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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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40 Squadron Crest
No. 40 Squadron Wellington X LP732 P/O. Starr and crew killed in Hungary

Operation: Szombathely, Hungary.

Date: 22/23rd November 1944 (Wednesday/Thursday)

Unit: No. 40 Squadron

Type: Wellington X

Serial: LP732

Code: BL-?

Base: Foggia Main, Italy

Location: Between Koszegpaty and Cserhati, Hungary.

Pilot: P/O. Arthur Julian Moody Starr 188412 RAFVR Age 22. Killed (1)

Nav: Sgt. Wilfred George Colgrave 1624301 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Eric Thomas Prior 1802484 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frederick Samuel Richard Smith 1851719 Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Oliver Alexander Meredith Cook 1588747 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

On an operation taking off from their base in Foggia Main, Italy to bomb Szombathely, this being a major part of the Axis military infrastructure owing to the large marshalling yards, airfield and German barracks.

Sadly one of the buildings also destroyed was the famous Zopf-style Cathedral built in 1797.

Above pilot of Wellington LP732, P/O Starr (courtesy Colin Starr) and right navigator Sgt. Colgrave (courtesy Ann Wood)

Aerial view of target, Szombathely, Hungary and right - flak over the city (archives)

Above and below 40 Squadron at Foggia Main, Italy (courtesy IWM)

A description of some of the event was by an eye witness and described below:

'The tragedy happened on a weekday at about 9 p.m. when there was a big air raid against the town of Szombathely. There was a fight in the air and in the darkness of the night we saw a burning plane crashing down between the two villages.

Through the deep mud we hurried to the place where the lane crashed. It was still burning. The five heroes were already dead. The plane was still exploding so we could not get closer. At about midnight we took out the bodies. Next morning we had coffins made in Koszegpaty which was about 4 km where the plane had crashed. Later although it was raining heavily we put the bodies into coffins and a carriage took them to the cemetery. The Roman Catholic priest Rev. Imre Hadan buried them in a catholic way. We registered the death of the five heroes but we did so without names.

We had the impression that they all died in the air and did not suffer. They were heroes, who left their families to fight for their country. They now rest peacefully in the Hungarian soil. I saw their tomb for the last time on August 26th 1946, it was well looked after.

Map showing very approximate area of crash between Koszegpaty and Cserhati.

(1) Arthur was a Fl/Sgt at the time of this with service number: 1334276.

The crew were initially buried as 'Unknown'. However after hostilities RAF searcher party from MRES went to the crash site and identified the aircraft with the engine numbers: S.24457 and S.S.28031 which led to the names being placed on the new graves in Budapest.

Crew graves at Budapest War Cemetery (courtesy C.J. Biller)

Burial details:

P/O. Arthur Julian Moody Starr. Budapest War Cemetery Coll. Grave IV.A.6-10. Son of Alfred and Elizabeth Starr, of Winchester, England. Grave inscription reads: "So He Passed Over, And All The Trumpets Sounded For Him On The Other Side".

Sgt. Wilfred George Colgrave. Budapest War Cemetery Coll. Grave IV.A.6-10. Son of Wilfred and Amelia Frances Colgrave, of Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Loving Memories Of Our Dear Son. Ever In Our Thoughts".

Sgt. Eric Thomas Prior. Budapest War Cemetery Coll. Grave IV.A.6-10. Son of Thomas and Evelyn Gertrude Prior, of Tooting, Surrey, England. Grave inscription reads: "He Died That We Might Live".

Sgt. Frederick Samuel Richard Smith. Budapest War Cemetery Coll. Grave IV.A.6-10. Son of Frederick William and Eliza Smith, of Dunsford, Devon., England. Grave inscription reads: "He Died That We Might Live".

Sgt. Oliver Alexander Meredith Cook. Budapest War Cemetery Coll. Grave IV.A.6-10. Son of Frederick and Margaret Russell Leslie Cook, of Birkenhead, England. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends".

Researched for Colin Starr, brother of the pilot P/O. Arthur Julian Moody Starr, Anne Wood and family, relative of Sgt. Wilfred George Colgrave, Kath Doyle relative of Sgt. Eric Thomas Prior and dedicated to all relatives of the crew. Any relative who would like a larger image of the grave please dont hesitate to ask and we will provide it free of charge. With thanks to various relatives for photo's/information and the IWM museum for other photographs/information.

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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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