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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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280 Squadron Crest
08.10.1944 280 Squadron Vickers Warwick BV290 ME:G Fg.Off. Mason

Operation: Air Sea Rescue Operation

Date: 8th October 1944 (Sunday)

Unit: 280 Squadron, Coastal Command

Type: Vickers Warwick ASR Mk 1

Serial: BV290

Code: ME:G

Base: RAF Langham, Norfolk

Location: North Sea

Pilot: Fg.Off. Albert Mason 133951 RAFVR Age 30. Missing believed killed

Pilot 2: Fg.Off. Colin John Swann 154783 RAFVR Age 20. Missing believed killed

Nav: Sgt. Percy Arthur Alger 1600090 RAFVR Age 22. Missing believed killed

WOp/Air Gnr. Sgt. Leonard Arthur Maurice Finch 1394986 RAFVR Age 21. Missing believed killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Kenneth Stanley Cox 1577581 RAFVR Age 22. Missing believed killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. Stanley Arthur Cracknell 1800178 RAFVR Age 21. Missing believed killed

BV290 Crew Photograph. Left to right: Sgt. Finch, Sgt. Alger, Sgt. Cox, Fg.Off. Mason, Fg.Off. Swann, Sgt. Cracknell (Courtesy David Cracknell).

REASON FOR LOSS:

According to the Squadron Operation Order Book (ORB), BV290 and another Warwick were searching for a dinghy in position 53 55N, 06 30E, which is some 31 miles NW from Norderney. At 11:45 hrs at 53 53N, 06 30E, which was about 2¼ miles due south of the above position, the two aircraft were attacked by two ME 410’s.

The OKL (Luftwaffe High Command) fighter Claims listings for the 8th October 1944 has two claims, under Miscellaneous Combats and Interceptions, for an Oblt. Langer & Fhj.Fw. Wehrmann both from Seenotgr.80 for a Wellington at unresolved map references (6467 & 6413) at 100m and 500m, at 11:50hrs and 11:58hrs respectively. There are no other reports of a two engined aircraft being intercepted on this day.

Note: The Germans had some convoluted map referencing systems and these two sets of numbers appear to be a quadrant location in a Grid system, used by the Kriegsmarine, but the Grid identity is missing so it is impossible to determine the locations in Lat/Long.

The heights and the cloud base, which was reported as 1000ft, and times at which the interceptions took place may be significant and it would have been easy to mistake a Warwick for a Wellington in combat. Additionally Seenotgr.80 operated the Do 18, Do24 and Me 410 out of Norderney which is one of the East Frisian Islands of the North Sea Coast of Germany and not far from the ORB reported Lat/Longs.


In February 2019 we were contacted by Mr. John Allan, a volunteer researcher from the great Langham Dome Museum who supplied the following details:

On the 3rd October at about 13:30 hrs, Beaufighter NT909 during an operation to attack shipping off the island of Amerland the aircraft collides with either a balloon cable or the ships mast. The crew, consisting of WO. Mann and Flt.Sgt. Kennedy were forced to ditch. They managed to climb into the life raft.

An air-sea search was then put into operation.

After 4 days adrift and becoming very weak the crew were spotted by another Warwick from the Squadron on the 7th October. Plt.Off. Hagg flying BV341 ME-A dropped a lifeboat which landed about 150 yards from the crew. They were too weak to be able to paddle to it and it drifted away.

The crew of another aircraft Warwick BV282 ME-E flown by Fg.Off. Harvey witnessed the drop at 09:15 hrs. At 10:10 hrs they then dropped a set of Lindholme gear (1) just 20 yards from the stranded crew. Flt.Sgt. Kennedy manages to make it to the large Lindholme dingy and then assists WO. Mann to climb into the dingy. They placed on survival suits and took on water and condensed milk. Fg.Off. Harvey continued to circle the lifeboat until they have to return to Langham through lack of fuel. They landed safely at RAF Langham at 15:45 hrs some 7 hours 35 minutes after take off!

On the 8th October three aircraft took off at 10:00 hrs to continue with the rescue. At 11:45 hrs two Warwicks are attacked by Me410 fighters. Fg.Off. Rhodes managed tohidz in clouds and called BV290 to warn them of the attack. No reply was received from Fg.Off. Albert Mason and they were never seen again. It is not clear if they were shot down or the pilot lost control taking evasive action.

At 18:30 hrs on the 10th October after 7 days adrift in the North Sea WO. Mann and Flt.Sgt. Kennedy finally arrive at Gorleston near Great Yarmouth, taken to hospital for treatment and released a week later.

(1) The Lindholme Gear was developed at RAF Lindholme by Grp. Capt. Waring during the 1940s to provide a simpler rescue system than the air-dropped lifeboats then in use. The Lindholme Gear is five cylinder-shaped containers joined together by lengths of floating rope. The centre container would house a nine-man inflatable dinghy with the other containers housing survival equipment such as emergency rations and clothing. The containers were discarded containers from the tail-units of 500lb and 250lb bombs.

Above is a Vickers Warwick GR Mk5

Burial details:

Crew and aircraft lost without trace - commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial - details shown.


