16/17.12.1943 No. 97 Squadron Lancaster III JB219 OF-R F/O. Kirkwood
Date: 16/17th December 1943 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 97 Squadron
Type: Lancaster B.III
Base: RAF Bourn, Cambridgeshire
Location: At Hayley Wood South of RAF Gransden Lodge
Pilot: F/O. James Kirkwood DFC.146119 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
Fl/Eng: Fl/Sgt. Edward George Hubbard 1477239 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Robert Charles Stewart 1361082 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Bmr: F/O. George Alexander Wigley 132874 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald George Cleeve 1315213 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leonard Madeley 1696999 RAFVR Age ? Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Killen 1055997 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
A Day that has become known as Black Thursday for Bomber Command. 97 Squadron losing some 8 aircraft with 36 aircrew killed with a further 6 injured. The real tragedy was that 7 of the aircraft crashed on return to England mostly due to the appalling weather conditions.
After taking off at 16:50 hrs and having completed the operation. JB219 crashed at Hayley Wood 00:10 hrs. just south of RAF Gransden Lodge killing all the crew. A memorial now stands at the crash site.
They had been posted to 97 Squadron (PFF) from 207 Squadron (Main Force) on the 29th November 1943. Whilst with 207 Squadron, they had flown 23 operational missions as a crew, with F/O. Kirkwood also flying one additional mission as Second Pilot. Immediately after having been posted to the squadron from 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit (as was the whole crew) on 1 June 1943.
They were killed on their first mission with 97 Squadron.
The others lost from the squadron:
Lancaster III JA963 OF-Q flown by 22 year old, Fl/Lt. David James Brill 106881 RAFVR missing with all 7 other crew over Berlin.
Lancaster III JB117 OF-C flown by 20 year old, FlSgt. Ian Macdonald Scott AUS/417123 RAAF killed on return to base with allis crew. 01:01 hrs.
Lancaster III JB531 OF-Y flown by P/O. F. Smith RAFVR baled out with all crew on return to base - all safe.
Lancaster III JB482 OF-S flown by F/O. R.L. Mooney RAFVR baled out with all crew on return to base - all safe. 00:35 hrs.
Lancaster III JB119 OF-F flown by 27 year old, Sq/Ldr. Donald Forbes Mackenzie doc. 82671 RAFVR killed on return to base with two others, 4 others survived injured. 00:42 hrs.
Lancaster III JB176 OF-E flown by 23 year old, F/O. Edward Thackway 138109 RAFVR killed on return to base with four others from his crew, one other survived injured. 01:00 hrs.
Lancaster III JB242 OF-P flown by 27 year old, Sq/Ldr. Ernest Alfred Deverill DFC bar. AFC. DFM. 45546 RAF killed on returning to base with five of his crew, one other survived injured. 00:15 hrs.
F/O. James Kirkwood DFC. Kilwinning Cemetery Section D.Z. Old part. Grave 27. Son of James and Jessie Kirkwood, of Kilwinning and husband of Margaret Howard Kirkwood, of Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland.
Fl/Sgt. Edward George Hubbard. Croxton Churchyard Extension (St. Paul) Grave 297. Son of John and Katherine Mary Hubbard, of Croxton, Norfolk, England. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends".
Sgt. Robert Charles Stewart. Braemar Graveyard (St. Andrew's) Grave 206. Son of Charles and Mary Stewart, of Braemar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man".
F/O. George Alexander Wigley. Carshalton Churchyard (All Saints) Section U. Grave 320. Son of George Augustus and Dorothy Daisy Wigley, of Carshalton, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "Do Not Ask If We Miss Him There Is Such A Vacant Place Can We Forget His Footsteps Or His Dear And Loving Face".
Sgt. Ronald George Cleeve. Wyke Regis New Burial Ground Section E. Grave 273. Son of James and Annie Elizabeth Cleeve, of Wyke Regis, Weymouth, Dorset, England. Grave inscription reads: "As Long As Life Lasts We Shall Never Forget Him Near To Our Hearts Is The Grave Where He Sleeps".
Sgt. Leonard Madeley. Manchester Southern Cemetery Section L.C. of E. Grave 43. No further details - are you able to assist?
Fl/Sgt. John Killen. Hollinfare Cemetery. Grave 512. Son of James Melon Killen and Mary Victoria Killen and husband of Mildred Killen, of Cadishead, Manchester, England. Grave inscription reads: "Resting Where No Shadow Falls".
Researcher Stephen Hunnisett for Aircrew Remembered - January 2019 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as shown. Also, thanks to Sam Dorrington for grave photograph.