02.06.1942 1452 Flight, Boston III W8257 Fg Off. Anthony F. McManemy
Operation: Turbinlite training
Date: 2nd June 1942 (Tuesday)
Unit No: 1452 Flight
Type: Boston III (Havoc DB-7)
Base: RAF West Malling
Location: Fant Farm, Farleigh, Kent
Pilot: Fg Off. Anthony Francis McManemy 67661 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
WOp/Obs: Sgt. Gordon Richard Fennell 902039 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Turbinlite Havocs of 1452 Flight co-operated on operations initially with 264 Sqn Boulton Paul Defiants and later with 32 Sqn Hurricanes. On the 8th September 1942 the men and machines of 1452 Flight was taken over by 531 Sqn.
Above courtesy of Steve Airzee
On the night of the 2nd June 1942 W8257 took off from RAF West Malling for a Turbinlite training sortie along with two Hurricanes from 32 Sqn.
Turbinlite: The Helmore/GEC Turbinlite was a 2,700 million candela (2.7 Gcd) searchlight fitted in the nose of a number of British Douglas Havoc night fighters during the early part of of WW2 and around the time of The Blitz. The Havoc was guided to enemy aircraft by ground radar and its own radar. The searchlight would then be used to illuminate attacking enemy bombers for the fighters accompanying the Havoc to shoot down. In practice the Turbinlite was not a success and the introduction of higher performance night fighters with their own radar meant they were withdrawn from service on the 25th January 1943.
The two Hurricanes from 32 Sqn were:
Hurricane IIc, BN383, GZ:? Flown by Flt Sgt. Josef Vejlupek 787449 RAFVR;
Hurricane IIc, Z3842, GZ:? Flown by Flt Sgt. Wilbert James Merrithew R73228 RCAF.
It is not known exactly what happened, but at 00:05 hours it was probable that Flt Sgt. Merrithew’s Hurricane collided with Havoc W8257 and Hurricane BN383.
Both crew of the Havoc were killed when their aircraft crashed at Fant Farm, Farleigh, Kent. Flt Sgt. Merrithew was also killed but Flt Sgt. Josef Vejlupek, although injured, managed to crash land his Hurricane. Flt Sgt. Vejlupek was posted non-effective sick to RAF West Malling.
UPDATE: December 2016 - Aircrew Remembered have been contacted by the daughter of Flt Sgt. Vejlupek. Ms. Linda Vejlupkova will be providing us with further details soon. After the accident Flt Sgt. Vejlupek was hospitalised, then went to Medicine Hat as an instructor prior to returning to UK for further active service.
Above: Flt Sgt. Josef Vejlupek
In August of 1945 he was transferred back to the Czech Air Force in Czechoslovakia. He later escaped the Communist Coup and persecution of the returning Czech airmen and re-joined the RAF as a 'Ferryman', taking the last Spitfires and Meteor jets out to Penang and Singapore. He flew one of the three Spitfires that were the last to participate in action. He retired from the Royal Air Force as a Fg Off.
Josef Vejlupek, also known as Frank Walters, was born 30th January 1919. He passed away in 1997 and is buried at Klatovy, Czech Republic.
Fg Off. Anthony Francis McManemy. Sevenoaks Cemetery (Greatness Park) Sec. B. R.C. Grave 0593. Born in 1st Qtr of 1919 in Sevenoaks, Kent. Son of Joseph and Margaret Elizabeth (née Adams) McManemy, of Sevenoaks, husband of Audrey (née Godwin) McManemy, of West Malling, Kent, England.
Sgt. Gordon Richard Fennell. Maidstone Cemetery, Kent. Plot C.C.1. Grave 122. Born in the 1st Qtr of 1920 in Plymouth, Devon. Son of William and Ethel Violet May (née Williams) Fennell, of Plymouth, Devon, England.
Flt Sgt. Wilbert James Merrithew. Maidstone Cemetery, Kent Plot C.C.1. Grave 119. Grave inscription: "TO US WHO LOVED HIM BEST EACH DAY RECALLS A MEMORY OF A DEAR ONE GONE TO REST. WIFE AND DAUGHTER." Born on the 4th December 1915 in Red Rapids, New Brunswick. Son of Wilbert James and Murrel (née Pennick) Merrithew and husband to Emma Louise (née Simpson) Merrithew of Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, Canada.
He was buried on the afternoon of 5th June 1942, the funeral being attended by 32 Sqn Commanding Officer Sqn Ldr. E.R. Thorn, Flight Commander Flt Lt. Endersby , the Adjutant Fg Off. C.F. Atkinson and fellow Sergeant pilots.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew by Kelvin Youngs (Webmaster) with thanks to Steven Airzee, his mother being a niece of Sgt. Fennell. Rewrite of narrative and to add details of the second aircraft involved in the collision with details provide by Linda Vejlupkova (Jun 2022).
Other sources as shown below: