07/08.09.1943 No. 12 OTU Wellington III BJ621 Sgt. William Shepherd
Date: 07/08th September 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: No. 12 OTU (Operational Training Unit)
Type: Wellington III
Code: Not known
Base: RAF Chipping Warden
Location: Eudon Hill, Bridgnorth
Pilot: Sgt. William Shepherd 1551889 RAFVR Age 21. Missing - believed killed
Nav: Sgt. Francis George Wells 953542 RAFVR Age 26. Missing - believed killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. George Donald Hector Morrow R/163708 RCAF Age 26. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Walter Henry Lawrence 1388668 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Norman Leslie Wachter AUS/425911 RAAF Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:52 hrs on a night, cross country bombing exercise. The planned route being: Chipping Warden - Somerton - Port Issac - Somerton - Chipping Norton - Conway Castle - Leominster - base (680 miles). Due to return at 02:52 hrs.
Last message received at 23:43 hrs from Somerton. At 00:29 hrs on the 8 September 1943 the aircraft dived vertically into at Eudon Hill south west of Bridgnorth in Shropshire and exploded. No distress call received.
The subsequent court of enquiry concluded that:
1: Loss of control during night flying.
2: No evidence why such loss of control but considered to be atmospheric conditions.
3: Pilot fatigue due to amount of recent flying duties is also considered a contributory factor.
Above photograph showing most of the crew - marked as Sections 1 and 2. (Available at a higher resolution to interested parties/relatives - courtesy Michael Wells) Names reproduced in order to enable search engines to pick up the names of the crews.
Rear L-R: Sgt. Morrow, Sgt. Lawrence, Sgt. Wells, Sgt. Shepherd, Sgt. Eaton, Sgt. Eaton, Sgt. Stringer, Sgt. Davey, Sgt. Rodrique, Sgt. Merritt, Sgt. Bishop. Centre: Sgt. Martin, Sgt. Grant, Sgt. Masters, Sgt. Nathanson, Sgt. Taylor, Sgt. Symmons, Sgt. Sutherland, Sgt. James, Sgt. Berkley, Sgt. Notley. Front: Sgt. Clough, Sgt. Irving, Sgt. Gage, P/O. Warren, P/O. Denham, P/O. Freeman, P/O. Downing, Sgt. Farquarson, Sgt. Stean, Sgt. Gauson.
Notes (supplied by Michael Wells, son of Sgt. Francis Wells):
"It is thought that it was the pilot's (Bill Shepherd) 21st birthday and was to be the last training flight before converting to Lancasters and going on operations.The crew had a short leave just prior to the accident and joined my mother at a pub in Shrewsbury where we were staying. People were asking the crew about the flying and they said that the aircraft were in a poor state and 'not fit to fly'. They also said that if they encountered a problem with the aircraft they would bale out rather than try to save it.
The initial response to my mothers request for information on the cause of the accident she was that it could have been a problem with the oxygen system or carbon monoxide poisoning from the heating system which was ducted warm air from the exhausts. Interesting in that the official report does not mention this."
Sgt. William Shepherd. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 154. Son of William and Janet Gillespie Shepherd, of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Sgt. Francis George Wells. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 169. Son of George and Elizabeth Wells, husband of Iris Wells, father to Michael, of Hall Green, Birmingham, England.
Sgt. George Donald Hector Morrow. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec. A. Grave 905. Son of Gilbert R. Morrow and Dollina Morrow, of Big Beaver, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “The Lord Gave And The Lord Hath Taken Away.”
Sgt. Walter Henry Lawrence. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec. A. Grave 156. Son of John Thomas Lawrence and Susan Lawrence, of Walthamstow, Essex, England. Grave inscription reads: “Those That Live In Our Hears Do Not Die. Dearly loved. Sadly Missed.”
Sgt. Norman Leslie Wachter. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec. A. Grave 199. Born on the 21st October 1923 the son of Leslie Harry Otto and Ivy May Wachter, of Moggill Road, Kenmore, Queensland, Australia. Enlisted in the RAAF on the 21st May 1942. After training in both Australia and the UK he was posted to 12 OTU at Chipping Warden on the 27th July 1943. Grave inscription reads: “Far From Those Who Loved Him Best. In A Hero’s Grave He Lies.”
Researched by John Williams for Aircrew Remembered - August 2016. Thanks also to Mr. Michael Wells (son of Sgt. Francis Wells) who contacted us in October 2016 with further information and photographs. Page dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources shown.