Above left: AC Albert Mason - He does not have the flash on his forage cap so this is an image of him as a recruit probably at home on leave. (Courtesy of Paul Smith)

Fg.Off. Albert Mason. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 208. Albert Mason was born in the Bromsgrove district of Worcestershire in 1913. His parents were Henry and Jane (née Millington) Mason who had married in 1906. Henry was a police officer originally from Haselor in Warwickshire. In 1908 they had a daughter, Dorothy. She was Alberts only sibling. By 1939 Henry had retired and the family had moved back to Lower Haselor. It is believed that at this time Albert was a serving police officer in the Oldham area. He never married and is remembered on a plaque in St.Mary and All Saints church in Haselor. Joined RAF around April 1941 via Padgate recruiting centre. Service number on enlistment was 1484076. Gazetted Plt.Off on probation (Emergency) on 12th December 1942 at which time he had attained the rank of Leading Aircraftman (LAC). Promoted to Fg.Off. six months later. Joined 280 Squadron on 15th September 1944 (effective 6 Sep 1944) from No.5 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit at Turnberry, Scotland. This unit had taken on specialist Air Sea Rescue training in May 1944 and it is likely that this is where Albert would have converted to the Warwick aircraft and formed his crew. It is thought he may have served with at least one other squadron before joining 280 at Langham.

Left; Fg.Off. Swann whilst as an Airman Aircrew trainee ( Courtesy of Colin Swann)

Fg.Off. Colin John Swann. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 209. Son of Frank C. and Emily Swann, of Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, England. Colin Swann was born in the first quarter or 1924, the son of Frank C.S. Swann (born 1875) and Emily (née Ison), born 1880) Swann. He had an elder sister Marie, born in 1921. His parents married in 1919 in the Royston District of Hertfordshire. His father was a cabinet maker and the family lived in Fowlmere Cambridgeshire. Colin Swann is commemorated on the Fowlmere village war memorial. Colin joined the RAF in 1941 via the Oxford recruiting centre. His original service number was 1600942 and by December 1943 he had reached the rank of Flt.Sgt. He was gazetted Acting Plt.Off. with effect from 10th December 1943 (award published 18th April 1944). His commission was confirmed and he was promoted to Fg.Off. with effect from 10th June 1944. He was posted to 280 Sqn from No 5 Operational Training Unit, Turnberry Ayrshire, on 9th September 1944. It is probable that he was a Co-pilot.

Sgt. Percy Arthur Alger. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 223. Son of Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Alger, of Gillingham, Dorsetshire, England. Born in the Shaftsbury district of Dorset in 3rd quarter of 1922. Son of William John Alger (born Dorset 1896) and Bessie K. Alger nee Dawe (born Dorset 1899). Parents married in 1922 and were living in Gillingham (Dorset) at the time Percy died. Percy appears to have been an only child. Enlisted September 1941 via Oxford recruiting centre. It is though that he joined 280 Sqd along with Fg.Off. Mason on 6th September 1944, the entire crew coming from No 5 (Coastal) Operational Conversion Unit at Turnberry, Ayrshire.

Sgt. Leonard Arthur Maurice Finch. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 229. Born on the 03rd July 1922 in Lewes, Sussex, the son of Arthur James and Daisy Florence Finch (née Taylor) and husband of Roberta Finch (née Crowell), of Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland. They married in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. (Roberta lived at 122 Sherman Street in Cambridge Mass.) Also remembered on the St Michael's Church War Memorial at Partridge Green, West Sussex.

Sgt. Kenneth Stanley Cox. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 227. Kenneth Cox was born in the Stourbridge district of Worcestershire in first quarter of 1921. His parents were Herbert Stanley and Lottie (née Taylor) Cox who had married in 1916. Herbert was a baker and became foreman in a bakers and confectioners business in Halesowen. Kenneth was their first child and he had three siblings; Tom (b.1923), Roy (b.1924) and Edna M (b.1927). In 1939 the family were living at 1 Cherry Street, Halesowen, which had been Lottie’s family home before she married Herbert Cox. Kenneth was not married and he is remembered on the Halesowen War Memorial. Believed to have joined RAF in June 1941 via the Birmingham recruiting centre. It is thought that he joined 280 Sqn along with Fg.Off. Mason on 6th September 1944, the entire crew coming from No. 5 (Coastal) Operational Conversion Unit at Turnberry, Ayrshire. This unit had taken on specialist Air Sea Rescue training in May 1944 and it is likely that this is where the crew would have converted to the Warwick aircraft. It is thought he may have served with at least one other squadron before joining 280 Sqn at Langham.

Copy of a framed picture memorial prepared by a relative soon after the event (Courtesy David Cracknell)

(Left Courtesy David Cracknell). Sgt. Stanley Arthur Cracknell. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 227. Son of John Ernest and Kate Cracknell, of Tottenham. Middlesex, England. Stanley Cracknell was born in the first quarter of 1923 the son of John Ernest and Kate (nee Pawsey) Cracknell, of Tottenham, Middlesex who married in 1913. He was one of eight children, although his two older brothers, John C (b 1914) and William G (b 1916) had both died in 1921 before Stanley was born. He had three elder sisters Lillie E A (b 1915), Ivy K (b 1918), Elsie M (b 1920), a twin sister Violet W, and a younger brother Ronald J W (b1926) In 1939 his father was working as the foreman of a sewage pumping station at The Cosh, Markfield Road, Tottenham, where the family lived. Enlisted with the RAF in December 1941 via the Euston Recruiting Office. It is thought that he joined 280 Sqn along with Fg.Off. Mason on 6th September 1944, the entire crew coming from No 5 (Coastal) Operational Conversion Unit at Turnberry, Ayrshire.



Researched for Nigel Luck, nephew of Sgt. Leonard Finch and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Adrian Vieler who discovered further details on Sgt. Finch and Fg.Off. Mason with photographs, also to John Allan who submitted details on the loss, together with comprehensive details on crew members in February 2019, Langham Dome Museum .Thanks to David Cracknell for the images the crew and his half brother, Sgt Stanley A. Cracknell. Thanks also to Paul Smith for the image of Albert Mason, who was the cousin of Paul's mother. Thanks to Colin Swann, the nephew of Fg.Off. Swann, for his photograph (Aug 2020). Other sources as shown below:

RS 30.08.2020 - Addition of image for Fg.Off. Swann

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 (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', Franek Grabowski, 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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