09.10.1945 No. 1665 HCU Stirling IV LJ622 F/O. Sydney H. Bunting
Date: 09th October 1945 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 1665 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit)
Type: Stirling IV
Base: RAF Marston Moor, North Yorkshire (1)
Location: Tockwith village, Yorkshire
Pilot: F/O. Sydney Harold Bunting 172231 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ronald Alec Alexander 1851215 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Raymond Victor Viall 1629417 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. Herbert Kenneth Griffiths 164899 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Albert Edward Bonass 1898979 RAFVR Age 34. Killed (2)
Air/Gnr: F/O. John Cantle-Jones 184201 RAFVR Age 31. Killed (3)
Civilian: Mr. Arthur William Carlill Village PostMaster Age 68. Killed.
A great deal of the details shown have been supplied by the Chairman of the Parish Council, Mr. Norman Waller who provided us permission to use this.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 23rd September 1945 just months after the end of WW2 F/O. Bunting, at the time stationed at RAF Marston Moor had a lucky escape when the Stirling IV LJ828 he was piloting suffered a burst tyre on landing. He managed to keep the aircraft fairly straight but crossed the runway intersection - the wheel rim sunk into the soft ground, resulting in the collapse of the undercarriage. All the crew escaped injury.
Above and below photographs of the crash site - these were taken by a Mr. T. Edge who passed them on to Mr. Brian Lunn for publication in one of his aviation research books - Aircraft Down, Air Crashes around Wetherby 1939-1945 published by Hardwick Publications in 1987.
Tragically, just over a fortnight later F/O. Bunting was piloting another Stirling on a night cross country training sortie (with the same crew) when the aircraft crashed into the village at Tockwith in North Yorkshire.
They had been airborne for just over 7 hours when flying in poor visibility the aircraft stalled in a turn to port whilst at 2,000 ft and lost height before crashing into a row of houses.
One of the houses reduced in a flash to jagged pieces of wall was the Police House. The occupant was PC Harry Sagar. He, his wife and daughter Ruth who incidentally still lives in the village, escaped injury but were left in nothing but their night clothes. Constable Sagar had no uniform but nothing daunted and with fires raging at intervals the whole length of the east end of the village without waiting to be given anything to cover his pyjamas, took charge of the grim situation.
The village grocer William Todd who also had his shop badly damaged said at the time, “Tockwith looks like an old shelled French village in the last war and the plane is strewn in pieces all along the main street. It crashed on top of the street and it’s blazing wreckage ploughed its way along the row of shops and houses”.
Right: Yorkshire Post covering the event on 10th October 1945 (courtesy Kate Tame)
The crash severed a water main and people had to draw water from a pump in the garden of The White Cottage which was the home of Mrs George Bishop who had been evacuated from London during the blitz four years earlier. She said at the time.” I never thought I would have the blitz all over again. I went through some of the bombing in London but this was as bad an experience in its way as I ever remember.”
Telephone lines were also cut.
A local company (with a big name) Stage One, with premises on the former airfield have designed the memorial - a local builder has agreed to carry out the ground work.
The Air Ministry set up a headquarters in the main street to deal with the claims for damaged property and loss of personal belongings.
Awards for bravery displayed after the crash were later presented to a number of people, including the village policeman Police Constable Harry Sagar, Company Officer Leslie Matthews of Wetherby, and Leading Fireman John Utley also of Wetherby. Mr Matthews and Mr. Utley received the British Empire Medal and PC Sagar received the Kings Commendation for Brave Conduct.
“Company Officer Matthews and Leading Fireman Utley mounted a ladder and although the bedroom was blazing inferno without the slightest hesitation they entered the building” said the citation. “Utley located the occupant who was partially covered by debris; she was released and passed to Matthews who carried her to safety. Utley was so exhausted that he had to be assisted down the ladder. Both men displayed exceptional bravery” PC. Sargar’s award was for his bravery in dealing with the consequences of the crash.
