08/09.09.1943 No 75 Squadron Stirling III BK809 'T' F/O. Menzies
Date: 08/09th September 1943 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 75 (NZ) Squadron 3 Group
Type: Short Stirling III
Code: AA-T (1)
Base: RAF Mepal, Cambridgeshire
Location: Sutton, Cambridgeshire
Pilot: F/O. Ian Robert Menzies NZ/415002 RNZAF Age 21. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Albert Leslie Mellor 943914 RAFVR Age 30. Injured (2)
Nav: P/O. Derek Albert Arthur Cordery 136360 RAFVR Injured
Air/Bmr: F/O. Norman Hathway Gale 151013 RAFVR Age 30. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ralph Herbert Barker NZ/417189 RNZAF Injured
Air/Gnr: Sgt. G. Bullivant 1395379 RAFVR Injured
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Stewart Donald Muir NZ/416967 RNZAF Age 21. Injured (3)
REASON FOR LOSS:
During take off at 21:55 hrs the huge Stirling swung in the slight cross wind, it then veered sharply to the starboard when the pilot over corrected and struck a petrol bowser finally coming to rest between two houses in the residential area of Sutton when it caught fire.
During the rescue of the crew many others came to their aid - some killed during the explosion of the bomb load. Full newspaper reports - courtesy Ely Standard 17 September 1943
One of those killed, Section Officer Joan Marjorie Easton 2986 WAAF lost her brother earlier in the war. Details of Sgt. Eric Easton loss can also be read here.
(1) We have listed the code as AA-T. It is possible that this aircraft was from 'C' Flight which would then have the code JN-T. We have visited Kew Archives and the Squadron Operation Record books do not show which flight this aircraft came from, hence this note.
(2) Sgt. Albert Leslie Mellor died of his injuries later in the day.
(3) Sgt. Stewart Donald Muir lost his life later in the war whilst serving with 7 Squadron. On an operation to Lens in France on Lancaster III JB455 on the 15/16th June 1944 and brought down at Anzegem, Belgium. 6 crew killed with the sole survivor P/O. Hugh Wallace Thomson (later DFC MC) 175967 RAFVR . During the Berlin airlift he was killed on Avro York MW288 on the 19th September 1948 - Further details can be read here.
Of the 257 aircraft taking part on this operation, 3 of these were lost and all 3 were as a result of accidents during take off - none due to combat!
The others who were fortunate not to have involved loss of life were, 620 Squadron Stirling III EF136 flown by Fl/Sgt. H.F. Bunce, 214 Squadron Stirling I R9288 flown by Fl/Sgt. N.J. Tutt - these losses are not normally listed in many publications. No loss of life but truly a traumatic experience for each crew member (names available on request)
F/O. Ian Robert Menzies. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13940. Son of Douglas and Violet Menzies of Gisborne, Auckland, New Zealand. 802 flying hours logged with 45 of these on the Stirling and on his 6th operational sortie.
Sgt. Albert Leslie Mellor. Buxton Cemetery. Grave 3459. Son of Albert and Lucy Mellor of Buxton. Husband of Gladys Mellor of Buxton, Derbyshire, England.
F/O. Norman Hathway Gale. Bristol Cemetery (Canford). Section J. Grave 278. Son of Thomas Redstone Gale and Millie Gale of Bristol. Husband of Elizabeth Ellen Gale of Bishopston, Bristol, England.
Others lost during this tragic accident:
Fl/Sgt. Peter Gerald Dobson MiD. NZ/439022 RNZAF Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13740. Son of Henry Bruce Dobson and of Emily Daisy Houghton Dobson (née Cawte), of Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand. Age 28 when killed. 411 Flying hours logged and having completed 28 operational sorties.
Section Officer Joan Marjorie Easton 2986 WAAF MiD. Age 26. Charlton Cemetery, Greenwich, Section C, 1st Gen., Joint Grave 793. Of Eltham, Kent England. Grave inscription reads: "She Gave Her Life 08Th September 1943 Gallantly Saving Others And Was Posthumously Mentioned In Dispatches. Greater Love Hath No Man Than This".
Fireman. Albert Edward Kirby Age 50. Sutton Cemetery. Husband of Lillian Kirby of 10 Ely Road, Sutton, Ely, England
Mr. John Randal Age 58. Sutton Cemetery. Husband of Jessie L. Randall, of Portland House, High Street, Sutton.
Researched by Steve Hunnisett for Aircrew Remembered - April 2019 and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources as quoted.