07.02.1943 30 Operational Training Unit (OTU) Wellington III BK434 Sgt. Robert D. Lewis
Date: 6th/7th February 1943 (SaturdaySunday)
Unit No: 30 Operational Training Unit (OTU)
Type: Wellington III
Base: RAF Hixon, Staffordshire.
Location: Grounds of Old Rectory, Ingestre, Nr. Weston, Staffordshire
Pilot: Sgt. Robert Driscoll Lewis 416587 RAAF Age 26. Killed
Nav: Sgt. Kenneth Henry Austin 1319425 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Sgt. John McGinnes 1024009 RAFVR Age 28. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. John Joseph Kenny 1375175 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Deryck Charles Rowse 413778 RNZAF Age 30. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Hixton on a night cross-country training exercise at 19.45 hrs and returned at 01.15 hrs. The pilot, Sgt. Robert Driscoll was given permission to land which he acknowledged and touched down, it appeared to be a good landing.
However it is thought that the pilot felt that it was coming in too fast and consequently opened the throttles and took off off a second try. He then went into a steep climb and turned to the left. The aircraft stalled at around 1.000 ft and came in very low and just about level when the port wing hit a tree in the woods of the grounds of the Old Rectory, Ingestre, less than a mile south of the airfield. The location is directly in line with RAF Hixon's NE/SW runway. (see map)
This was to be the last training flight before the crew went onto operations.
BK434 Wellington crew left to right: Sgt. Rowse, Sgt. Kenny, Sgt. Lewis, Sgt. McGinnes and Sgt. Austin (courtesy Muriel George)
The tremendous crew photographs have been supplied to Aircrew Remembered by Muriel George (nee Rees) daughter of Flt Sgt. Roland Rees who it would seem had trained with this crew. Flt Sgt. Rees was himself killed later this year, with 199 Squadron on a Stirling III EE913 EX-F
Left: Sgt. John Joseph Kenny (courtesy Fiona Holding) Right: Sgt. Kenneth Henry Austin (courtesy Guy Phoenix)
We are indebted to Delwyn Griffith of the Midland Recovery Group who contacted us in October 2014 and provided exact location of the crash area. Griff visited the crash site in the 1980's.
Above: Where the two people from the Midland Recovery Group are standing is where one wing of the Rectory used to stand prior to the crash. Due to extensive damage it was subsequently demolished. It had ploughed through two garden walls before crashing into the Rectory building.
Sgt. Robert Driscoll Lewis joined on the 21st July 1941 in Australia, serving with the following units:
No.1 Elementary Flying Training School (1 EFTS) RAAF, Parafield, South Australia;
No.6 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) RAAF, Mallala, South Australia;
Embarked from Australia to the UK on the 16th June 1942.
No.3 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit (3(P)AFU) No. 40 Advanced Flying Course, RAF South Cerney;
No. 30 Operational Training Unit (30 OTU).
Crew graves: left to right: HIxon Churchyard, Hendon Cemetery, New Kilpatrick Churchyard and Glasnevin Cemetery.
In October 2014, Guy Phoenix, nephew of Sgt. Austin, contacted us and sent the following photos of Sgt. Austin taken at various places in Canada during his training. We include them in the hope that someone is able to recognise some of the other faces. (Whilst training at the 33 Air Navigation School, RAF Mount Hope, Ontario, Canada)
Above: Newspaper cutting regarding Sgt. Lewis - printed in about 1973 on the anniversary of the crash. Briefly it explains that his mother visited the church at Hixon in 1953 and presented them with a flagpole and flag, asking that her son be remembered. (courtesy Australian War Memorial)
Sgt. Robert Driscoll Lewis. Hixon (St. Peter) Churchyard. S.E. part. Grave 4. Inscription: “HE SLEEPS, HIS KNIGHTLY VIRTUE PROVED, HIS MEMORY HALLOWED.” Born on the 1st December 1916 in Adelaide, South Australia. Son of William Henry and Hilda Marion Lewis, of Kensington Park, South Australia.
Sgt. Kenneth Henry Austin. Hendon Cemetery and Crematorium Sec.G.6. Grave 54128. Inscription: “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT HE LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS.” Son of Harry and Ethel May Austin, of Edgware, Middlesex, England. Trained at 33 Air Navigation School RAF Mount Hope, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. John McGinnes. New Kilpatrick Parish Churchyard. Grave 454. Son of David and Margaret McGinnes, and stepson of William Mitchell, of Milngavie, Glasgow, Scotland, husband of Phyllis McGinnes.
Sgt. John Joseph Kenny. Glasnevin (Or Prospect) Cemetery. Screen wall panel 2. Son of William and Ellen Kenny, of Crampton Quay, Dublin.
Sgt. Deryck Charles Rowse. Hixon (St. Peter) Churchyard. S.E. part. Row 3. Son of Thomas Jackson Rowse and Eva Rowse (nee Udy) husband of Reina Eileen Rowse (nee Lemmon), of Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand.
Researched for Fiona Holding and all the relatives of the crew by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster). Thanks also to Guy Phoenix - nephew of Sgt. Austin, also to Muriel George. With thanks to the following: Delwyn Griffith of the Midland Recovery Group who also carried out research into this loss and contacted us in Oct 2014. Corrections to NoK details and narrative by Aircrew Remembered (May 2022).
Other sources below.