14.12.1942 Telecommunications Research Est. Wellington III X3707 F/O. Thomas L. French
Operation: Equipment testing
Date: 14th December 1942 (Monday)
Unit: T.R.E. (Telecommunications Research Establishment)
Type: Wellington III
Base: RAF Defford, Worcestershire.
Location: Craiglockhart View, Edinburgh, Scotland
Pilot: F/O. Thomas Lennox French 65991 RAFVR Age 24. Killed (1)
Obs: W/O. Andrew McFadyen 581109 RAF Age 26. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Charles McGregor 638173 RAF Age 23. Killed
Radar/Op: Fl/Sgt. John Robert Harper 1115653 RAFVR Age 29. Killed
Signaller: 1st Lt. S. Kaulis USAAC Age 26. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at around 10.27 hrs. from R.A.F. Turnhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland in order to test "special equipment" along with three other aircraft. The flight proceeded normally for about an hour when owing to a fault with the "special equipment" they were instructed to return.
The pilot acknowledged this and the aircraft turned to the base.
A few minutes after this the aircraft was seen flying at around 1000 ft. in the area of R.A.F. Turnhouse seemingly about to enter a circuit - it was also observed that the undercarriage had not been lowered at this stage.
X3707 then passed straight over the airdrome, crashing just over four miles west, south, west, of the base.
F/O. Thomas Lennox French (courtesy Thomas Lennox French Jnr. via Neil Smith - see credits)
When the aircraft crashed it totally burnt out except for the engines which were able to be bench tested later on. The port engine fuel pump was found to have a small piece of foreign matter in it and as a result would not deliver fuel below 1500 r.p.m. As the r.p.m. was increased the pump began to deliver fuel until at 2500 r.p.m. it functioned normally.
When the aircraft was in normal flight the fuel pump worked OK but when the rev's' were reduced prior to landing the fuel pump failed and the port engine cut out. As a result the aircraft went into a spin, overshot the aerodrome and headed for playing fields close the Union canal at Meggetland, Edinburgh eventually crashing close by in a back garden of a house in Craiglockhart View at approximately 11.45 hrs.
Having an engine failure at such a low altitude with low air speed the aircraft was doomed to crash. F/O. Lennox-French was particularly skilful in managing to crash land without any causing civilian casualties in a built up area.
Various interesting newspaper clippings (courtesy Neil Smith)
Further information, courtesy Scotsman News:
Women were going about their daily household chores, a few men had wandered down to Craiglockhart's "Happy Valley" allotments to tend to their ground. All were quite probably counting the days until Christmas and then the dawn of a new year. It would soon be 1943, maybe war would end soon.
They heard it before they saw it. The loud drone of a plane's engine - too loud, not quite right, it made them stop what they were doing and raise their heads up to scan the sky.
What they witnessed must have made a terrifying sight….
Skimming the trees, a few dozen feet from the ground and heading straight towards the recently built bungalows and neat gardens of Craiglockhart View was the fearsome sight of Bomber Command's most trusted workhorse, the twin-engined Vickers-built Wellington, more than 60ft long with a wingspan of nearly 90ft, designed to be armed with up to four machines guns.
On board, her five frantic crew were embroiled in a desperate battle. Just over an hour into their secret test flight, the Wellington had experienced a critical and ultimately fatal equipment failure.
They surely knew they were in the final, terrifying moments of their lives. But as the neat rows of Craiglockhart View bungalows loomed before their eyes, they would also know that it wasn't only their lives at stake.
Above left - right: Fl/Sgt. Harper and Fl/Sgt. McGregor
Further information supplied by Mr. Gregor de Ste Croix of Inverness:
"Charles McGregor was my Great Uncle, and the youngest of five siblings all of whom served during WWII. He was the only brother not to survive the war. Joined up in 1939, and following training was a member of 75 Squadron flying Wellingtons on a tour of ops in 1940. He was posted to 93 Squadron in December 1940, and became a member of the Fighter Experimental Establishment, which absorbed the members of 93 Squadron before it was reformed as a fighter squadron in 1942. The FEE became the Telecommunications Flying Unit and was joined by the Special Duties Flight at Middle Wallop developing airborne radar equipment. Charlie’s flight or aircraft was attached to RAF Turnhouse in Edinburgh before returning to Defford permanently in 1942.
During a radar test fight with a Douglas Havoc on 14/12/42 the aircraft was ordered to return to base, as the radar equipment was not functioning. As the pilot approached Turnhouse the port engine stopped (due to mechanical failure). Witnesses observed the plane flying low over Turnhouse before crashing into the back garden of a house close to the Union Canal footbridge near Meggatland, Craiglockhart. The aircraft caught fire on impact and all on board perished.
An investigation of the accident uncovered a wiring fault near the carburettor of the port engine, which in turn affected the fuel supply to the port engine. Both engines were tested thoroughly as part of the accident investigation. The resultant court of enquiry reported cause as complete engine failure.
I have copies of the aircraft accident card/report, and the Operational Records Book page for 14/12/42 for the TFU. I also obtained with written consent a copy of Charlie’s Service record."
(1) F/O. Thomas Lennox French lost his brother, P/O. Robert James Lennox-French. Flying with 206 Squadron (Coastal Command) on an operation to Hamburg when the complete crew were lost on Saturday, 18th May 1940. Lockheed Hudson I N7329 VX-I flown by Fl/Sgt. Geoffrey A. Turner.
Thomas was a former Blenheim pilot, who, during the Battle of Britain flew Blenheim Mk I night fighters with 29 squadron.
F/O. Thomas Lennox-French. Edinburgh (Corstorphine Hill) Cemetery. Sec. B. Joint Grave 558. Son of Sidney and Euphemia French.
W/O. Andrew McFadyen. Glasgow (St. Kentigern's) Roman Catholic Cemetery. Sec. 6. Grave 1776. Son of Andrew and Mary McFadyen, of Glasgow, Scotland.
Fl/Sgt. Charles McGregor. Ballingry Cemetery. Sec. K. Grave 390. Son of Alexander and Agnes McGregor, of Glencraig, Scotland.
Fl/Sgt. John Robert Harper. Pickering Cemetery. Grave 1570. Son of Frank and Sarah Harper, of Pickering, husband of Dorothy Vera Harper, of Galgate, Lancashire, England.
1st Lt. S. Kaulis. From Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. N.o.K details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
Researched by Neil Smith of the 51 Squadron Historical Society, for Aircrew Remembered, thanks to Peter Braithwaite of the Ryedale Family History Group for his invaluable help in tracing the family of Fl/Sgt. Harper. Additional information added by our own researchers and dedicated to relatives of the crew.
Also thanks to the great nephew of Fl/Sgt. Charles McGregor, Mr. Gregor de Ste Croix of Inverness. With further information from Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses Vol. 1", Ross Mcneill - "Coastal Command Losses", Scotsman News, Commonwealth Graves Commission.
We are pleased to announce on behalf of the relatives, that a local councillor, Mr. Gordon Buchan has begun a quest to push for a memorial to this crew, after he had heard that locals in his constituency had recovered small pieces of the aircraft in their gardens. We would be very interested to hear of the progress into this memorial.
We understand that a memorial has now been erected on the crash site. With thanks to Kelvin Dungor for informing us, as well as sending the photograph.