The aircraft crashed in Marston Road flying West to East and initially demolished the Post Office and the Police House. It then bounced over the Chapel and Northfield House and into Swires grocery shop and adjacent buildings. It then bounced again over Melbourne Stores and hit Cromwell Cottage and Nicholson’s butchers shop. The post master Arthur Carlill who had been sleeping in the attic room at the Post Office was killed as was the entire crew.
The street scene of the village changed forever. One of the oldest houses in the village which was thatched and reputed to have been the house where Oliver Cromwell had a wound dressed during the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644 was destroyed.
An inquest was held by the Coroner because a civilian had been killed and evidence was given by Squadron Leader Kenneth Stammers, the officer in charge of night flying on the night in question. Flying Officer Bunting was an experienced pilot and the flight was the last of his training programme for that particular type of work. The aircraft reported at 01.18 hrs that all was well.
There was no possibility of the pilot mistaking his route as had been widely reported before the inquest. Permission was not given to land, but to make a circuit of the airfield. The pilot should not have come in low over the village. The subsequent Air Ministry board of enquiry found that the aircraft had stalled at 2,000ft during a turn to port in bad visibility.
The only public memorial to those who died in the crash is on display in Tockwith Church, but this is merely a piece of typed card.
2015 marks the 70th Anniversary of the crash and the Parish Council are co-ordinating the building a lasting memorial to those who died on that fateful night.
(1) RAF Marston Moor - formerly RAF Tockwith, but name changed to avoid confusion with RAF Topcliffe also in North Yorkshire.
(2) Sgt Albert Bonass was to have been a guest player with York City football team on the 14th October. A former member of York City football club, Sgt. Bonass later went to Hartlepool United and then to Chesterfield. He began his football career with Dringhouses, York.
(3) The family of F/O. John Cantle-Jones also lost another son. 23 year old Sgt. Allan Cantle-Jones 1387255 RAFVR. An air gunner flying with 78 Squadron when he was killed during an operation to bomb rail facilities at Le Mans, France on the 14th March 1943. The Halifax III LW517 EY-Y was hit by flak at 14,000 ft, crashing in the target area. 5 crew killed, 2 taken PoW.
Left: Artist impression of the planned memorial, designed by Stage One
F/O. Sydney Harold Bunting. Faversham Borough Cemetery. Sec. F. Grave 375. Son of Sydney Frank and Eva Florence Bunting, of Faversham, Kent, England.
Sgt. Ronald Alec Alexander. Colbury (Christ Church) Graveyard. East end of old portion. Son of Mr. and Mrs. John William Alexander, husband of June Elizabeth Alexander, Of Portswood, Southampton, England.
Sgt. Raymond Victor Viall. Bexley (St. Mary) Church Cemetery. Son of Alfred John and Selina Ann Viall, of Bexley, Kent, England.
F/O. Herbert Kenneth Griffiths. Southgate Cemetery. Sec. HB. Grave 601. Son of Henry Herbert and Nellie Florence Griffiths, of Palmers Green, Middlesex, England.
Sgt. Albert Edward Bonass. Horrowgate (Stonefall) Cemetery. Sec. G. Row K. Grave 11. Son of George and Amelia Bonass, husband of Dorothy Bonass, of Earswick, Yorkshire, England.
F/O. John Cantle-Jones. Horrowgate (Stonefall) Cemetery. Sec. G. Row K. Grave 10. Son of Frank and Bertha Cantle-Jones, husband of Margaret Grace Cantle-Jones, of Kenton, Middlesex, England.
Mr. Arthur William Carlill. Husband of Alice Isobel Carlill of Tockwith, Yorkshire, England.
For further details our thanks to the following, Mr. Frank Bunting of the Bunting Society Journal who instigated this page of remembrance, Mr. Norman Waller - Chairman of Tockwith Parish Council, Kate Tame - the genealogical researcher for Aircrew Remembered, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Peter Lucas for Harrogate Cemetery graves. Ray Dines for Bexley grave photograph. Colin Cummings - 'The Price Of Peace'. Also to Mr. Brian Lunn and the late Mr. T. Edge for amazing photographs.
The sad state of the grave of F/O. Bunting at Faversham Borough Cemetery!