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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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24.07.1942 No. 25 O.T.U. Wellington IC T2701 P/O. Richard Beck DFM

Operation: Night exercise

Date: 24th July 1942 (Friday)

Unit: No. 25 OTU (Operational Training Unit)

Type: Wellington IC

Serial: T2701 (some records show it as DV476 - see report below)

Base: RAF Finningley, Yorkshire

Location: Near airfield

Pilot: P/O. Richard Colvin Seddon Beck DFM NZ/402158 RNZAF Age 30 Killed (1)

Pilot 2: P/O. John Vernon Robinson 119240 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Bmr: P/O. William Caufield Waterson 116706 RAF Age 22. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Harry Champion Jellyman 1381350 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Obs 2: Sgt. Norbron Basil Hyde 1088309 RAFVR Age 21. Kiled

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Stanley James Plume 1376309 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Frederick Colin Ethell 950909 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Took off at 03.20 hrs from Finningley with the intention of participating in a night training exercise.

It is thought that a technical fault that developed in the aircraft prompted the pilot to abandon this and make a early return to rectify it.

During the return DV476 collided with Wellington T27801 (2) from the same unit with both aircraft bursting into flames prior to crashing north west of Finningley airfield. A total of 11 crew members losing their lives in this tragic accident.

Took off at 03:20 hrs from RAF Finningley with the intention of participating in a night training exercise.

It is thought that a technical fault that developed in the aircraft prompted the pilot to abandon this and make a early return to rectify it.

During the return T2701 collided with Wellington DV476 from the same unit with both aircraft bursting into flames prior to crashing north west of Finningley airfield. A total of 11 crew members losing their lives in this tragic accident.

However, in August 2017 we have since been advised of new information as researched by Mr. David Lutwyche (son of W/O. Charles Lutwyche) and Mr. Alan Plume (son of Sgt. Stanley Plume) We submit their report into the accident:

“At 03:55 hr, Friday 24th July 1942, two Wellingtons collided on the perimeter of RAF Finningley and all members of both crews were killed. One plane was returning early from a practice bombing raid over the Theddlethorpe Bombing Range after experiencing engine problems and was set to circle the base until given permission to land.

The second plane was practising night circuits and landings training exercises under control from ground control and, after overshooting the runway, climbed and crashed into the other plane. The subsequent Accident Report card and Summary of Events document contained significant errors.

The first, returning, aircraft, recorded as T2701 but was actually DV476, had a crew of four: W/O. Smith, W/O. Lutwyche, Sgt. Barrows and Sgt. McDonald. See here for details of that crew.

The second aircraft, recorded as DV476 but was actually T2701, had a crew of seven: P/O. Beck DFM, P/O. Robinson, P/O. Waterson, Sgt. Hyde, Sgt. Plume, Fl/Sgt. Ethell and Sgt. Jelleyman.

The errors in identifying the aircraft correctly in the Accident Report were discovered by the son of Sgt. Plume, Mr. Alan Plume, in the early 1980’s when he engaged an Accident Investigation Team who located the engraved watch of P/O. Beck at the site in a position which did not match the entry. He went on to interview one or two members of the local population who remembered the incident and then produced convincing evidence that, I believe, led the Air Ministry to correct the record. Mr. Plume contacted me in 1991 and left me with copies of his research papers which I have recently forwarded to the new IBCC archive at Lincoln and then to Aircrew Remembered.

My grandfather attended the military funeral at St Oswald's Church, Finningley on the 30th July 1942 where my father, W/O. Lutwyche, and others were buried - shown on his loss page. He was told by the Station Commander that ‘mistakes had been made’ by those in ground control that night, but it was ‘hushed up’ as one of them was highly decorated. It hardly matters nowadays whether that was true or not but the report entry that DV476 failed to notify ground control of their return seems somewhat questionable bearing in mind the experience of that crew.

It was a sad loss of eleven good men. I was also told by my aunt Betty, my father's sister and who brought me up after my mother passed away, that my father's body was recovered from the river Torne just north - west of RAF Finningley, and the subsequent autopsy revealed that he actually died from drowning - a nice final touch of irony! That last piece of information also supports Mr. Plume's conclusions with regard to which plane fell where.”

David C Lutwyche August 2017.

(1) P/O. Richard Beck earned his DFM whilst serving with 408 (RCAF) Squadron

Burial details:

P/O. Richard Colvin Seddon Beck DFM. Finningley (Holy Trinity and St. Oswald) Churchyard Row B. Grave 2. Son of Richard and Catherine McCulloch Beck, of Hokitika, Westland, New Zealand.

P/O. John Vernon Robinson. Sefton St. Helen Churchyard. Sec N. Grave 93. Son of John and Ada Robinson, of Great Crosby, Liverpool, England.

P/O. William Caufield Waterson. Uphall Cemetery Sec P. Grave 84. Son of George and Jean Waterson, of Broxburn, West Lothian, Scotland.

Sgt. Harry Champion Jellyman. Llantrisant (Trane) Cemetery Sec E. Grave 2894. Son of Kate Radcliffe, of Gilfach Goch, Rhondda, Wales.

Sgt. Norbron Basil Hyde. Wombwell Cemetery New Cons. Sec. Grave 1654. Son of Ernest and Mabel Hyde, of Wombwell, Yorkshire, England.

Sgt. Stanley James Plume. Chingford Mount Cemetery Screen Wall Sec. F13. Coll Grave 40131. Son of Richard James Plume and Laura Plume; husband of Maud Florence Plume of Leyton, London, England.

Fl/Sgt. Frederick Colin Ethell. Manchester Crematorium. Panel 11. Son of the Revd. Thomas Frederick Ethell and Bertha Annie Ethell, of The Rectory, Whalley Range, Manchester, England.

Researched for the relatives of the crew. Acknowledgments: With thanks to sources as shown below but also to the extensive research carried out by David C Lutwyche and Mr. Alan Plume who have both spent a great deal of time trying to establish the facts behind the tragic accident. Dave Brady and Steve Farnell for grave photographs.

KTY - Updated 06.08-2017

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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