01.04.1944 No.20 OTU Wellington III X3225 -D F/Sgt. Terence Raymond Cooke
Date: 1 April 1944 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 20 Operational Training Unit (OTU)
Type: Wellington III
Base: RAF Elgin, Moray, Scotland
Location: In the sea, near the islands of Jura and Colonsay, Scotland
Pilot: F/Sgt. Terence Raymond Cooke Aus/424152 RAAF Age 20 - Killed (1)
Nav: Sgt. John Henry Stafford 1399018 RAFVR Age 29 - Killed (2)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Gerwyn Winton Lewis R/168700 RCAF Age 30 - Killed (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Geoffrey Hodgson 1686216 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (4)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Arthur Edgar Robertshaw 1592545 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (5)
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REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Elgin at 10:02 hours for a cross country navigation task. The Accident Report states that: "This aircraft whilst on a cross-country flight was seen by Coast Guard to be on fire in the air and crash into the sea whereupon an explosion must have taken place as the Coast Guard saw bits flying up into the air." The report gives the location of the crash as "4 miles north of Isle of Jura."
Rescue launches were reported to have been on the scene within a very short time and despite an extensive search being made over a long period the only body recovered was that of Sgt. Robertshaw.
In Bomber Command Losses Volume 7, W.R. Chorley adds that the Coast Guard that witnessed the crash was at Colonsay coastguard station and that the aircraft was on a bearing of 130 degrees and six or seven miles towards Jura.
Scale: 1" = 40 miles
At the ensuing court of enquiry opened on 4 April 1944 it was stated that the weather was fair to fine and visibility good at take-off. At the time and place of the accident the weather was fine with scattered fair weather cumulus at 5000' and medium cloud at 17000'. Visibility was 20 miles at 20000' and 7-8 miles at sea level with a slight ground haze and a calm sea.
The crash location was stated to be 3 to 4 miles N-NE Red'ha (Rud'ha Mail, Oban) Mail Pos'n 55°58'N 06°05'W - In the Sea.
The aircraft log book, engine log book, pilot's log book, flight authorisation book and Form 700 were all in order and had been signed where required.
Only small amounts of wreckage had been recovered and had been examined by the Investigating Officer, Flight Lieutenant Fred Watson of 20 OTU. He stated that all the pieces of wreckage smelled strongly of petrol and indicated violent impact with the water. No other material fact could be derived and none of the material was burnt.
The conclusion reached by the enquiry was that:-
(a) At an unknown time, very shortly prior to 11.15 hours on Saturday April 1st 1944, Wellington Mark III aircraft X3225 flying on correct course, height and airspeed caught fire in the air.
At approximately 11:15 hours it was observed to be on fire, and an explosion was heard coming from the aircraft.
It immediately afterwards spiralled down in flames, out of control into the sea, and disappeared. At 12.40 hours the first marine craft to reach the scene recovered the dead body of the Rear Gunner of the crew, and a few pieces of wreckage. The bulk of the aircraft had sunk.
(b) I [the Investigating Officer] consider this accident was caused by:-
An explosion within the aircraft caused by an unknown factor with the resultant damage to either pilot, and/or structure of the aircraft, causing uncontrollable fire and also causing the aircraft to spiral down at great speed, completely out of control.
A Vickers Wellington Mark III (courtesy IWM)
(1) F/Sgt. Terence Raymond Cooke (left) was born 5 February 1924 at Mudgee, New South Wales, Australia the son of Frederick George and Amy Cooke of 71 Perry Street, Mudgee. He was educated at Mudgee High School and at his leaving examination in November 1940 he achieved Grade "A" passes in English and Maths I and Grade "B" passes in Maths II, History, Chemistry, Latin and French. He played hockey, tennis and enjoyed swimming.
After leaving school he worked as a Public Servant Records Clerk. He joined the Cadet Wing of No. 24 Squadron on 23 October 1941 and on being called up joined an Anti-Aircraft Training Battery on 22 June 1942. His residence at this time was 19 Bogan Street, Summer Hill, Sydney. He had applied for aircrew on 16 January 1942 and having been accepted enlisted on 15 August 1942 aged 18 years and 191 days. On enlistment he was described as being 5'5" tall, weighing 133 lbs with blue eyes, dark hair and dark complexion.
