25/26.02.1942 No. 15 Squadron Stirling I N6067 LS-E Sq/Ldr. Mathew D.H. Wilson
Date: 25/26th February 1942
Unit: No. 15 Squadron (XV)
Type: Stirling I
Base: RAF Wyton
Location: Beck Lodge Farm, Mildenhall, Suffolk
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Matthew Drummond Henderson Wilson 70885 RAF Age 28. Survived - no injuries (1)
Pilot 2: Sgt. Robert Lorraine Melville AUS/400637 RAAF Age 25. Survived - no injuries (2)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Ely RAFVR Survived - no injuries
Nav: F/O. Clifford G. Reeve RAFVR Survived - no injuries
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Daniel Lammie RAFVR Survived - no injuries
Air/Gnr: Sgt. ‘Johnnie’ Noel Spalding 1264305 RAFVR Age 29. Survived - no injuries (3)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Edmund Chambers 1305524 RAFVR Age 21. Survived - no injuries (4)
A/A Obs: Second Lieutenant Louis Bingham Murray 194495 Royal Artillery Age 23. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
N.6067 had only been delivered to RAF Wyton on 6th February, this was to be its first, and last, mission.
The Stirling N.6067 took off from RAF Wyton at 23.32 on the night of the 25th February to join with other bombers for a raid on the Kiel Canal. However N.6067 was unable to locate the primary target so they switched their attentions to their secondary, the island of Sylt near the German/Danish border. This island had become part of the Germans northern defences and a total of 4 airfield were built there during WW2.
A former crew with Sq/Ldr Wilson shown forth from the left. A Sgt. Noel ‘Ginger’ Cash is second from the right, P/O. Shivdiv Singh his co-pilot shown fifth from left.
Sgt. Noel Cash was killed on the 19th May 1942 during an Air Test. Stirling I W7523 LS-C.
P/O. Shivdiv Singh returned to India as a fighter pilot flying Hurricanes. He survived the war as Air Vice Marshal of the Indian Air Force - involved with the 1971 Indian Pakistan war. He died in January 1994.
As expected the air defences were very robust, with numerous A.A battery’s protecting the island. Such was the intensity of the flak that they had to take evasive action, this resulted in them not being certain of their position as they headed for home.
It would appear that the crew weren’t immediately aware of damage to the bomber and they were also uncertain as to their position, they weren’t sure if they were over the sea or even enemy territory.
Pilot Wilson told the crew that if they wanted to take their chances, they had his permission to bale out. Only Sgt Spalding took up the offer, the rest stayed aboard the aircraft. With no alternative now but to crash land they brought the Stirling down near Beck Farm Lodge, Beck Row just a few hundred yards from the runway at RAF Mildenhall and safety.
The aircrafts nose was pushed through a ‘robust’ garden wall belonging to a house on St John’s Street, Beck Row and 2nd Lt Murray, who was in the front turret, was fatally injured.
2nd pilot, Sgt. Robert Melville survived this encounter - see below (courtesy Roger Leivers)
In 1942, Lt Murray was one of 16 officers who volunteered to fly as air-gunners in Bomber crews over Germany, to study German Anti-Aircraft defences first-hand. He had been on secondment from his regiment of 120 Heavy Anti Aircraft Artillery.
The rest of the crew survived the crash, which happened around 5.40am, and Sgt Spalding landed safely near Feltwell, Norfolk. Upon landing some of the crew deployed the aircrafts dingy, in the belief that they may have been over water, at the time the area around Ely was badly flooded and this may have confused the crew as to their exact position.
N.6067 was inspected the following morning and scrapped after 181/2 hours flying time.
Below is the account of Mrs Oranges of Feltwell, recalling her meeting with Spalding on the night of the crash, when he appeared at their door: (courtesy of Feltwell memories - see acknowledgements)
‘One dark night we were awakened by a knocking on our door and getting out of bed and going to the window I said “Hallo down there, is anything wrong?”, a voice replied
“Yes, I’ve just baled out of an aircraft, may I please come in and use your telephone?”
