21.12.1943 No 1679 HC Flight Lancaster II DS615 F/O. John J. McGavock DFC
Operation: Training (night circuits and landings)
Date: 21st December 1943 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 1679 H.C. Flight.
Type: Lancaster II
Base: RAF Wombleton (Topcliffe)
Location: Topcliffe airfield, Yorkshire
Pilot: F/O. John Joseph McGavock DFC J/17116 RCAF Age 24. Killed (426 Squadron) (1)
Pilot 2: F/O. Thomas Ernest Major J/21628 RCAF Age 24. Killed (408 Squadron)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Kenneth Forster 1581900 RAFVR Age 20. Killed (408 Squadron)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Robert Thomas James Welch R/101969 RCAF Age 24. Injured (Critically) (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Arthur Lawrenson 1454834 RAFVR Age 21. Slightly Injured
Air/Gnr: Sgt. W.R. Clapham RAFVR Slightly Injured
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from Topcliffe at 21.10 hrs for night circuits and landings practice. This Lancaster was fitted with dual flight controls for training, it is not clear who was flying the aircraft at the time.
The Lancaster was seen to approach the airfield but from reports the pilot thought that he was in danger of undershooting and very rapidly opened up the throttles which caused both port engines to choke out and DS615 veered out of control and struck a glancing blow to Halifax II DT548 before crashing with considerable force on the airfield.
F/O. John McGavock DFC, F/O. Thomas Major and Sgt. Kenneth Forster were killed instantly, Fl/Sgt Welch was critically injured, died some 48 hours later. Sgt. Lawrenson and Sgt. Clapham remarkably escaped with only slight injuries and were treated at the station sick quarters.
Details of F/O. John Joseph McGavock's D.F.C. (Presented to his parents on 12th December 1944)
"This officer has taken part in numerous attacks against all types of enemy targets including such heavily defended areas as Hamburg, Mannheim, Essen and Cologne. He has also participated in several mine-laying operations. Pilot Officer McGavock's quiet determination to complete his allotted tasks, regardless of adverse weather or enemy opposition, has proved him to be an outstanding captain of aircraft who inspires the utmost confidence in his crew."
On 22nd April 1943, G/C J.L. Plant, Commanding Officer added his remarks:
"This officer has a physique and bearing which inspires confidence in his crew. He carried out his operations with determination and is considered to be one of the outstanding pilots of his squadron."
(1) McGavock Lake in Manitoba is named after F/O. McGavock
(2) Welch Lake in Manitoba is named after Fl/Sgt. Welch
F/O. John Joseph McGavock DFC. Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery Sec C. Row G. Grave 19. Son of Frank and Theresa McGavock, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
F/O. Thomas Ernest Major. Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery Sec C. Row G. Grave 20. Son of William and Rose Major, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Kenneth Forster. Stoke-On-Trent (Hartshill) Cemetery Grave 9232. Son of Joshua and Ada Forster of Campbell Road, Stoke on Trent, England.
Fl/Sgt. Robert Thomas James Welch. Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery Sec C. Row H. Grave 7. Son of James A. Welch and Clara W. Welch, of Boissevain, Manitoba, Canada.
For further details our thanks to the following, Margaret Bryant, Pauline Lawrenson, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', 'Bomber Command Database', Commonwealth War Graves Commission.