Although he achieved average marks at Initial Training School and later at Elementary Flight Training School at RAAF Station Narrandera, New South Wales, it became apparent that due to his small stature and consequent short leg length he had problems controlling single engine aircraft. It was recommended that he transfer to multi engine aircraft. After further training at 5 Service Flying Training School based at RAAF Station Uranquinty, New South Wales he was posted to RAAF Station Bundaberg in Queensland on 27 February 1943. His report on leaving 5SFTC stated that his intelligence was very sound, he was very determined to serve as a pilot, exceptionally keen and although young he was promising officer material.
A very good airman who should do well on twin-engine aircraft.
In 2 July he was posted to Bradfield Park prior to embarking for the UK on the 14th. After arrival in the UK he was immediately posted to 11 (RAAF) Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre at Brighton on 27 August and 11 Pilot Advanced Flying Unit on 28 September. He continued his training here on twin-engine Airspeed Oxfords before being posted to No. 20 Operational Training Unit at RAF Lossiemouth on 29 February 1944.
(2) Sgt. John Henry Stafford was born in 1915 at Southwark, London the son of Alfred John Stafford and Jessie Edith Mary Stafford nee Coombes of East Dulwich, London.
(3) Sgt. Gerwyn Winton Lewis (left) was born 17 November 1914 at Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada the son of William Edgar Lewis (born in England) and Catherine Lewis nee Thomas (born in Wales). Gerwyn Lewis had 4 sisters and a brother. Mr. Lewis was the caretaker at the Animal Research Facility near Coalhurst, and the family lived on the property until his retirement in 1955.
Gerwyn attended Coalhurst School from 1920 to 1932. He left having achieved Grade I (Part) and Grade II of the Academic Course. After leaving school he worked as a Stone Letterer and Polisher. In 1940 he joined the 2nd 20th Battalion Royal Canadian Artillery under the Non-Permanent Active Militia volunteer force. In February 1942 he applied for aircrew and after acceptance took the Oath on 8 June 1942 at Calgary. He was described as 5'6" tall weighing 134 lbs with brown hair and eyes.
After observer training in Canada he was awarded hid Air Bomber Badge on 17 September 1943 and later embarked at New York on 8 October 1943 for the UK where he arrived on the 16th. He was posted to RAF Bournemouth and later to Whitley Bay. On 18 January 1944 he was posted to No. 1 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit and to No. 20 OTU at RAF Lossiemouth 29 February 1944.
(4) Sgt. Geoffrey Hodgson was born in 1924 at Halifax, West Riding of Yorkshire the son of Stanley Hodgson and Jane Hodgson nee Raisbeck. Geoffrey Hodgson had three brothers and three sisters.
(5) Sgt. Arthur Edgar Robertshaw was born in 1925 at Dewsbury, West Riding of Yorkshire the son of Harold Robertshaw and May Robertshaw nee Kilburn. The family lived at 23 York Road, Earlsheaton, Dewsbury. Prior to joining the Air Force, Arthur Robertshaw was a Motor Driver for Crawshaw and Warburton Colliery Proprietors of Dewsbury. At the time of his death Sergeant Robertshaw was completing his training having gained his "wing" after only seven months of training. He was buried at Earlsheaton Cemetery, Dewsbury on Thursday afternoon 6 April 1944. Arthur Robertshaw had four sisters one of whom Mrs Annie Brown served in the A.T.S. during the Second World War.
F/Sgt. Terence Raymond Cooke having no known grave is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 260
Sgt. John Henry Stafford having no known grave is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 238
Sgt. Gerwyn Winton Lewis having no known grave is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 255
Sgt. Geoffrey Hodgson having no known grave is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 231
Sgt. Arthur Edgar Robertshaw was buried at Earlsheaton Cemetery, Dewsbury, West Riding of Yorkshire - Section C. Grave No. 229
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - January 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.