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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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434 Squadron Crest
19.09.1944 No. 434 Squadron Halifax III MZ908 WL-O P/O. Lees

Operation: Walcheren

Date: 19th September 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 434 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: MZ908

Code: WL-O

Base: RAF Croft, Yorkshire

Location: Akeld, Northumberland

Pilot: P/O. John Clive Lees J/86771 RCAF Age 20. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. M.H. Bush RAFVR

Nav: P/O. R. Jim “Sea Level” Thompson RCAF

Air/Bmr: F/O. “Ivan” B.R. Warr RCAF

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. M. “Cody” Stiles RCAF

Air/Gnr: P/O. Pete Melnechuck RCAF (1)

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. “Rusty” W.H. Boyer RCAF (1)

We are indebted to Chris Davis who researched this loss and also visited the crash site in July 2011. Further details are available on this and many others in his publications ‘Almost Forgotten’ Volumes 1 and 2 - The Search For Aviation Accidents In Northumberland. (details shown below)


Many reference books record the crash site as Fenton Town and after mush investigation by the webmaster no place exists in the area that the accident occurred. Finally I contacted Chris Davies and he confirmed the actual crash site for me. (see below)

The previous day of the loss they had been restdored on an operation to Domburg - to attack gun emplacements. However the Master Bomber called off the attack and Halifax MZ908 returned but diverted to RAF Tholthorpe in North Yorkshire - the aircraft landed with its full bomb load.

The following day they took off again at 13:30 hrs for the raid on Walcheren - yet again the operation was cancelled and the aircraft recalled.

L to R - F/O. Warr, P/O. Thompson, F/O. Stiles, Fl/Sgt. Boyer, P/O. Melnechuck, P/O. Lees - missing Sgt. Bush.

During preparation to land the Halifax shed a propeller from the outer starboard engine which then struck the inner starboard engine, removing that propeller. As the aircraft was close to RAF Milfield they requested permission to land. On three occasions for whatever reason the permission was declined. (RAF Milfield was at the time the base for 59 Operational Training Unit - Fighter Command)

Left: pieces recovered at crash site (courtesy Chris Davies)

In view of the possible danger the pilot, P/O. John Lees, instructed the crew to bale out - all did so successfully. He decided to attempt a landing at Milfield - sadly the aircraft crashed at 16:15 hrs at Ewart’s View Farm in Akeld. The pilot died in the crash.

(1) It is understood that P/O. Pete Melnechuck passed away in 1976 - Fl/Sgt. “Rusty” Boye was from the USA - we welcome contact from any relatives of the crew in order to complete details.

The crew had, we understand, completed over 20 operations prior to this accident.

Burial details:

P/O. John Clive Lees. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall). Sec. E. Row E. Grave 7. Son of Bernard Gordon Clive and Sorea Louise Lees, of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “Greater Love Hath No Man”.

‘Almost Forgotten’ Volumes 1 and 2 - The Search For Aviation Accidents In Northumberland. ISBN: 978-1445603339. Amberley Publishing.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Linda Ibrom, Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, Chris Davies. Other sources as quoted below.

KTY - 17.06.2017

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 17 June 2017, 15:17

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