Presumably the light was enough for him to see the telephone post and wires. I said “Yes, I will come down immediately.” My husband said, “now not so fast, it might be a German from an enemy plane, be careful”. he hurriedly followed me downstairs. On unlocking the door an airman staggered in with icicles hanging from his helmet and on the turned over woolly lined collar of his flying jacket. We asked if he was injured and he said
“I don’t think so, just my leg is painful.”
With that, he put his hand down his high boot (fur lined) and pulled out a long torch which was dented and bent through his fall and had been pressing into his leg. He then said,
“I was quite relieved to hear your voice because I wondered if we might have come down in Holland, however, I know I am near the sea.”
“indeed you are not,” I said to which he replied, “Well what was the large expanse of water which I floated over as I came down?”
Then I realised that he had floated down from the direction of Ely which at that time was flooded all around for many miles.
“Where am I then?” he asked, I said "Norfolk", “why!” he exclaimed “that is where I live, my home is at Wells-next-the-sea.”
We made him some hot drink and gave him some food while my husband phoned up the Aerodrome to explain the situation. In the meantime I learned that he had landed somewhere near White Plot Farm, (Hythe Road direction) and had buried his parachute. We told him then that had he walked about ½ mile further to the right he would have walked straight to our Feltwell Aerodrome. Eventually an RAF tender arrived and took our Sgt. Spalding to the RAF Station.
My first customer next morning was a smart Sergeant in blue uniform asking for cigarettes.
“Don’t you know me from this morning?”
I hadn’t recognised him out of his flying gear. He told me he had been to collect his parachute (if they came down in a foreign country they were ordered to hide their parachutes), and then he was going back to his station at RAF Wyton, he was pleased to tell me that his mates who had not bailed out, had landed safely near Mildenhall.
(1) Sq/Ldr. Matthew Drummond Henderson Wilson lost his life just a few months later, on the 11th April 1942, with 15 Squadron flying Stirling I N3703 LS-Q.
(2) Sgt. Robert Lorraine Melville (at this time P/O.) Killed on the 16th July 1942. With 15 Squadron during an operation to Lubeck. Piloting Stirling I W7524 LS-D 6 crew killed, with 2 taken pow after being hit by flak and crashing at 21.30 hrs in the tidal area of the River Sneum south east of Esbjerg, Denmark.
(3) Sgt. Spalding was killed on the 7th September 1942 with 7 Squadron, on an operation to Duisburg. The pilot of Stirling I W7629 MG-Z, 31 year old Fl/Lt. Neville A. Bennitt DFC from Shirley, Birmingham, England was killed along with all 7 crew.
(4) Sgt. William Edmund Chambers - local man living in Old Weston, Huntingdon. Returned to operations but was killed just a month later, still with 15 Squadron, on a Gardening (mining - Nectarines area) operation. The Stirling I W7515 LS-Q flown by F/O. Francis K. Doyle was lost without trace with all crew.
Second Lieutenant Louis Bingham Murray. Stretford Cemetery. Sec.S. Grave 11. Son of George Bingham Murray and Rachel Margaret Murray, of Whitefield. (B.A. - Oxon)
Other crew (killed later)
(1) Sq/Ldr. Matthew Drummond Henderson Wilson. Wyton (St. Margaret and All Saints) Church. CWGC Plot. Son of Matthew Wilson and of Elizabeth Davidson Wilson (nee Henderson), husband of Aymee Alfrida Wilson (nee Robertson), of Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, Scotland.
(2) Sgt. Robert Lorraine Melville. Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery. Grave AIII.11.20. Son of William Charles and Mabel Maud Melville of Coogee, New South Wales, Australia.
(3) Sgt. William Edmund Chambers. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 79. Son of Arthur Edmund and Hilda Chambers, of Old Weston, Huntingdonshire, England.
(4) Sgt. Noel Spalding. Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 27.B.1-6. Son of George and Elizabeth Spalding, husband of Olive Dora Spalding - Understood to be from Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk, England.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew by Roger Leivers, with thanks to Feltwell Memories, Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vol's. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries 2014 edition, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Aircrew Remembered own Archives.