21/22.08.1944 105 (T) OTU Wellington X MF517 KAM-N F/O. Kenneth Wilson Fox
Date: 21/22 August 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: 105 (Transport) Operational Training Unit - Group 44 Transport Command
Type: Vickers Wellington X
Base: RAF Bramcote (4 miles south-east of Nuneaton) Warwickshire,
Location: Newtown Farm, Romsley, Worcestershire
Pilot: F/O. Kenneth Wilson Fox J/149226 RCAF Age 29 - Killed (1)
Nav: Sgt. George Firth 1207021 RAFVR Age 29 - Killed (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Stanley Clarkson Walker J/90030 (formerly R105492) RCAF Age 31 - Killed (3)
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REASON FOR LOSS
On Monday 21 August 1944 F/O. Kenneth Wilson Fox and crew consisting of navigator Sgt. George Firth and wireless operator/air gunner P/O. Stanley Clarkson Walker flying Wellington X MF517 call sign KAM-N took off at 2159 (Double British Summer Time) from RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Surface wind at take off was 11 mph, visibility was good and the cloud ceiling was 2000 feet.
The flight was authorised by F/O. Robinson for navigational training with special instructions as follows: "On return to locate SBA beam and descend through cloud by QGH procedure"
[SBA - Standard Beam Approach (a blind-landing radio navigation system using the Lorenz beam developed by C. Lorenz AG in Berlin in 1932). QGH is the code for Controlled Descent through Clouds i.e. a let-down procedure using a ground-based DF/ADF (direction finder/automatic direction finder)]
The aircraft failed to return and it later transpired that it had crashed at Newtown Farm, Romsley, Worcestershire some 10 miles south of Birmingham.
Later, on 22 August, a 'Form 765 - Report on flying accident or forced landing not attributable to enemy action' was completed with details as follows:
Description of the Accident
Duration of flight 4 hours 47 minutes
The officer i/c flying, reports that:-At 2159 hours on 21 August 1944 Wellington X aircraft 517 of "A" Flight, Pilot F/O. Fox, took off from RAF Bramcote, on a training night cross country flight. The route was B.63, i.e. Base-Valley-St. Kilda-Base. The aircraft established W/T contact and started its exercise. W/T. communication was maintained with the aircraft throughout its flight. At 0246 hrs a message was received from the aircraft (Call sign KAM-N) giving his position as 54° 17'N 04° 09'W, [about 5 miles east of the Isle of Man] magnetic course as 137°, height as 6000 ft. ETA as 0330 and the time of origin was 0230 hours. Nothing was heard until seven minutes before ETA i.e. 0325 when Bramcote D/F [direction finding] Station passed the aircraft a QDM of 115 3rd class. [QDM: magnetic bearing to the station]
The aircraft replied that he would call again. Nothing further was heard of the aircraft and at 0450 full overdue action was taken by the Duty Flying Control Officer. At approximately 1330 hours, 22 August, Worcester Police reported a Wellington aircraft had crashed near Halesowen, Worcester. CTO [Chief Training Officer] and Flight Commander immediately visited the site to find that this was the aircraft missing and apparently aircraft had been lost and flown into ground killing all the crew immediately. Court of Enquiry is being held.
Report of Appropriate Specialist Officers
The CTO accompanied by OC., S & DI. Squadron (Tech (E)) visited the scene of the incident at approx. 1500 hrs 22 August 1944. The aircraft had undoubtedly flown at very high speed into some trees which was the first point of impact. The aircraft wreckage indicates that it was flying a little above ground level at the time of the impact. The wreckage inertia is very considerable - being spread in a forward direction over a vast area, some pieces being about 400-500 yards from pint of impact. Other than trailing aerial, there was no indication that the aircraft had touched the ground before impact with the trees. Damage was so extensive that it was not possible to determine if any technical cause had been responsible, but there is definitely NO indication of Fire amongst the wreckage. No adverse technical report or comment was received from Crew whilst airborne. No adverse report received from witnesses.
A. R. Clark W/Cdr
CTO RAF Bramcote 23 August 1944.
