24.02.1945 No. 51 O.T.U. Mosquito XVII HK304 Sgt. Bonnewit
Operation: Ground control interception exercise
Date: 24th February 1945 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 51 OTU (Operational Training Unit)
Type: Mosquito X.VII
Base: RAF Cranfield, Bedfordshire.
Location: Woodside Field, Flitwick, Nr. Ampthill, Bedfordshire
Time: 12:32 hrs.
Pilot: Sgt. Jacques L. Bonnewit 1299978 RAFVR (B) Age25. Killed
Nav: Sgt. John William George Muncaster 1524130 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Weather: Fine, very slight haze, bright sunshine, no cloud.
The aircraft had been fully serviced with a total airframe flight time of 459 hours (455 hrs for each Merlin Engine) For the flight the aircraft had no cannons fitted, ammunition or the long range fuel tanks.
Taking off at 10:50 hrs and with full R/T contact with base prior to ground control at 11:03 hrs. At 12:28 hrs. flying at 10,000 ft the exercise was complete and was instructed to reduce height to 4,000 ft. The next communication would normally have been a request for permission to land.
Witnesses on the ground noticed the aircraft approaching the base from a south westerly direction - a usual course to follow. As the aircraft approached Steppingley it was seen to spin down, dive and then recover at about 1,000 ft. Just as that appeared to be complete the wings and part of the tail seem to break away. The complete fuselage with centre section and engines, but without outer wings or tail surfaces dropped and burst into flames between Steppingley and Flitwick.
The accident investigation branch considered that the accident was due to failure of the rib structure of the radiator upper hose fairing at about the time the pilot, Sgt. Jacques Bonnewit, had resumed normal flight level flight after the descent - this resulted in the tearing away of the upper skin causing temporary loss of control as the aircraft rolled and went into a spin.
Above: Sgt. Jacques L. Bonnewit (courtesy of the Bonnewit family)
The evidence points to the probability that the pilot had regained control and straightened the aircraft but, owing to the trim of the Mosquito at the time, or the low height at which recovery was corrected he was unable to pull out of such severity that the wing structure overloaded and consequently - failed.
Above: Sgt. John William George Muncaster (courtesy Andrew Peart)
It was not possible to discover if either the pilot, or the navigator were strapped in the Sutton Harness at the point of impact, neither of the crew appeared to have tried to escape the aircraft. The body of the navigator, Sgt. Muncaster, was found a short distance from the main wreckage which appeared that he had made no deliberate attempt to escape from the aircraft and that his body was thrown out during impact.
As is usual, witnesses to the crash or to the events leading up to it were taken, they make 'interesting' reading - as shown:
Left: Witness 1 - Police Constable G.C. Upchurch
Above and below funeral for Sgt. Jacques Bonnewit - no details if this was the reinterment in Belgium or the original funeral. The soldiers standing by the grave have 'Luxembourg' badges on their arms.
Left: Witness 2 - Observer E.J. Woodland
Left: Witness 3 - Mrs Finedon
The mother of Sgt. Jacques Bonnewit spends time reflecting.
Sgt. Jacques L. Bonnewit. Brussels Town Cemetery (Belgian Airmen’s Field of Honour. Row 4. Grave 8. Born on the 22nd December 1919 in Amsterdam, Holland. Son of Hijman and Reina Meijer Bonnewit. Escaped from Belgium to Great Britain on the 8th August 1940 and joined the Royal Air Force.
Sgt. John William George Muncaster. Maryport Cemetery. Sec O. Grave 180. Son of Duncan and Sarah Muncaster, of Maryport, Cumbria, England.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to National Archives, Kew, London. Josette Bens, Mr. Alain Rosseels, Johny Recour from Belgium for further information. Additionally Andrew Peart relative of Sgt. Muncaster who contacted Aircrew Remembered in December 2015 and the son of Lina Bonnewit, the sister of the pilot Sgt. Bonnewit who contacted us in March 2017. Also to Raymond Binamé for further great information - March 2017.