16/17.12.1940 101 Squadron Blenheim IV P6953 Sgt. W. Skipworth
Operation: 'Abigail Rachel'
Date: 16/17th December 1940 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: 101 Squadron
Type: Blenheim IV
Base: RAF West Raynham, Norfolk
Location: Fairlight, Hastings
Pilot: Sgt. William Skipworth 742219 RAFVR Age 23. Killed
Obs: Sgt. Walter Edward Need 751416 RAFVR Age 27. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Donald Stephenson 743026 RAFVR Age 27. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 21:08 hrs from RAF West Raynham in Norfolk on operation 'Abigail Rachel'.
This was a unique operation as the crews were ordered to carry out an area attack over Mannheim. It was intended as a form or retribution for the recent raid on Coventry. 200 bombers were organised to take part but only some 134 became involved due to weather forecast etc.
The operation was classed as a success with considerable damage to the residential areas of Mannheim. 34 people died in Mannheim during the attack. 81 residents of the city were injured.
Three aircraft from 101 Squadron were lost, the others:
Blenheim IV T2039 Flown by 19 year old, Sgt. Henry James Clarke 754445 RAFVR missing believed killed with all crew.
Blenheim IV Z5801 Flown by Plt.Off. Charles Ernest Hill 81048 RAFVR safe with all his crew after abandoning their aircraft on return through lack of fuel. The then Sqn.Ldr. Hill DFC was killed on the 15th October 1942 whilst with 106 Squadron.
The Sqn ORB recorded that the aircraft and crew crashed at Fairlight, Hastings and the aircraft burned out. An SOS had been received from the aircraft and a WT fix and courses to steer had been provided. It is thought that P6953 had also ran out of fuel on return and crashed at the location shown. Although we are confident of the crash site we would welcome any further information as to possible cause.
As the accident report for this crash is not readily available Terry Kitson has been investigating the location of the crash. From his preliminary findings he believes that the site lays within an area of Hastings Country Park known as Long Shaw where there is coincidentally a small pond called Blenheim Pound. It is believed that the pond was so named by local residents in the 1950's and is not depicted on any maps. Terry plans to make inquiries for any further information.
All three crew members were killed with their bodies claimed by next of kin and buried in their home towns.
Sgt. William Skipworth. Grimsby Cemetery (Scartho Road), Sec. 91, Row A, Grave 4. Born on 19th May 1917 in Grimsby. Son of William Teft and Susan Kate Skipworth of Grimsby, Lincolnshire.
Sgt. Skipworth would have completed his 29th mission this day. His previous 28 missions were carried out during the period of the 17th August 1940 and 11th December 1940. This encompassed the period of the Battle of Britain and a number of his missions were against the German invasion barges.
Sgt. Walter Edward Need. Hawkinge Cemetery. Plot O. Row 2. Grave 35. Son of William Edward and Annie Florence Need, of Walworth, London, England. Epitaph reads: "We Shall Go Down With Unreluctant Tread, Rose-Crowned Into The Darkness".
Sgt. Donald Stephenson. Hull Northern Cemetery. Compt. 218. Grave 45. Born 28th April 1913 in Hull. Son to John Frederick and Angelina Stephenson from Hull. East Riding of Yorkshire.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to sources indicated below. Also to Steve, Military Historian and Charlie for grave photographs. Thanks to Alan Oliver for the NoK and DoB details for Sgt. Skipworth. Thanks to Andy Smith for Sgt. Stephenson's NoK details. Thanks to Simon Eyre for the sortie information for his uncle, Sgt. Skipworth (Sep 2020). Updated by Aircrew Remembered for ongoing investigation by Terry Kitson (Nov 2020).