25/26.03.1942 408 (Goose) Squadron RCAF Hampden I AE139 EQ - ? P/O. Dalton Eastman Vipond
Operation: Transit flight on return from nickelling operation in Rennes area.
Date: 25/26 March 1942 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: 408 (Goose) Squadron RCAF. Motto: For Freedom.
Squadron Badge: Badge: A Canada goose volant. Authority: King George VI, October 1942
Type: Handley Page Hampden I
Base: RAF Balderton, Nottinghamshire
Location: Wootton, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire)
Pilot: P/O. Dalton Eastman Vipond J6995 (formerly R82069) RCAF Age 20 - Killed (1)
Obs: F/Sgt. Henri Phalempin R60733 RCAF Age 22 - Killed (2)
1st W/Op/Air Gnr: Sgt. Edward Victor Conwell 1104295 RAFVR Age 20 (3)
2nd W/Op/Air Gnr: Sgt. George Alfred Medd 998262 RAFVR Age 26 - Killed (4)
Formed on 24 June 1941 at Lindholme near Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire 408 Squadron was a RCAF Squadron under operational command of the RAF and part of 5 Group. On 18 July 1941 the Squadron re-located to RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire and on 9 December 1941 moved to RAF Balderton some 8 miles away. From 25 January 1942 the Squadron was based at RAF North Luffenham in Rutland before returning to RAF Balderton once more on 17 March 1942.
The Squadron had begun operations on 11 August 1941 flying the Handley Page Hampden medium bomber, re-equipping with the four-engine Halifax heavy bomber in September 1942.
It was whilst the Squadron was at North Luffenham on 1 March that Canadian Observer, Flight Sergeant Henri Phalempin, aged 22, reported from 16 Operational Training Unit at RAF Upper Heyford followed 2 days later by fellow Canadian Pilot Dalton Vipond from 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore some 9 miles North of North Luffenham.
By the time they arrived, Lancastrian Wireless Operator, Edward Conwell had been with the Squadron for some three months and had already completed 8 ops., the last one on 3/4 March with the crew of P/O. Beck. Shortly afterwards Beck had been posted to 25 OTU leaving his crew as spare bods.
The 2nd Wireless Operator , George Medd was 26 and a former Process Engraver from Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
The how, why and wherefore, is unknown but on Wednesday, 25 March, the aforementioned airmen were brought together for what was to be the first operation for three of them whilst for Edward Conwell it would be his 9th.
Three crews had been requested from 408 Squadron for nickelling operations in the Rennes area with one of those so detailed being captained by Canadian Pilot Office, Dalton Vipond.
REASON FOR LOSS
Flying Hampden AE139 Dalton Vipond and his crew took off from RAF Balderton at 1857 hours and after successfully carrying out the operation the three nickellers were diverted to Exeter. However, for reasons unknown, AE139 landed at Stoke Orchard in Gloucestershire at 0120 on 26 March.
On 26 March 1942 and in relation to AE139 the 408 Squadron ORB reported that:
'This aircraft took off from Stoke Orchard at 1600 hrs [26 March] to return to base and crashed [at Wootton] near Abingdon at about 1630 hours. P/O. Vipon, Sgt. Phalempin, Sgt. Medd were killed. Sgt Conwell injured. Cause of crash not known. Operational mission on previous night believed to have been successfully completed.'
The Accident Report
'Crashed at Wooton [sic] Nr. Abingdon in daylight at approximately 1630 hrs on 26-3-1942. Aircraft was diverted to Stoke Orchard from operations the previous night.
Accumulators were run down and petrol gauges would not work.
Engineer at Stoke Orchard apparently connected charged accumulator up and informed the pilot there were 140 gallons of petrol in aircraft
Pilot took off from Stoke Orchard to proceed to Heyford but near Abingdon both engines stopped and aircraft struck two tall trees prior to crashing at Wootton. Difficulty was encountered in refuelling at Stoke Orchard owing to the fact that the 18" hose refuelling was not on the aircraft
Cause of accident not yet fully established but believed to have been caused by lack of fuel.'
