18.04.1944 No 1657 H.C.U. Stirling III EJ108 Fl/Lt. Wilkie DFC
Date: 18th April 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: 1657 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit - 3 Group)
Type: Stirling III
Serial: EJ108 (1)
Base: RAF Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire.
Location: Little Glemham, Suffolk.
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Hugh Charles Wilkie DFC. NZ/415397 RNZAF Age 21. Killed
Pilot 2: Fl/Sgt. Colin George Nairne NZ/42117 RNZAF Age 22. Survived (2)
Fl/Eng: W/O. William (Sandy) Alexander Watson DFM. 567222 RAF Age 25. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frederick Thomas George Atkins 1603538 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Bmr: P/O. Lyndon Clifford Perry NZ/428925 RNZAF Age 21. Survived (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Frederick Gerald Rickard NZ/429366 RNZAF Age 22. Survived (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alfred Richard Stannard 1338510 RAFVR Age 22. Survived (2)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Stanley Alfred George Woodford 922095 RAFVR Age ? Survived (2)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Philip Falkiner NZ/425140 RNZAF Survived (2)
On the ground:
S/Sgt. David K. Ollre. 6288183 545 Bomber Squadron, 384th Bomber Group, 8th Air Force. USAAC Age 23.
Cpl. James A. Moore. 545 Bomber Squadron, 384th Bomber Group, 8th Air Force. USAAC Age 23. Killed
Cpl Teddy R. Potocki. 32141939 545 Bomber Squadron, 384th Bomber Group, 8th Air Force. USAAC Age 23. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 22:35 hrs on a training exercise practicing night take off / landings (circuits and bumps). During one such take off when they were using RAF Polebrook as being used by the USAAC and were clear of operational flights during the night. The aircraft hit three USAAC personnel who had returned from an evening out on their bikes, killing them all instantly. The aircraft, with a damaged engine and probably damaged undercarriage they were already committed to take off.
They were then diverted to the emergency landing strip at RAF Woodbridge, as they approached Woodbridge the aircraft became more and more difficult to handle (4). The pilot, Fl/Lt. Wilkie DFC, with plenty of experience having completed a tour already with 15 Squadron and the equally experience flight engineer W/O. Watson DFM. decided they would try and land the aircraft after the remaining crew had baled out.
During the baling out a loud explosion was heard and the aircraft went into a steep nose up angle.
The aircraft crashed into a field by a pond at Moat Farm, Little Glemham, Suffolk at 23:30 hrs. The two crew members were killed instantly, but sadly Sgt Atkins was killed when he failed to attach his parachute harness correctly and fell to his death in a field at Pettistree, near Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Mr. William Carter and his sister, who lived at a nearby cottage were unhurt when part of the aircraft hit the roof.
(1) The East Anglian Aircraft Research Group recovered parts of this aircraft. The aircraft had, on an earlier gardening operation whilst with 75 Squadron) been attacked by a night fighter on the 04/05th November 1943. The damage during this attack amounted to port wing, starboard flap, rear turret and fuselage. The aircraft managed to return to base but the rear gunner, 28 year old Fl/Sgt. Walter Hurdle NZ/421279 RNZAF from Fielding, New Zealand was killed during the attack.
(2) These crew members survived, tragically only to be killed just three months later. Flying with 75 Squadron on Lancaster I HK558 AA-D.
(3) P/O. Frederick Gerald Rickard, as far as we are able to ascertain, survived the war - no further details. Born on the 06th May 1919 and passed away in 1998. (with thanks to June Springer for this information)
(4) At least one of the engines was damaged and it is thought that one of the dinghy's had broken free and possibly damaged controls in the process. The reason this is thought is that at the scene of the first impact on the airfield, a dingy cover and emergency rations pack had been found.
Fl/Lt. Hugh Charles Wilkie DFC. Son of Robert Hitton Wilkie and of Marion Edith Wilkie (née Pemberton), of Wanganui, Wellington, New Zealand. A very experienced pilot with 952 flying hours logged - 567 solo on the Stirling) Had already completed some 28 operations.
W/O. William (Sandy) Alexander Watson DFM. Auchtergaven Parish Churchyard. New ground. Grave 242. Son of William and Christina Watson, of Bankfoot, Perthshire, Scotland
Sgt. Frederick Thomas George Atkins. Mortlake Cemetery, Surrey. Plot 15. Sec C. Grave 291. Son of Frederick Thomas George and Eleanor Lucy Atkins, of Hammersmith.
S/Sgt. David Kent Ollre. Born on the 10th February 1921 in Gonzales County. Odd Fellows Cemetery, Gonzales County, Texas. USA.
Cpl. James A. Moore. Born on the 28th June 1921, from Sussex County, Delaware, USA. Still Pond Cemetery, Kent County, Maryland, USA.
Cpl Teddy Potocki. Born on the 06th March 1921 from 64 St. Stanislaus Street, Rochester, Monroe County, New York. Riverside Cemetery. Sec.S, vet. plot, grave 133.
Researched for Keith and June Springer - relatives of Fl/Sgt. Colin George Nairne and dedicated to all the relatives of this crew and the USAAC personnel who were also killed. With thanks to Keith / June Springer for information and also to Errol Martyn for his comprehensive information on RNZAF losses of WW2.