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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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RAF Crest

Operation: Training / Rescue

Date: 21st May 1943 (Friday)

Unit: No. 1 Torpedo Training Unit

Type: Wellington

Serial: LB237

Code: Not known

Base: RAF Turnberry, Ayreshire, Scotland

Location: Inner Seas, ENE of Ailsa Craig

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. John Frederick Forsyth-Johnson 1383232 RAFVR - Missing believed killed (1)

Obs: Sgt. William Victor Chambers 1384655 RAFVR - Missing believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Cyril Jones 980210 RAFVR - Missing believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Brian Clarke 1236744 RAFVR - Missing believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Bertram Harrington Lowe 658389 RAF - Missing believed killed


Details are a little sketchy regarding what happened on this operation and we welcome further information with further details.

It is understood that a Hampden I AT125 ditched during training in the Inner Sea off Scotland. All the crew bodies were never recovered and re commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

(1) Fl/Sgt. John Frederick Forsyth-Johnson was the brother of the late entertainer Sir Bruce Forsyth. Sir Bruce wrote about this in his autobiography:

“When war broke out my older brother John was determined to become a pilot, and in early 1941, as soon as he turned 18, he volunteered for the RAF. I will never forget the day when the awful tragedy struck. Friday 21 May 1943, St Neots near Bedford. I am 15 years old and it’s the start of a free weekend from touring US military bases with a cabaret show. We’ve decided to enjoy the early summer weather. Someone suggests rounders.

I trip on the uneven ground and fall heavily on my hand, jamming my finger back at an unnatural angle. It hurts like hell and I feel sick. My friends gather round. ‘Bruce, are you all right? You look terrible. You’d better lie down.’ I’m feeling dizzy, nauseous, disorientated...

Left: Sir Bruce Forsyth (courtesy BBC)

Suddenly I’m in a plane, flying over the sea. No, not flying. I’m plummeting downwards, out of control, at an acute angle. There’s nothing I can do. I stagger towards the open door of the aircraft as the dark water rushes towards me. I jump... A strange and unpleasant dream as I drift in and out of consciousness, obviously. What makes it particularly disturbing, however, is that I’ve never been in an aeroplane.

I gave no further thought to that horrible vision until I returned home the following day to visit my parents. Normally my mother would call out cheerfully the moment I walked through the front door. Not this time. I found her sitting in her chair, gazing into space. ‘What’s up, Mum?’ That was when she told me that John – by then an RAF pilot – had been posted as missing.

It wasn’t until many years later, after my parents had passed away, that I received a letter and documentation explaining what had happened to John in the Turnberry area of Scotland that night. They were practising laying sea mines and one of the Wellington planes ditched in the drink. John’s plane, plus another, went back to help in the search and rescue. With their lights on, flying just above the water in an attempt to spot survivors, these two Wellingtons collided. Of the 18 men from the three aircraft that crashed, only seven were picked up. John was not one of them.

We went on to enjoy happy times as a family after his death, but never for a moment forgot about John”.

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. John Frederick Forsyth-Johnson. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 136. Son of John and Florence Ada Forsyth-Johnson, of Edmonton, Middlesex, England.

Sgt. William Victor Chambers. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 145. No further details - are you able to assist?

Sgt. Cyril Jones. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 155. Son of Jonathan and Mary Jane Jones; husband of Bettine Eluned Jones, of Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales.

Sgt. Thomas Brian Clarke. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 145. No further details - are you able to assist?

Sgt. Bertram Harrington Lowe. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 157. Son of Bertram and Florence Mary Lowe, of Ewell, Surrey, England.

For further details our thanks to the great people on the RAF Commands Forum and also to the following sources shown below.

KTY - 23.09.2017

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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Last Modified: 23 September 2017, 21:43

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