10/11.04.1942 No. 15 Squadron Stirling I N3703 LS-Q Sq/Ldr. Mathew D.H. Wilson
Date: 10/11th April 1942 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit: No. 15 Squadron (XV)
Type: Stirling I
Base: RAF Alconbury, Cambridgeshire (see notes)
Location: Rectory Farm, Cow Lane, Godmanchester, Huntingdon
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Matthew Drummond Henderson Wilson 70885 RAF Age 28. Killed (1)
Pilot 2: Sgt David Southey Survived - Injured (2)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Leonard John Gornall 52164 RAFVR Age 20. Survived - injured (3)
Nav: F/O. Clifford Reeve Survived (4)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Sidney John Jordan 1393659 RAFVR Age ? Survived (5)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Daniel Lammie Survived - Injured (6)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Edmund Chambers 1305524 RAFVR Age 21. Survived (7)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edgar George Spencer Gould 1261768 RAFVR Age ? Killed (8)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 22.35 hrs from RAF Alconbury to bomb the city of Essen. 254 aircraft taking part made up with a mixed variey of aircraft: 167 Wellingtons, 43 Hampdens, 18 Stirlings, 10 Manchesters, 8 Halifaxes and 8 Lancasters. Weather was forecast to be clear over the target, but they were met with thick cloud. Resulting in poor scattered bombing with very heavy anti aircraft fire.
The reports from Essen state that 12 houses were destroyed, no serious industrial damage - 7 people were killed with 30 other injuries. The total tonnage dropped on the city represented about 6 aircraft loads out of the 172 aircraft reported dropping their bombs on the target!
14 aircraft were lost on this operation with 60 aircrew killed, 19 pow, 1 evading capture, plus various other injuries.
Stirling N3703 was one of these aircraft hit and damaged by flak, but managed to return to England. After an aborted landing attempt then having to go round again the aircraft crashed at 04.35 hrs at Rectory Farm, Cow Lane in Godmanchester near Huntingdon.
This crew had a lucky escape a few weeks earlier at Beck Row, Mildenhall. A further 'Page of remembrance' also to be added to the website.
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, later becoming Air Vice Marshal of the Indian Air Force - involved with the 1971 Indian Pakistan war. He died in January 1994.
(1) Sq/Ldr. Matthew Drummond Henderson Wilson - born in Kilmarnock, Scotland and raised by relatives after their deaths. Prior to enlisting he had a passion for fast cars and rallying, taking part in the Monte Carlo rally. As well as others including the Scottish Rally (shown below left on the 'Rest and Be Thankful' part of the A83 in Argyle and Bute) Wanting to explore other exciting possibilities he learnt to fly after joining the RAF on a short service commission then having received his wings he took up a position with the Newcastle Aero Club. During his time there he took a new delivered Tiger Moth for a spin, crashing it during acrobatics. He suffered some fairly severe injuries but recovered to rejoin the RAF at the outbreak of war. Firstly as a ferry pilot, then joining 15 Squadron on the 11th October 1941. His special supercharged Squire rally car JB8776, still survives today.
(2) Sgt David Southey prior to this operation took command of another Stirling crew, who were all lost on an operation over Holland. He was not piloting this as on a training course. After this crash he took a long time to recover although returned to operational flying. He was later invalided out of the RAF in 1944. He died several years ago.
Above left: Sgt. Edgar Gould. Right: Sgt David Southey
(3) Sgt. Leonard John Gornall - later joined 138 Squadron flying from RAF Tempsford on SOE duties. On the 07/08th February 1944 on Halifax LW275 NF-O (his 48th operation) the crew were forced to abandon the aircraft over Mantaille. The crew managed to evade capture and returned to England via with the assistance of the local resistance. He had already been promoted to F/O. at this stage, also received the DFC. Sadly, still with 138 Squadron, he was listed as missing on the 26th February 1945 with all 7 crew (not known if the agents survived) over the North Sea on a trip to Norway. The Stirling IV LK272 NF-P flown by 24 year old Fl/Lt. Peter B. Cornwallis - son of Sir Kinahan Cornwallis (see notes) GCMG, CBE, DSO, and Gertrude Dorothy (Née Bowen).