After hitting trees on the east side of Wootton cricket field the aircraft slid over the field across a lane and, having turned on its back at some stage, crashed into the wall of St Peter's Parish Churchyard. It is believed that the aircraft ran out of fuel whilst trying to make a landing at nearby RAF Abingdon.
The extent of injuries sustained by the sole survivor of the crash, Wireless Operator, Edward Conwell, is unknown, but he returned to operations on 2/3 May with the crew of the recently arrived, Pilot Officer Stanley Joseph Beranek, RCAF, and followed by a further 5 ops with his crew later that month.
On 2/3 June he flew with the crew of Sgt. T. C. Kaye on a Nickelling op in the Rennes area and on the night of 5/6 June with P/O. Beranek for a raid on Essen.
On the night of 18/19 June 1942 he was again flying with the Beranek crew for a Gardening operation in the Artichoke (Lorient) area. Their aircraft, Hampden AT189 EQ-G, failed to return having crashed at Servel 1km North West of Lannion, in the Côtes-d'Armor department in Brittany.
All the crew were killed and were buried at the Bayeux War Cemetery.
The Squadron ORB recorded that Edward Conwell had flown on 19 operational trips (113.35 hours). See Burial details below
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) P/O. Dalton Eastman Vipond was born on 6 August 1921 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the son of Howard Cameron Vipond (a Telegraph Operator for Canadian Pacific Railways - died 1928) and Laura Margaret Vipond nee Eastman later of Wales, Ontario, Canada. He had one sibling: Milton Cameron Vipond (1924-1955). The family lived at 212 First Street West, Cornwall Ontario.
He was educated at Lunenburg Public School Ontario 1928-34, Wales Continuation School 1934-37 and Cornwall Collegiate 1938-40. His sporting interests were, lacrosse hockey, rugby and track extensively, tennis and softball moderately.
After leaving school he was employed as a Clerk in the Meat Dept at Loblaw Groceterias from June 1940 until enlisting in the RCAF on 21 November 1940.
At his interview for the RCAF on 27 August 1940 the interviewing officer report read as follows 'Tall, well built, fine healthy appearance. Pleasing manners, confident, very keen, pleasant conversation and polite. A real fine lad. Well recommended'.
Enlisting at Ottawa on 21 November 1940 he was described as being 6'2" tall weighing 182 lbs with a dark complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair.
After training at 2 Initial Training School RCAF Regina, Saskatchewan, 8 Elementary Flying Training School RCAF Vancouver and RCAF Sea Island British Columbia and 3 Service Flying Training School, Calgary, Alberta he was awarded his Flying Badge, promoted to Sergeant and commissioned as a Pilot Officer all on 20 August 1941.
On completion of training at 3 Service Flying Training School he received the following reports:
'High average pilot. No outstanding faults, from the start - careful, conscientious and can take responsibility - Chief Instructor'
'Pleasing personality. Good manner. Mature for his age. Serious and responsible type. Should make good Officer - Commanding Officer, 3 SFTS'
Precise dates are unknown but he embarked for the UK in September and on 14 October 1941 commenced Course No. 37 at 14 Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore in Rutland. He completed the course on 22 February 1942.
On 3 March 1942 he joined 408 Squadron at RAF North Luffenham in Rutland. The Squadron relocated to RAF Balderton in Nottinghamshire on 17 March 1942.
(2) F/Sgt. Henri Phalempin was born on 31 July 1920 at St. Denis, Saskatchewan, Canada the son of Etienne Paul Phalempin (a Grain Buyer born in France) and Cornelia Gerarda Phalempin (nee Van der Moor born in Holland). He had eight siblings: Etienne Antoine Phalempin (1915-2005), Gerard Francis Joseph Phalempin (1916-1942), Marie Antoinette Phalempin (1918-1994), Mariette Noemie Josephine Phalempin (1921-2008), Paul Phalempin (1928-1996), Marie Berthe Phalempin (1924-2017) + two more sisters details unknown. The family lived at RR No. 6 North Edmonton, Alberta
Henri was educated at Fuller Consolidated School 1928-1938 and after leaving school worked as an Assistant Grain Buyer until enlisting in the RCAF.
