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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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Sgt. Charlie Frederick Smallwood
17.03.1944 17 O.T.U. Wellington X HE915 F/O. Ball - Another training tragedy

Operation: Training

Date: 17th March 1944 (Friday)

Unit: No. 17 OTU (Operational Training Unit)

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HE915

Code: ?

Base: RAF Turweston, Buckinghamshire

Location: North Sea - 20 miles south of Flamborough Head

Pilot: F/O. A.C. Ball 145834 RAFVR Injured.

Air/Bmr: W/O. Walter James Peters AUS/425962 RAAF Age 21. Seriously injured (1)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charlie Frederick Smallwood 1575172 RAFVR Age 20. Missing (2)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Bert Claire RAAF Seriously injured (3)

Air/Gnr: F/O. Jack Acheson Aus/428640 RAAF Injured (4)

Understood that there were 3 other crew members who survived - further research taking place on this


Taking off at 14.45 hrs from RAF Turweston, Buckinghamshire on air firing practice. (Turweston - satellite base to RAF Silverstone)

According the RAF official enquiry this aircraft was lost to to enemy action and had been shot down. Blame was placed on the pilot for taking the aircraft over water when there were insufficient Mae West on board.

No idea why they should have reported this as such as it is clear from crew reports that the Wellington suffered a starboard engine failure and was forced to ditch at 16.15 hrs, 20 miles south of Flamborough Head


                    Sgt. Charlie Frederick Smallwood and right memorial to lost 17 OTU Crews (see credits)

Charlie Smallwood was ordered to join this crew (2) and asked his good friend, Gerald Mcpherson to lend him his watch which Gerald did.

The crew were ordered to ditch positions after the pilot had jettisoned some fuel. Shortly before they hit the water Charlie was seen to go back to his crew position. Up till a few years ago Gerald blamed himself for the death of Charlie - thinking he went back for his watch. (They left them on their tables as they were unable to place them over their flying gear.) Bill Smallwood who lives in Somerset, England wrote to Gerald much later and explained that he would have returned for his own watch anyway.


A Dutch destroyer picked up the survivors and took them down to the Thames estuary. Once there an Air Sea Rescue launch came and took the two injured crew members up the Thames to Guys Hospital.

(1) W/O. Walter Peters was to spend 6 months recovering from spinal and leg injuries at Guys Hospital. He then rejoined 106 Squadron and then 630 Squadron. He did not take part in any operations during this period. In January 1945 he joined 44 Squadron taking part in the bombing of Pilsen on 16th April and then the SS barracks at Berchtesgaden (Hitlers Eagles Nest) on the 25 April. After war end, he assisted in transporting PoW's back to England. Sadly Walter died at Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia on the 30th August 1987.


              Above left: W/O. Walter Peters and right third from left whilst with 44 Squadron.


               Memorial to W/O. Walter James Peters at the Queensland Garden of Remembrance

(2) Sgt Ray Birch was the original W/Op/Air/Gnr. for this crew. Charlie Smallwood had married just two weeks previously. 

(3) Sustained a delayed cerebral haemorrhage and had to be sent to London for surgery which probably saved his life precluding him from Flying Duties.

                   Arnsberg video:

(4) F/O. Jack Acheson recovered and subsequently joined 9 squadron. On the 15th March 1945 he  was on an operation to attack the viaducts at Arnsberg along with 16 other Lancasters, some from 617 squadron. The aircraft was in difficulty and the pilot ordered his crew to abandon the Lancaster. Shortly after that order control was regained and the pilot cancelled his previous order. Four of the crew had already left. They were seen to land safely although in enemy territory. 

On this same day another crew from 17 O.T.U were also lost. The pilot, 22 year old P/O. Roy Dennis D.F.M. 162836 RAFVR was killed along with 5 other crew members on an night circuit training exercise near the airfield.

Burial details:

Sgt. Charlie Frederick Smallwood. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 238. Son of Charles Frederick and Sarah Alice Smallwood, of Aston, Birmingham, England.

Others pages associated with this loss: Gerald Mcpherson, Alexander Clarson, Jim Mallinson. 

Researched for relatives of the crew with information supplied by Gerald and Fay McPherson, Jack Acheson, Bill Smallwood, Des Peters, Garth Barnard for his information on 17 O.T.U. With thanks to Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses Vol. 7", Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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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, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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