18/19.07.1944 No 78 Squadron Halifax III MZ788 EY-F F/O. Buchanan crash at West Malling
Friends and relatives of this crew travelled over from Australia to England in May 2013. They have compiled a book of letters which they presented to Aircrew Remembered for their part in the research of this loss.
Date: 18/19th July 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 78 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Breighton, Yorkshire
Location: RAF West Malling Airfield
Pilot: F/O. Malcolm Stjernqvist Buchanan AUS/414641 RAAF Age 31. Survived injured (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. William James Bailey 1571262 RAFVR Age ? Survived - badly injured
Nav: F/O. Donald Frederick Rayment 151318 RAFVR Age ? Missing
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. (P/O post) Alistair Lewis Mackenzie 179236 RAF Age 30. Missing
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. (P/O post) James Hedley Rice 185745 RAFVR Age 34. Survived (1)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. James McCannon 184087 RAFVR Age 23. Survived (1)
Air/Gnr: P/O. John Russell Harmer 183571 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 22.05 hrs from RAF Breighton, Yorkshire to attack the flying bomb sites at Acquet. 62 aircraft taking part on this operation bombing the actual launching sites. Photographs showed that no new damage was caused.
Another Halifax III NA513 EY-O flown by 30 year old W/O. George H. Stratford was lost together with all six other crew members.
F/O. Malcolm S. Buchanan (courtesy Bev Goodall)
L-R: F/O. Malcolm S. Buchanan, F/O. Donald F. Rayment, Sgt. William J. Bailey, P/O. John R. Harmer, Sgt. James H. Rice, Sgt. James McCannon and Fl/Sgt. Alistair L. Mackenzie (courtesy Bev Goodall)
It is understood that MZ788 was either attacked by a night fighter or hit by flak. (No night fighter claims found for this aircraft) during its return from the operation.
The aircraft was hit on the starboard side of the fuselage and an explosion took place within the flight engineer's department and Sgt. Bailey was severely wounded in both legs.
Fire also broke out. F/O. Don Rayment, Fl/Sgt. Alistair Mackenzie and P/O. John Harmer decided to bail out of the stricken aircraft and sadly they were lost, drowning it is assumed, in the North Sea.
78 Squadron Halifax at RAF Breighton (Courtesy IWM)
The remainder of the crew nursed the Halifax back, managing to crash land at RAF West Malling. For this the pilot was immediately awarded the DFC and Sgt. Bailey the CGM
(1) Tragically the pilot together with some other members of this crew who survived this crash were also killed later in November 1944 flying Halifax MZ810 EY-F.
F/O. Donald Frederick Rayment. Runnymede memorial Panel 208. No further details available as yet.
Fl/Sgt. Alistair Lewis Mackenzie. Runnymede memorial Panel 212. Son of Roderick and Nicolina MacKenzie, of Rutherglen, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
P/O. John Russell Harmer. Etaples Military Cemetery Grave 46.C.9. Son of Ronald Frederick and Alison Scott Harmer, of Earl's Court, London, England. Journalist on staff of 'Aeronautics'.
Researched for Bev Goodall, Jim Buchanan and dedicated to all relatives of the crew. With thanks to Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - "Bomber Command War Diaries", Commonwealth War Graves Commission Bev Goodall and Jim Buchanan for further information.