14.09.1943 No. 115 Squadron Lancaster B,II DS780 KO-Z Fl/Sgt. Bradford
Operation: Air Test - new aircraft
Date: 14th September 1943 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 115 Squadron 3 Group (motto: 'Despite the elements'). 3 Group
Type: Lancaster B.II
Base: RAF Little Snoring, Norfolk
Location: Magdalan - North of Downham Market
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Edward Albert John Bradford NZ/415742 RNZAF Age 23. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Murdoch Fearn 1570056 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Harold James Bowen Ashwin 1870675 RAFVR Age 34. Killed (1)
Nav: F/O. Colin Rutherford Morse NZ/422306 RNZAF Age 21. Killed
Air/Bmr: Sgt. Michael Read RAFVR Age ? Seriously injured - no further details
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Ivan John Williamson NZ/416675 Age 21 Seriously injured (2)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frederick Jones 842484 RAF (A) Age 34. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Rex Vernon Griffiths NZ/415077 RNZAF Age 20. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
The crew joined the Squadron on the 14th July 1943.
Errol Martyn writes:
Both starboard engines were closed down during feathering practice, but could not be restarted. During an attempted emergency landing in a 300-yard field near Magdalan the aircraft bounced, caught fire and then became airborne again before crashing on a railway embankment on the east bank of the Great Ouse river at 11:15 hrs. 6 of the 8 man crew were killed.
The investigation concluded that the engines could not be restarted as the master fuel cock was closed.
Above the original crew. L - R. Nobby Clark (Fl/Eng), Jack Williamson (W/Op/Air/Gnrr, Colin Morse (Nav), Fred Jones (M/Up/Gnr, Bert Bradford (Pilot), Mick Read (Air/Bmr) Rex Griffiths (Rear A/Gnr).
The ORB states:
"During an air test that started at 10:53 hrs, all was going well until the operation of levelling the bombsight, when the Air Bomber told the Captain to maintain 2,000 feet. The pilot reported an inability to maintain height and ordered the crew to crash stations. Unfortunately, the aircraft crashed into a railway embankment at Magdalen (about 4 miles north of RAF Downham Market)".
(1) Sgt. Harold James Bowen Ashwin was on detachment from 1678 Conversion Flight but a serving member of 115 Squadron.
(2) Fl/Sgt. Ian John Williamson survived the crash. Born on the 26th March 1912 the son of Emma and James Williamson and husband of Mrs I.L. Williamson of 76 Cook Street, Auckland, New Zealand. Served with 115 and 75 Squadron and also No. 11 Operational Training Unit as an instructor. The above photo on the right was taken at the RAF Hospital ordered by Sir Arch McIndoe who was using him to further his experiments with saline baths for burns patients. According to him, he was an ideal 'Guinea Pig' not badly enough burned to need skin grafting, of which he was the father. Left the service on the 07th July 1946 as a F/O. and was awarded the DFC on the 20th July 1945. Joined the reserve on the 07th July 1946. Passed away on the 23rd March 1981 at age 69.
He described his experience in Scramble: Memories of the RAF in the Second World War, by Martin Bowman:
'We had 1,500 gallons of high-octane fuel aboard. The fuel tanks exploded on impact and, lit by the engines, became a wall of flaming petrol. The aircraft broke its back just behind the second spar, flipped over the embankment and Sergeant Michael Read, the bomb aimer and myself were airborne for about 70 yards. We passed through the wall of petrol and became flaming torches, landing in a foot of mud, water and lots of bulrushes, where we burned quite furiously'.
Fl/Sgt. Edward Albert John Bradford. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13539. Born on the 25th April 1920 at Auckland. Son of John William and Lottie Florence Bradford, of Norsewood, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. A total of 743 flying hours logged with having completed 12 operational sorties.
Sgt. John Murdoch Fearn. Inverness Cemetery (Tomnahurich) Section L.2. Class 1. Grave 233. Son of John (died 1931) and Catherine Grace Fearn (/née Mckenzie - died 1952), of Inverness, Scotland.
Sgt. Harold James Bowen Ashwin. Golders Green Crematorium. Panel 1. Son of Frank Harold Bowen Ashwin and Irene Stewart Beaney Ashwin and husband of Dora Wesley Ashwin, of Kilburn, London, England.
F/O. Colin Rutherford Morse. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13938. Born on the 31st January 1922 at Christchurch. Son of Percy Morse and of Mary Leslie Morse (née Rutherford) of Hanmer Springs, Canterbury, New Zealand.
Sgt.Frederick Jones. Carshalton Churchyard (All Saints). Section U. Grave 323. Son of Walter and Rosina Jones and husband of Violet Ellen Jones, of North Cheam, London, England. Grave inscription reads: "Loving Memory".
Fl/Sgt. Rex Vernon Griffiths. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 13738. 22nd October 1922 at Otahuhu. Son of Edmund Harold Griffiths (died 25th July 1952, age 68) and of Olive Mary Griffiths (née Parker - died 16th September 1953, age 65), of Penrose, Auckland, New Zealand. A total of 225 flying hours logged with having completed 12 operational sorties.
Researched by Stephen Hunnisett for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Grave photographs courtesy Sam Dorrington,Len and Julie and Keld, with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum
, Weekly News of New Zealand, also thanks to sources as quoted.