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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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Bomber Command Crest
04.01.1945 11 OTU Wellington HE740 Fl/Sgt. Michael Reece

Operation: Training

Date: 4th January 1945 (Thursday)

Unit: No. 11 OTU (Operational Training Unit)

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HE740

Base: RAF Westcott, Buckinghamshire.

Location: North Marston, Buckinghamshire.

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Michael Reece NZ/424260 RNZAF Age 21. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Ian Philip Hendry Smith 1608781 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. Alexander Gordon Bolger NZ/428226 RNZAF Age 23. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Donald Wilford McLennan NZ/427046 RNZAF Age 22. Killed (1)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Reginald Benjamin Price 1899494 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Arthur Wenham 1894709 RAFVR Age 19. Killed


Local residents of North Marston, Buckinghamshire, England are planning to erect a memorial to this crew at the village Church. 

Update October 2015: Tony Wright sent in the photo of the memorial placed at the church of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, North Marston.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off from RAF Westcott at 19.10 hrs on a training exercise when, after only 15 minutes the aircraft dived from around 5,000 ft, crashing in the village of North Marston, Buckinghamshire killing all the crew.

The New Zealand crew members L/R - Fl/Sgt. Michael Reece, Fl/Sgt. Alexander Bolger, Fl/Sgt. Donald McLennan

Wellington X - this one from 84 OTU

The many losses of Bomber Command aircrew training during the war go unreported on most websites and publications. On this day alone another Wellington from 10 OTU crashed at Church Eaton near Stafford killing the pilot, 25 year old Fl/Sgt. Francis Charles Haglund NZ/4211783 RNZAF from Westland, New Zealand together with 5 other crew, 1 surviving, injured. 2 other Wellingtons also crashed on this day, as well as a Halifax from a HCU. 

22 OTU Wellington III BJ832 flown by F/O. V. Thygeson RCAF - all crew survived.
22 OTU Wellington X MF508 flown by W/O. L.J.A. Connolly RNZAF - all crew survived.
1652 HCU Halifax III NR276 flown by 22 year old, Fl/Sgt. Reginald Ernest Herbert 1800459 RAFVR from Cheam Surrey, missing with all 6 other crew over the North Sea.

(1) Some publications have misspelt his middle name as ‘Wilfred’.

Notes: OTU - Operational Training Unit. HCU - Heavy Conversion Unit. RCAF - Royal Canadian Air Force. RNZAF - Royal New Zealand Air Force. RAFVR - Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve. RAF - Royal Air Force.

Memorial placed at the church of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, North Marston (courtesy Tony Wright)

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. Michael Reece. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery. Plot H/1. Grave 248. Son of Albert Charles Reece and of Minnie Helen Reece (nee King), of Mosgill, Otago, New Zealand. 412 hrs with 47 solo on the Wellington.

Sgt. Ian Philip Hendry Smith. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery. Plot H/3. Grave 149. Son of Hendry and Margery Agnes Smith, of Beckenham, Kent, England.

Fl/Sgt. Alexander Gordon Bolger. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery. Plot H/1. Grave 241. Son of Percival Joseph and Hilda Maud Bolger, of Hampden, Otago, New Zealand. 

Fl/Sgt. Donald Wilford McLennan. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery. Plot H/1. Grave 231C. Son of John Thomas McLennan and Christina Louisa McLennan, of Clevedon, Auckland, New Zealand. 178 hrs.

Sgt. Reginald Benjamin Price. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery. Plot H/3. Grave 150. Son of Rupert Benjamin and Alice Mary Price, of Brighton, Sussex, England.

Sgt. John Arthur Wenham. Maidstone Cemetery. Plot C.C.1. Grave 133. Son of Arthur William and Susan Burgess Wenham, of Maidstone, England. 

Researched for relatives of this crew. With thanks to John Newby for bringing this loss to our attention. Also to our specialist genealogist Kate Tame for trying to contact relatives. Errol Martyn - For Your Tomorrow Vol’s 1-3, New Zealand Cenotaph. Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Bill Chorley - OTU Volume 7, HCU Volume 8, 1939-1947. 

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 and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), 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', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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