Proceedings of the Court of Enquiry into the flying accident at Newtown Farm - Rubery, Halesowen near Birmingham of 22 August 1944, convened on 23 August 1944 at RAF Bramcote are as follows:
Composition of the Court
S/Ldr A. J. Douch
S/Ldr K. R. Midmer
F/O. W. J. Archer
All of 105 (T) OTU
S/Ldr. V. G. Daw
F/Lt. J. G. Roberts
F/O. R. E. Robinson
F/O. G. C. G. Warburton
S/Ldr. F. A. L. Harding
F/O. D. F. Tait
F/Lt. E. Howgate
All the above of 105 (T) OTU
Mr. J. T. Jones - Civilian
Mr. W. E. Field - Civilian
S/Ldr. E. F. G. Burton - 3 (O) AFU
S/Ldr. J. Sutton - 105 (T) OTU
Flying experience of Pilot F/O. Fox Age 29 8/12
Types flown within 6 months prior to accident
DH82 - solo night 1.40 hours (Dual zero) - solo day 25.35 hours (Dual 10.50)
Oxford - solo night 13.14 hours (Dual 6.35) - solo day 21.31 hours (Dual 23.40)
Wellington - solo night 11 hours (Dual 8.15) - solo day 31 hours (Dual 1.35)
17 EFTS [Elementary Flying Training School] Peterborough - Assessed above average
2 FIS [Flying Instructors School] Montrose - Below average
33 AFTS [Advanced Flying Training School] Carberry - Above average
7 FIS [Flying Instructors School] - Shawbury - Average
6 (P) AFU [Pilots Advanced Flying Unit] - Little Rissington - Average
Time and location of crash:
0330 at Newtown Farm Rubery
Exact location of crash including height where relevant
(i) 660 feet
(ii) Tree 6 feet from ground
Weather conditions at time and place of crash: Considerable cloud with base 500/1000ft above highest ground strong NE wind - dark night - good visibility below cloud.
Flight properly authorised
Pilot had recent regular flying practice and dual instruction
All inspections carried out and sufficient fuel carried
Engine log card examined and found in order
Police Report - Attached as Appendix (b) [not included in file]
We have visited the scene of the accident before aircraft was removed and have found the following material facts.
Aircraft completely disintegrated following impact of starboard mainplane [wing] with a tree. The aircraft then struck the ground at a flat angle probably on a right hand turn. The aircraft was under power and travelling fast at time of impact. A drawing of the scene of the accident is enclosed as Appendix "C" [not found in the file]
(a) The aircraft struck high ground approximately 20 miles west of base whilst in a diving turn to the right. This has been established by impact marks on the ground and damage to adjacent trees. The speed of the aircraft was high and both engines appear to have been under power at the moment of impact. There is no evidence to show that the aircraft was out of control. The whole aircraft was totally destroyed, the wreckage stretching for 250 yards.
(b) The evidence of the fifth witness (Senior Flying Control Officer) states that at 02.30 hours the ETA base was sent out by W/T as 03.30 hours. The evidence of the eighth witness (Mr. J. James) states that the accident occurred at 03.30 hours. At 03.23 hours the W/op was in contact with the Bramcote D.F. station, but the pilot does not appear to have acted on the third class bearing which he was given.
The evidence of the third witness (F/O. Robinson) states that the pilot was ordered during briefing to locate himself by the SBA Beam, and to descend through the cloud under W/T control. These orders were disobeyed.
It is highly probable that the pilot descended through cloud at his ETA, without having first located himself accurately. Further, it seems that the pilot was either not aware that he had broken cloud or he did not realise he was over high ground.
Signed 25 August 1944
S/Ldr A J Douch
S/Ldr K R Midmer
F/O. W J Archer
We are informed by Stuart Smith, Romsley Parish Paths Warden that:
Although the Form 765 and the Proceedings of the Court of Enquiry refer to Newtown Farm being in Rubery , Newtown Farm and much of the land associated with it including the crash site is in the parish of Romsley.
Propeller blade socket from Wellington MF517 which crashed near Newtown Farm, Romsley on 22 August 1944
Items recovered from Wellington X MF517 which crashed on 22 August 1944 with the loss of all crew near Newtown Farm Romsley.
The two photographs above kindly provided by John Mantle
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/O. Kenneth Wilson Fox was born c 1915 the son of W. Reg. Fox and Lillian Fox, of Toronto Ontario, Canada.
(2) Sgt. George Firth was born on 2 February 1915 at Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire the son of Percival and Beatrice Firth nee Robinson.
In 1939 George Firth was a School Teacher living/lodging with Gertrude Fosdike at 2 St Mary's Street Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire.
He married Violet Crissie Fordham at Whittlesey (Marriage registered June Quarter 1944)
Sgt. George Firth is commemorated on the Ilkley Town War Memorial, Ilkley, West Riding of Yorkshire.
(3) P/O. Stanley Clarkson Walker was born on 23 January 1913 at Toronto, Ontario Canada the son of Yorkshire born parents, Clarkson Walker (a Salesman) and Mary Emma Walker nee Chapman of 88 Chatham Avenue Toronto. His parents were married at Shipley Yorkshire on 26 July 1905.
