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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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626 Squadron badge
13/14.07.1945 No. 626 Squadron Lancaster I PD867 UM-P Fl/Sgt. Bell

Operation: Training

Date: 13/14th July 1945 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No: 626 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: PD287

Code: UM-P

Base: RAF Wickenby, Lincolnshire

Location: Wharram le Street, Yorkshire

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Sydney Philip Bell 1389006 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Stanley Welsh 1597250 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Lawrence William Garfield 1815298 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Percy John Allsebrook 1574022 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Henry Jacob Plastow 1824870 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Roy Charles Thomas Goldthorpe 1893883 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt John Critchley RAFVR Survived, injured.


Took off from RAF Wickenby with ten other Lancasters on a 'BALBO' (1) exercise with the crews briefed to fly at 2,000 feet. Ran into a thunderstorm and crashed at 01.55 at Wharram le Street, some 12 miles NW of Driffield airfield, Yorkshire.

Note: 626 squadron ORB has an entry for a Sergeant J. Critchley posted non-effective sick to 14 Base on the 14th July, but it is not clear if this was a result of this accident summarised above.

Left: Sgt. Percy John Allsebrook (see credits)

Update 11.09.2013: Sgt. John Critchley was indeed a member of this crew. His son, Neil, wrote to us and provided valuable further information.

After flying for approximately three hours at around 01.55 hrs they flew into a thunderstorm and the aircraft crashed into the ground catching fire. Local newspapers reported:

'Kept whistling, saved life an injured airman whose plane had crashed in a lonely part of the Yorkshire Wolds saved his life by blowing a whistle for five hours. Harvesters going to work heard him and searched until they found the wrecked bomber. The other six members of the crew were dead'. 
Saved by his whistle – but six died - four Irish harvesters, on their way to work in a lonely part of the Yorkshire Wolds, heard feeble sounds of a whistle. Investigating, they found a crashed Lancaster bomber with six of the crew of seven dead. The survivor, Sergeant Critchley, badly injured, had been blowing his whistle for five hours.' Sgt Critchley was taken to Driffield Hospital, he eventually recovered from his injuries. The other six members of the crew were taken to their home towns where they are buried.

John Critchley was thrown through the perspex turret when the Lancaster crashed. No definate cause of the crash was ever established although possible causes were placed as the pilot blinded by lightning and misreading the altimeter or that the aircraft was hit by lightning.

Location of the crash

(1) BALBO - nickname given to a navigation cross country exercise.

Burial details:

Fl/Sgt. Sydney Philip Bell. Wakefield Cemetery. Sec B. Grave 395. Son of Ernest Edward and Lilian Gertrude Bell of Wakefield, Yorkshire and husband of Violet Isabel of Peckham, London.

Sgt. Stanley Welsh. Stanley (Harelaw) Cemetery, Durham. Sec 18. Grave 52. Son of John and Mary Jane Welsh of Annfield Plain, Durham, England.

Fl/Sgt. Lawrence William Garfield. Birmingham (Quinton) Cemetery, Warley. Sec D. Grave 6961. Son of Henry Charles and May Garfield of Warley Woods, Smethwick, Staffordshire, England.

Sgt. Percy John Allsebrook. Portsmouth (Milton) Cemetery. Plot Z.2. Row 18. Grave 5. Son of Percy John and Elizabeth Allsebrook of Milton, Southsea, Hampshire, England.

The family also lived previously in Cowdenbeath, Dunfermline and Derbyshire before their move to Milton; Hampshire. Percy had a sister, Sadie and another sister and brother (deceased).

Fl/Sgt. Henry Jacob Plastow. Edinburgh (Piershill) Cemetery. Sec J. Grave 1065. Son of Henry Jacob and Margaret Cook Plastow of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Sgt. Roy Charles Thomas Goldthorpe. Bexleyheath Cemetery, Kent. Sec E. Grave 1407. Son of Charles Richard and Henrietta Goldthorpe of Welling, England.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. With thanks to the following: Photo and information on Sgt. Allsebrook to Craig Dyaz and Debbie Shawcross, also to Sadie Burt (nee Allsebrook) sister of Percy. Additional information submitted to Aircrew Remembered in September 2013 by Neil Critchley - son of rear gunner Sgt. John Critchley. Colin Cummings - 'The Price Of Peace'. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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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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