17.04.1944 No. 5 LFS Lancaster I W4232 RC-Y P/O. Bruce L. Humphreys
Date: 17th April 1944 (Monday)
Unit: No. 5 Lancaster Finishing school
Type: Lancaster I
Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire.
Location: Hazelford Lock, River Trent, North of RAF Syerston
Pilot: P/O. Bruce Lettington Humphreys AUS/418120 RAAF Age 20. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Alan Townsley 2202697 RAFVR Age 19. Missing - believed killed
Nav: Fl/Sgt. Arthur Harkness Farrell 1238840 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Nelson Harcourt Cutler 1459698 RAFVR Age 29. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Reginald John Brown 1650995 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Albert Davies 2204830 RAFVR Age 19. Missing - believed killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alan Dennis Bale 1894597 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Syerston at 16:01 hrs for general flying training - just four minutes later and possibly whilst still climbing - eye witnesses state that they thought the aircraft was at about 1000 ft things started to go wrong - statement from eye witness Terry Harrod, then aged 8/9 and lived with his parents in the Lock Keepers house:
The aircraft climbed in the air over our house, when the tip of the port wing fell off. Terry was standing with his mother watching the aircraft, which went into a tight 360 degree turn and crashed into the escarpment just above his house. The explosion and fireball knocked both him and his mother from their feet. The crash just missed the bomb dump area.
The lock keeper’s house, lock and weir is located on an island called The Nabbs. The island is in the River Trent at the foot of the escarpment which forms the northern boundary of RAF Syerston (see maps).
Above: Reportedly photo of Lancaster W4232 during an earlier flight (courtesy A.P and R.M Glover via Ken Ogilvie)
Ken Ogilvie who has done so much to create the Bleasby Aircrew Memorials to crew lost in the area, researched this and several others - submitting them to Aircrew Remembered.
Although the eye witness states the Port wing having fallen off, other sources state the the Port mainplane and the tip of the Starboard wing fell off.
Sadly two of the crew could not be positively identified and are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.
P/O. Bruce Lettington Humphreys. Oxford Cemetery (Botley). Plot I/2. Grave 212. Born on the 15th October 1923 at St. Kilda, Victoria, the son of James Thomas Humphreys and Eva May Humphreys, of Kew, Victoria, Australia.
Sgt. Alan Townsley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 239. Son of Thomas and Doris May Townsley, of Leeds, Yorkshire, England.
Fl/Sgt. Arthur Harkness Farrell. Blackpool Crematorium (Carleton). Panel 2. Husband of Irene Farrell, of Blackpool, England.
Sgt. Nelson Harcourt Cutler. Castleford Cemetery (Whitwood). Sec. C. Grave 425. Son of James N. Cutler and Hannah Cutler, of Glasshoughton, Castleford and husband of Joyce Cutler, of Glasshoughton, Yorkshire, England.
Sgt. Reginald John Brown. Newport Cemetery (St. Woolos). Block 20. Grave 215. Son of George and Gertrude May Brown, of Newport, Wales.
(Grave photo courtesy Rob Pearson)
Sgt. John Albert Davies. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 228. Son of Flt. Lieut. Albert Edwin Davies and Caroline Isobel Davies, of Glengormly, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Sgt. Alan Dennis Bale. Darlington West Cemetery. Sec. L.5Q. Grave 102. Son of George Watson Bale and May Bale, of Croydon, Surrey, England.
Researched by Ken Ogilvie and dedicated to the relatives of this crew, with thanks to an an eye witness to the crash, Terry Harrod, then aged 8/9 and lived with his parents in the Lock Keepers house. With thanks to Rob Pearson for sending grave photo - July 2017. Also to sources as mentioned below.