Stanley Walker had five siblings: Doris Emily Walker born c 1908, Marjorie Carell Walker born c. 1916 Charles Verdun Walker born c 1917 (RCAF Lachine Quebec) Douglas Alfred Walker born c. 1921 (Canadian Army) and Clifford Walker born c 1923 (Canadian Army)
He attended Earl Grey School (1918-1927), Eastern High School (1927-1928) and Central Technical School (1929-1931) and after leaving school he was employed by George R. Morton as a Farm Hand (1931-1935), Nock Bros and Ayre Co. as a Machine Repair Man (1935-1938) and Scarboro' Farm Dairy as a Milk Salesman from 1938 until enlisting in the RCAF.
He played hockey and softball extensively, badminton, boxing and lacrosse occasionally and his hobby was photography.
On 16 April 1938 he married Gladys Eva Taylor at Toronto but the couple had separated by mutual consent before 4 June 1941. They had a daughter, Arlene Marjorie Walker born 10 December 1938
When he enlisted at Toronto on 4 June 1941 Stanley Walker was described as being 5' 9" tall weighing 150 lbs with a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair.
After training at 16 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Hagersville, Ontario, 4 Wireless School at RCAF Guelph and RCAF Burtch, Ontario and 5 Bombing and Gunnery School, RCAF Dafoe Saskatchewan he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 31 August 1942.
He was then posted to 34 Operational Training Unit at RCAF Penfield Ridge New Brunswick on 15 September 1942 and later RCAF Greenwood, Nova Scotia on 13 October 1942.
He embarked for the UK on 26 January 1943 and on disembarking was posted 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth on 5 February. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 28 February 1943.
On 11 March he was posted to 11 Radio School and on 20 April to 1 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit at RAF Thornaby, North Riding of Yorkshire
On 26 June 1943 he enplaned for North Africa where he joined 500 Squadron on 30 June at Tafaraoui, Algeria and on 17 August posted to 52 Squadron at Protville (Tunisia). He was promoted to Warrant Officer 2nd Class on 28 August 1943
He embarked for the UK on 10 April 1944 disembarking on 19 April and after the Squadron was disbanded, was posted to 3 Personnel Reception Centre. On 5 May he was posted to 69 Squadron at RAF Northolt, Greater London and on 13 June to 105 (T) Operational Training Unit at RAF Bramcote, Warwickshire.
He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer with effect from 21 August 1944
Stanley Walker's remains were identified by personal clothing, correspondence and identity cards. A letter to his father of 31 August 1944 informed him that: 'Funeral took place at 2 p.m. on August 28 at the Royal Air Force Regional Cemetery, Chester, Cheshire
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
F/O. Kenneth Wilson Fox was buried at Chester (Blacon) Cemetery - Sec. A. Grave 805.
His epitaph reads
Hath no man
Who lays down his life
For his country
Sgt. George Firth was buried at Bradford (Scholemoor) Cemetery - Cons Sec. 5. Grave 2.
His epitaph reads
The Lord lift up
His countenance upon thee
And give thee peace
P/O. Stanley Clarkson Walker was buried at Chester (Blacon) Cemetery - Sec. A. Grave 940.
His epitaph reads
I often see his smiling face
As he bade his last goodbye
He left his home forever
In a distant land to die
On 29 October 2020 Aircrew Remembered was contacted by Stuart Smith, the Parish Paths Warden for Romsley. Stuart informed us that he was planning to commission an information board to be placed on a footpath nearby, in order to both inform path users of the event and as a recognition of the three airmen who lost their lives there. To this end he requested copies of the photographs from our memorial page, which we were more than pleased to provide.
In August 2021 Stuart provided the following update.
At 11 a.m. on Sunday 22 August 2021 a small ceremony was held near to the crash site at Romsley to honour the three aircrew who died in the accident involving Wellington MF517.
Members of the Parish Council together with local residents were addressed by the Chairman of the Council who used the information from the Aircrew Remembered archive report to give a brief summary of events and to name the three airmen. A memorial plaque was then unveiled. The Last Post was played by a local bugler and 2 minutes silence was held followed by Reveille and the laying of flowers at the memorial.
Hopefully this ceremony along with the memorial plaque and your report will serve as a reminder of what happened and the sad event 77 years ago today will not be forgotten.
Todays event is more or less the culmination of over ten years wondering what really happened all those years ago and a determination to dispel the many varied and incorrect stories that I have heard from local people.
A video and transcript of the ceremony can be seen here:
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - February 2020
With thanks to the sources quoted below.