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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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90 Squadron crest
15/16.03.1944 No. 90 Squadron Stirling III EH989 WP-P Fl/Sgt. Joseph V. Spring

Operation: Amiens - Railway Yards

Date: 15-16th March 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 90 Squadron

Type: Stirling III

Serial: EH989

Code: WP-P

Base: RAF Tuddenham, Suffolk

Location: Astwell Park, Wappenham, Northamptonshire - 17 miles North West of Wellington LN660 crash site

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Joseph Vernon Spring 1477332 RAFVR Age 18. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. George Edward Collins 1186834 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Thomas Raymond Hewitt 1549452 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. 'Jack' John Henry Bone 1449499 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Arthur Henry Estcourte 1176109 RAFVR Age 29. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Halkett Ramsay 1570005 RAFVR. Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Bruce 551988 RAF Age 22. Killed


Memorial to the crews placed on the 15th March 2014 - the 70th Anniversary of this tragic accident.


REASON FOR LOSS:

Stirling III- EH 989, P for Peter of 90 Squadron RAF (built by Austin Motors in 1943) took off for their first operation at 18:50 hours from its base at RAF Tuddenham, an operational bomber station in 3 Group for a raid on Amiens. France. Fl/Sgt. Spring was captain. The crew had only been posted to the Squadron on 11th March 1944.

Twenty of 90 Squadrons Stirlings were detailed for this raid. Of the twenty aircraft airborne, two returned early to Tuddenham with technical troubles, the remaining eighteen including P-Peter carried on to Amiens attacking the primary target between 20.59 and 21.06 hours from an attitude of between 10-12,000 feet dropping 368x500 MC bombs. The target was obscured by between 3/10-7/10ths cloud and haze with the cloud tops at 6,000 feet. Although there was intense flack over the target, night fighter activity was negligible. Fl/Sgt. Spring and crew set a course for home, not knowing that on this, their first mission they would not reach Tuddenham.


Fl/Sgt. Joseph Vernon Spring and grave at Botley.

Sgt. George Edward Collins

Sgt. John Henry Bone (courtesy Marlene Shaw)

Sgt. Arthur Henry Estcourte and grave of Sgt. William Bruce at Dunfermline

The raid on the railway yards at Amiens, France caused the death of 18 French civilians. 140 aircraft taking part in this operation (94 Halifaxes, 38 Stirlings, 8 Mosquitos, of these 2 Halifaxes and 1 Stirling were lost).

90 Squadron had ceased to be a first line unit soon after 1939 and assumed the role of a group pool Squadron. In April 1940 it was absorbed into No 17 OTU. In May 1941 it reformed, having been selected as the RAF Squadron to receive the first Boeing B17 Flying Fortresses from America. Its job was now high altitude day bombing. It flew its first operational mission in Fortresses on 8th July 1941.

The squadron again disbanded in February 1942 before reforming in November 1942 as a heavy bomber squadron equipped with Stirlings, making a significant contribution to the battle of the Ruhr. The squadron exchanged its Stirlings for Lancasters, playing an important part in Bomber Command Offensive until late April 1945.

William Bruce, 3rd from left, Arthur Estcourte, 4th from right. George Collins 4th from left. In this undated photo with a crew in front of Stirling P for Peter, the pilot isn’t Joseph Spring. It is unknown if the rest of the crew in this line up are the crew named in this tribute apart from Estcourte and Collins.

EH 989 was returning from the raid and preparing to land after being diverted, when it collided with Wellington LN660 from 11 OTU

The Stirling struck the Wellington from below and on the starboard side. The crippled Stirling remained airborne for a further 10-15 minutes after the collision, calling 'Darky' for an emergency landing. but crashed in flames at 22:47 hours, 17 miles to the North West of the Wellington LN660 at Astwell Park, Wappenham, killing all the crew.

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. Joseph Vernon Spring. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery. Plot 1/2. Grave 182. Son of Frank and Elizabeth Warren Spring of Manchester, England. Although Joseph Spring’s age is given as 18 on his headstone, his family believe that he was in actual fact aged 21. His service number suggests he joined the Air Force between April and October 1941.

Sgt. George Edward Collins. White Waltham (St. Mary) Churchyard, Berkshire. New Ground. North of Church. Row E. Grave 8. Son of George James and Eva Rosina Collins, husband of Linda Louisa May Collins of White Waltham, Berkshire, England.

Sgt. Thomas Raymond Hewitt. Runcorn Cemetery. Sec. 18. Grave 9. Son of Thomas and Mary Ellen Hewitt of Runcorn, Cheshire, England.

Sgt. John Henry Bone. Watford North Cemetery. Sec. B. Cons. Grave 472. Son of Sidney and Florence Bone of Watford, Hertfordshire, England.

Sgt. Arthur Henry Estcourte. Norwich Cemetery, Norfolk. Sec. 54. Grave 484. Husband of Gladys Estcourte of Norwich, Norfolk, England.

Above: Grave of Sgt Estcourte at Norwich Cemetery (Aircrew Remembered archive)

Sgt. William Halkett Ramsay. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery. Plot I/2. Grave 183. Son of William Halkett and Davidina Ramsay of 9, Stirling Park, Dundee. Sgt. Ramsay is mentioned on the City of Dundee, Second World War Roll of Honour.

Sgt. William Bruce. Dunfermline Cemetery. Eastern Division. Grave 7821. Son of William and Bella Bruce, brother to Agnes, husband of Violet Bruce (nee Howe) of Ipswich, Suffolk, England.

Left: Norwich, Earlham Road Cemetery (Aircrew Remembered archives)

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. With thanks to the nephew of F/O. James Lyon DFC - the pilot of the Wellington involved in this collision, Bruce Blanche ex Sq/Ldr. RAF who also provided the photos of F/O. Lyon and photos and maps of the crash site and other information. Jean Hunt, Kenneth Kemp and family of Robert Kemp, James Liel, cousin to William Bruce, Michael A. Lister (Media and communications officer) - 42F (Kings Lynn) Squadron Air Training Corp. for the photos taken at Pentney Churchyard. The family of Joseph Spring. The family of Arthur Estcourte (Julianna Cupper, daughter and Alan and Kristeen Simpkin. The family of George Collins, Marlene Shaw relative of Sgt. John Bone,

Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Australian war memorial, Phil Corkill, Auckland Museum, Paul Cobb and Gabrielle Fortune, 'For your tomorrow' by Errol Martyn; a record of New Zealanders who have died while serving with the RNZAF and Allied Air Services since 1915, WW2 Ex RAF website, Ministry of Defence. Ron Mayhill, DFC -'Bombs on Target' (Christine Smith, Haynes publishing.) Additional details by Aircrew Remembered archives. Also thanks to Gordon Thorburn for correction of aircraft numbers - April 2016. Gordon has written several books on the RAF as well as many other publications.

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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