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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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3.11.1943 No.76 Squadron Halifax V LK681 MP-A F/L James Steele

Operation: Air Test

Date: 3 November 1943 (Wednesday)

Unit: No.76 RAF Squadron

Type: Handley Page Halifax V

Serial: LK681

Code: MP-A

Base: RAF Holme on Spalding Moor, Yorkshire

Location: Enthorpe House, 5 miles NE of Market Weighton, Yorkshire

Pilot: Fl/Lt. James Steele, 127895 RAFVR Age 20. Injured

Flt/Eng: Sgt. Jeffery George Kirby, 1453264 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. William Laskie, 131957 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Passenger: Miss Dorothy Robson BSc Age 23. Injured

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Derek Kneale, 1450874 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Roy Arthur Brawn, 420611 RAAF Age 25. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Henry Maxwell Welch, J/19121 RCAF Age 25. Injured


While carrying out an air test of a new improved bomb sight with Miss Robson aboard, it is believed that Captain Steele was flying at a low level in order for her to maintain a view of the ground features. During this manoeuver in an attempt to fly under low level cloud, the aircraft crashed into some higher ground obscured by a bank fog.

The Halifax completely disintegrated on impact spreading

wreckage over a wide area. Although Fl/Lt. Steele, P/O. Welch and Miss Robson survived

the initial crash they sucumbed to their injuries a short time later.

As fate would have it, the usual navigator with this

crew, F/O. Frederick Hall, was excused from flying in order to allow Miss Robson

to sit in his place and check the bomb sight function. Reassigned to another

crew, Hall survived the war completing his tour of operations in 1944.

Burial Details:

Fl/Lt. James Steele, Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Section C Row D Grave 10. Son of Sq/Ldr. Robert Steele and Norah Esme (née Gallaher) Steele of Crawley, Hampshire, England. No further details.

Sgt. Jeffery George Kirby, City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, Manor Park, Essex. Cremation Panel 12. Home town and next of kin unknown.

F/O. William Laskie, Dundee (Balgay) Cemetery, Section M Grave 1030. Son of Margaret Chalmers of Dundee, Scotland. No further details.

Miss Dorothy Robson. Daughter of Shafto and Myra Lily (née Moore) Robson of Hartlepool, County Durham, England. Further details: Dorothy Robson was born in Guisborough and lived there until she was eight years old before moving to Hartlepool where her father had purchased a Chemist’s shop. Dorothy was an exceptional student and after completing high school gained entrance to Leeds University studying Physics. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, she accepted a position with the Ministry of Aircraft production at Farnborough in Surrey. Her work entailed the development of bomb sight improvements fitted to heavy bombers. Spending much of her time with the bomber crews based at the numerous airfields in Yorkshire, she soon became known by the nickname “Bomb Sight Bertha”. Critically injured in the crash, Dorothy died in hospital two days later. In accordance with her wishes she was cremated and her ashes scattered from the air by a small aircraft.

Sgt. Derek Kneale,Liverpool (West Derby) Cemetery, Section C, C of E, Grave 1495. Son of William and Phyllis Kneale of Stoneycroft, Liverpool, England. Husband of Edna May (née Dobie) Kneale. No further details.

P/O. Roy Arthur Brawn, Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Section C Row D Grave 8. Son of Richard Henry and Alice May (nee Lickliss) Brawn, husband of Jean Mary (nee Elliott) Brawn of Cremorne, New South Wales, Australia. Further details:

Enlisting in June of 1941, Roy Brawn completed his training in Australia being awarded his air gunners badge in September 1942. Posted overseas in October, he was sent to No.7 Bombing and Gunnery School in January, 1943, for a refresher course before going to 20 OTU prior to 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit at Rufforth in Yorkshire. At the end of June, 1943 he joined RAF 76 Squadron based at Holme on Spalding Moor. Between July and November 1943, he completed 17 operations over Europe. A Printers Compositor for the North Coast Beacon newspaper in Ballina, NSW, prior to enrolling, Roy was married just three months before embarking for the UK.

P/O. Roy Brawn front row second from left. Stormy Down 26th January 1943

P/O. Henry Maxwell Welch, Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Section C Row D Grave 9, Son of Henry Tremain and Elizabeth Ann (née Rankin) Welch of Thornloe, Ontario, Canada. No further details.

Researched and written by Colin Bamford for

Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the families of all those aboard Halifax LK681.


Hartlepool History Then And Now website.

Miss Robson photo courtesy People At War website.

Chorley, W.R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Volume 4 1943. Midland 2007

P/O Welch photograph courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada website.

Australian War Memorial website.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

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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