02.12.1943 No. 1664 HCU Halifax V DG282 Fl/Sgt. Gray
Date: 02nd December 1943
Unit: No. 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU)
Type: Halifax V
Code: Not known
Base: RAF Croft, Yorkshire
Location: At the airfield, RAF Croft
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Peter Ritchie Gray R/140935 RCAF Age 25. Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Harrison Catto R/97729 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. S. Fletcher 1821944 RAFVR Survived - no injuries (2)
Air/Bmr: F/O. James Arthur Foulston J/25075 RCAF Age 23. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. George Alfred Chilvers 1235580 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (3)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Henry Benedict Bellew R/202312 RCAF Age 18. Died from injuries
Air/Gnr: Sgt. C.H. Hills R/170146 RCAF Survived - injured
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Croft at 17:40 hrs to take part in take off and landing exercises. During the evening the weather deteriorated and they were instructed to land.
The pilot made one approach to the airfield and then continued with another circuit. During the final approach it is thought that steam from a passing train hampered their vision. It would appear that this severely hampered the crew and that site of the field was lost.
At 21:40 hrs the Halifax touched a haystack, slowing the aircraft dramatically, the aircraft then struck the ground siding to a halt and caught fire. Many attempts were made to rescue the crew, all but two of them were killed.
(1) Gray Lake, northeast of Grandmother Lake was named after Fl/Sgt. Peter Ritchie Gray in 1994.
(2) Sgt. S. Fletcher escaped a similar accident suffering injuries. On return from and operation to Berlin whilst serving with 420 Squadron on Halifax III LM396 after attempting 3 approaches when, on the fourth the aircraft crashed at 05:00 hrs near the runway in poor weather conditions. Two of the crew were killed, the remaining 5 escaped with various degrees of injuries, but survived.
Fl/Sgt. Peter Ritchie Gray. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall). Sec. C. Row F. Grave 8. Son of Charles C. Gray and Annabella Bell Gray (née Milne), of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
Sgt. John Harrison Catto. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall). Sec. C. Row F. Grave 7. Son of John William and Jeane Harriett Catto (née Ware), of New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada.
Above as described - courtesy Michel Beckers
F/O James Arthur Foulston. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall). Sec. C. Row F. Grave 10. Son of Arthur Boyd Foulston and Annie Foulston (née Gray), of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada and husband of Esther Edna Foulston (née Deering), of Medicine Hat.
Sgt George Alfred Chilvers. Great Yarmouth R.C. Cemetery, Caister Road, Norfolk. Next of kin details not available - are you able to assist?
(3) Note: Aircrew Remembered visited his grave in May 2017, although the immediate area was clean, the general condition of the cemetery in particular the graves of servicemen lost was found to be in a very poor state of repair and in some cases inaccessible. We have reported this together with supporting photographs to the CWGC.
Note: They responded within days sending a team to clean the area.
Sgt Henry Benedict Bellew. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall). Sec. C. Row F. Grave 13. Son of Benedict Cosgrove Bellew and Rachel Watson Bellew (née Allan), of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Terry Aldcott for information, crew and grave photographs - May 2017. Other sources as shown below.