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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
21.05.1943 No.1 Torpedo Training Unit (TTU) Wellington LB237 Flt.Sgt. John F. Forsyth-Johnson

Operation: Training / Rescue

Date: 21st May 1943 (Friday)

Unit: No. 1 Torpedo Training Unit (TTU), Coastal Command

Type: Wellington

Serial: LB237

Code: TU:?

Base: RAF Turnberry, Ayreshire, Scotland

Location: Inner Seas, ENE of Ailsa Craig

Pilot: Flt.Sgt. John Frederick Forsyth-Johnson 1383232 RAFVR Age 20. - Missing believed killed (1)

Obs: Sgt. William Victor Chambers 1384655 RAFVR Age 22. - Missing believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Cyril Jones 980210 RAFVRAge 23. - Missing believed killed

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

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Bertram Harrington Lowe 658389 RAF Age 28.- Missing believed killed


On 21 May 1943, a night-time exercise to practise the laying of sea-mines was undertaken carried by three aircraft; Hampden AT125 and two accompanying aircraft from No. 1 TTU, Wellingtons LB193 and LB237. The Hampden, for an unknown reason, ditched into the sea and the two Wellingtons immediately engaged in a search flying low over the water with their lights on. It is presumed that the two aircraft collided, and crashed into the sea 3½ ENE of Ailsa Craig, Firth of Clyde. Only seven men were recovered alive from a total of eighteen aboard the three lost aircraft. All five aboard Wellington LB237 were posted as "missing believed killed" . (Brian Bouchard & Roger Morgan - Epsom and Ewell History Explorer website).

(1) Flt.Sgt. John Frederick Forsyth-Johnson was the brother of the entertainer, the late 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:

Flt.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?

(Left) Sgt. Cyril Jones. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 155. Son of Jonathan and Mary Jane Jones; husband of Bettine Eluned Jones, of Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales. (Courtesy: Danielle Maxted)

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. The marriage of Bertram Lowe to Florence Mary Harrington was registered in West Ham for the September Quarter of 1913. Birth of their son Bertram H. Lowe came to be recorded ion the same District 3/1916. By 1939, the Lowes had taken up residence at 47 Thorndon Gardens, Worcester Park, Ewell. Betram, senior, was then described as a Solicitors Managing Clerk / Estate Agent, born 23rd October 1889. His son, Bertram H, born 16th December 1915, had started work as an Estate Agent's Manager. Bertram, junior, enlisted with the Royal Artillery before being transferred into the Royal Air Force

For further details our thanks to the great people on the RAF Commands Forum also to Brian Bouchards for information on Sgt. Lowe. Thanks to Danielle Maxted, the great granddaughter of Sgt. Jones, for the photographs. Finally to the following sources:

RS 13.11.2019 - Addition of photographs for Sgt. Jones and editorial update

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), 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', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 13 November 2019, 08:17

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