(4) F/O. Clifford Reeve survived this crash as described, he then returned alone, to the aircraft to rescue two other crew, Sgt. Southey, also it is understood, Sgt. Gould. He was then taken to the hospital at Ely prior to further treatment at The Grange, Littleport. His injuries at the time of the rescue amazingly consisted of broken ribs, both ankles dislocated as well as a broken vertebrae - only discovered later when they placed him into traction. During his stay other officers heard on the radio his exploits and that he had been awarded the MBE for his actions. The award was presented by the King in December 1942. He survived the war, retiring from the RAF as Wing Commander in the mid 60’s.
(5) Sgt. Sidney John Jordan was later killed on the 27th September 1943. Still with 15 Squadron he was taking part on an operation to Hannover on Stirling III EE940 LS-V piloted by Fl/Sgt. John Henry Benny. All 7 crew killed and buried at Hannover War Cemetery.
(6) Sgt. Daniel Lammie although he survived this crash he was hospitalised and it is understood that he continued to serve in the RAF, mostly ground based, working on wireless communications. Survived the war. No further information.
(7) Sgt. William Edmund Chambers - local man living in Old Weston, Huntingdon. Returned to operations but was killed just a month later 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.
(8) Sgt. Edgar George Spencer Gould was not the usual gunner, he had taken the place of Sgt. Johnnie Spalding who was receiving treatment for frostbite on a previous operation. Sgt. Edgar was usually on the crew of ‘Macroberts Reply’. 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. (Confirmation needed that this is the correct Sgt. Spalding)
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.
Sgt. Edgar George Spencer Gould. Croyden (Mitcham Road) Cemetery. Plot L.4. Grave 12775. NoK details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
Other burial details:
(3) Sgt. Leonard John Gornall. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 267. Son of Charles and Sarah Elizabeth Gornall, of Birkenhead, Cheshire, England.
(5) Sgt. Sidney John Jordan. Hannover War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 3.D. 7-10. NoK details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
(7) Sgt. William Edmund Chambers. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 79. Son of Arthur Edmund and Hilda Chambers, of Old Weston, Huntingdonshire, England.
(8) 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.
Although RAF Wyton was the squadrons official base, it was mainly used for briefings/debriefs. The runway at Alconbury was better suited to the heavy Stirlings.
(Photograph enhanced by Techy Services, Norwich)
Sgt. Noel Cash 1058309 trained at 11 OTU in Bassingbourn as an Air Gunner. We have shown him during his training, together with the surnames of others who trained with him in order that other relatives of these trainees may like a higher definition of this photograph. He is shown rear row, first left.
Front row: Sgt’s. Penman, Rogers, Wing, Clarke, Burridge, Smith, Forgan, Whibley, Butler, Hammond, Smith, Woods, Olrod, Willis, Maple.
2nd Row: Sgt’s. Bretherton, Mahoney, Leggett, Davis, Burns, Currie, Downe, P/O. Weeks, Sgt’s. Smith, Cleary, Ross, Foote, Rains, Davey, Wiles.
3rd Row: Sgt’s. Bridger, Wood, Jenner, Orr, Richards, McGovern, Smith, Hengman, McAllen, Goulding, Galland, Allen, Thomas, Evans, Goodines
4th Row: Sgt’s. Balchin, Arnold, Taylor, Proctor, Hamlyn-Harris, Vinnicombe, Staib, Mogg, Clark, Jones, Lee, Myles, Flint, Elliot, Kilner.
Rear Row: Sgt’s. Cash, Hibberd, Harvey, Knight, Cooke, Chedd, Florence, Scott, Burdon, Abson, Smith, Hewart, Bradbury.
Fl/Lt. Peter Brownell Cornwallis - of North Warnborough, Hampshire, England. Husband of Babette Johanna Cornwallis of Chelsea, London.
Photograph left shows his father. Details - The Coronation of Emir (Prince) Faisal I as King of Iraq on 23 of August 1921. Emir Faisal has already served as King of Syria from March to July. The event was conducted, at 06.00 hrs in the court-yard of the Ottoman built Serai, his temporary headquarters upon arriving in Baghdad. behind the King to the left is Sir Percy Cox, British High Commissioner, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, Tahsin Qadri, the King’s ADC, King Faisal, Sir Aylmer Haldane, British commanding officer.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew by Roger Leivers, with thanks to 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. Tom Kracker - 'Kracker Luftwaffe Archives'. Oliver Clutton-Brock 'RAF Evaders’, Aircrew Remembered own Archives.