church, Harpenden, at a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Sir Frederick Maurice Drake, DFC, 23 April 2014. Reproduced here with the kind consent of the Drake family.
4. ^ TNA : AIR27/1519 folio 79 side 2.

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