He played tennis and skated extensively, table tennis and hockey occasionally, swimming and baseball moderately.
At his interview on 23 May 1940 at the Recruiting Centre Edmonton the interviewing officer reported 'The above is a quiet likeable chap and should be calm in an emergency and make good in Air Crew - Recommended.'
When he enlisted at Edmonton on 4 June 1940 he was 6'2½" tall weighing 157 lbs with a medium complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.
After pilot training at 1 Initial Training School at RCAF Toronto Ontario, 5 Elementary Flying Training School at RCAF Lethbridge, Alberta he was posted to 1 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Camp Borden, Ontario on 4 October 1940. Whilst at 1 SFTS, however, he was found to be suffering from high blood pressure and on 9 November posted to 1 Manning Depot at Toronto on 9 Nov 1940.
Remustered as an Observer, he was posted to 5 Air Observer School at RCAF Winnipeg, Manitoba on 31 January 1941, 4 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Fingal, Ontario on 27 April 1941 and
1 Air Navigation School at RCAF Rivers, Manitoba on 8 June 1941.
On 9 June 1941 he was awarded his Air Observer Badge and promoted to Sergeant.
He embarked for UK on 15 August 1941, disembarked on 26 August 1941 and was posted to 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth.
He was posted to 16 Operational Training Unit on 6 September 1941 at RAF Upper Heyford Oxfordshire and promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 December 1941.
He had a reoccurrence of high blood pressure in December 1941 but was declared fit to return to duty by the Medical Board on 19 January 1942.
He was posted to 408 Squadron at RAF North Luffenham in Rutland on 1 March 1942. The Squadron relocated to RAF Balderton in Nottinghamshire on 17 March 1942.
(3) Sgt. Edward Victor Conwell was born in 1922 in Chorlton Lancashire the son of Robert Henry Conwell and Leah Conwell formerly Dean nee Walters. He had three siblings: Robert M Conwell, born 1916, Norah Conwell, born 1918, and Derek W. Conwell, born 1925 died 1927.
In 1939 the family lived at 65, Rowan Avenue, Whalley Range, Manchester at which time Robert Conwell was employed as a Delivery Supt Steel Construction Works.
(4) Sgt. George Alfred Medd was born on 31 January 1916 at Sculcoates, Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire the son of William Alfred and Clara Medd nee Vasey.
He had two siblings: Doreen Medd born 1919 and Audrey Medd born 1921
In 1939 he lived with his mother and sister Doreen at "Ebberston", Bilton in Holderness, Hull, at which time he was a Process Engraver.
He is commemorated on the Bilton Ganstead and Wyton War Memorial - current location: St Peter's Church, Bilton, Holderness, Humberside.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) P/O. Dalton Eastman Vipond was 'buried in the Canadian Section at Brookwood Military Cemetery [Surrey] at 2 p.m. on April 1 1942 and Service Honours were awarded, Wreaths were sent from the Commanding Officer and the fellow officers of the Squadron.'
Grave ref: 36. H. 4.
His epitaph reads
He hath passed
From death unto life
Because he loved
(2) F/Sgt. Henri Phalempin was buried in the Canadian Section at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey on 1 April 1942 - no further details known.
Grave ref: 36. H. 5.
His epitaph reads
He left us here below
And in tears
His duty to accomplish
(3) Sgt. Edward Victor Conwell was buried at the Bayeux War Cemetery. Grave reference: VIII. C. 15.
His epitaph reads
He gave his life
(4) Sgt. George Alfred Medd was buried at Bilton (St. Peter) Churchyard, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire
Grave ref: Sec. 1. Grave 17.
His epitaph reads
The ties of love
Can ne'er be riven
They grow stronger
'Twixt earth and heaven
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our Helpdesk
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - September 2021
With thanks to the sources quoted below.