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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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R.A.F. Crest
24.02.1945 No. 51 O.T.U. Mosquito XVII HK304 Sgt. Bonnewit

Operation: Ground control interception exercise

Date: 24th February 1945 (Saturday)

Unit: No. 51 OTU (Operational Training Unit)

Type: Mosquito X.VII

Serial: HK304

Base: RAF Cranfield, Bedfordshire.

Location: Woodside Field, Flitwick, Nr. Ampthill, Bedfordshire

Time: 12:32 hrs.

Pilot: Sgt. Jacques L. Bonnewit 1299978 RAFVR (B) Age25. Killed

Nav: Sgt. John William George Muncaster 1524130 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

July 2021 - a memorial is currently being built at Flitwick - details follow

Limited edition prints of HK304 flying over Flitwick are now available - Details to follow. Artist: Robin Woolnough


Weather: Fine, very slight haze, bright sunshine, no cloud.

The aircraft had been fully serviced with a total airframe flight time of 459 hours (455 hrs for each Merlin Engine) For the flight the aircraft had no cannons fitted, ammunition or the long range fuel tanks.

Taking off at 10:50 hrs and with full R/T contact with base prior to ground control at 11:03 hrs. At 12:28 hrs. flying at 10,000 ft the exercise was complete and was instructed to reduce height to 4,000 ft. The next communication would normally have been a request for permission to land.

Witnesses on the ground noticed the aircraft approaching the base from a south westerly direction - a usual course to follow. As the aircraft approached Steppingley it was seen to spin down, dive and then recover at about 1,000 ft. Just as that appeared to be complete the wings and part of the tail seem to break away. The complete fuselage with centre section and engines, but without outer wings or tail surfaces dropped and burst into flames between Steppingley and Flitwick.

The accident investigation branch considered that the accident was due to failure of the rib structure of the radiator upper hose fairing at about the time the pilot, Sgt. Jacques Bonnewit, had resumed normal flight level flight after the descent - this resulted in the tearing away of the upper skin causing temporary loss of control as the aircraft rolled and went into a spin.

Above: Sgt. Jacques L. Bonnewit (courtesy of the Bonnewit family)

The evidence points to the probability that the pilot had regained control and straightened the aircraft but, owing to the trim of the Mosquito at the time, or the low height at which recovery was corrected he was unable to pull out of such severity that the wing structure overloaded and consequently - failed.

Above: Sgt. John William George Muncaster (courtesy Andrew Peart)

It was not possible to discover if either the pilot, or the navigator were strapped in the Sutton Harness at the point of impact, neither of the crew appeared to have tried to escape the aircraft. The body of the navigator, Sgt. Muncaster, was found a short distance from the main wreckage which appeared that he had made no deliberate attempt to escape from the aircraft and that his body was thrown out during impact.

As is usual, witnesses to the crash or to the events leading up to it were taken, they make 'interesting' reading - as shown:

Left: Witness 1 - Police Constable G.C. Upchurch

Above and below funeral for Sgt. Jacques Bonnewit - no details if this was the reinterment in Belgium or the original funeral. The soldiers standing by the grave have 'Luxembourg' badges on their arms.

Left: Witness 2 - Observer E.J. Woodland

Left: Witness 3 - Mrs Finedon

The mother of Sgt. Jacques Bonnewit spends time reflecting.

Burial details:

Sgt. Jacques L. Bonnewit. Brussels Town Cemetery (Belgian Airmen’s Field of Honour. Row 4. Grave 8. Born on the 22nd December 1919 in Amsterdam, Holland. Son of Hijman and Reina Meijer Bonnewit. Escaped from Belgium to Great Britain on the 8th August 1940 and joined the Royal Air Force.

Sgt. John William George Muncaster. Maryport Cemetery. Sec O. Grave 180. Son of Duncan and Sarah Muncaster, of Maryport, Cumbria, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to National Archives, Kew, London. Josette Bens, Mr. Alain Rosseels, Johny Recour from Belgium for further information. Additionally Andrew Peart relative of Sgt. Muncaster who contacted Aircrew Remembered in December 2015 and the son of Lina Bonnewit, the sister of the pilot Sgt. Bonnewit who contacted us in March 2017. Also to Raymond Binamé for further great information - March 2017. Also to Martin Tolley for photo of his grave - May 2018.

KTY 27.03.2017 - Further information/photographs added

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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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