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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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Bomber Command Crest
23/24.04.1944 No. 619 Squadron Lancaster I ME747 PG-Q P/O. John Broomfield

Operation: Training

Date: 23/24 April 1944 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: 619 Squadron (This squadron had no authorised badge or motto)

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: ME747

Code: PG-Q

Base: RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire

Location: In the North Sea 2 miles off Hornsea, East Riding of Yorkshire.

Pilot: P/O. John (Jack) Broomfield 54634 RAF Age 21 - Missing believed killed

Fl/Eng: F/Sgt. Frederick Ernest William Veal 1603709 RAFVR Age 30 - Killed

Nav: F/Sgt. Douglas William Anthony Kersey 1324503 RAFVR Age 20 - Missing believed killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Kenneth William Percival Hunt 1396680 RAFVR Age 21 - Missing believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/Sgt. Geoffrey Talbot Wilks Aus/419430 RAAF Age 25 - Missing believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ernest George Emsley 1894515 RAFVR Age 27 - Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frederick Liege Tucker 1891569 RAFVR Age 29 - Missing believed killed

We appeal to relatives of the crew with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via the HELPDESK


Took off at 21:00 hours from RAF Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire detailed to carry out 'Exercise 16', a night cross country exercise consisting of fighter and searchlight affiliation.

The following account is taken from evidence presented by witnesses to the Court of Enquiry into the accident.

The written evidence of 6105795 Bombardier Manners V. 65 Searchlight Regiment Royal Artillery, 445 Battery, Aldborough stated that:

"I am in charge of 14b searchlight sight. On the night of 23/24 April 1944 we were engaging friendly aircraft on an exercise. At approximately 22:30 hours an aircraft approached from the South West and was illuminated by six beams. We engaged it together with six or seven other beams. I estimated its height as being between 12000 - 13000 feet. We held it for two or three minutes, during which time it was taking evasive action, but it then went into some cloud and was lost for about ten seconds. After this we were the only searchlight to pick up the aircraft again but as we did so there was a flash in the sky like a shell bursting which we took to be a dousing signal so I doused. There was a noise as though the aircraft was power diving, although we could not see it, and almost immediately it crashed into the sea and burst into flames.

I got no IFF [see abbreviations] identification that the aircraft was in distress. It was not engaged again, apart from by ourselves, after it was lost in the clouds. When it was last seen in the beam it was at an estimated height of 10000 to 12000 feet and at this height when we disengaged.

I saw no recognition signals from the aircraft apart from the flash."

Another witness Mr G.L. Horsaman [probably George Leonard Horsaman aged 38], Blacksmith, High Street, Aldborough [Aldbrough, East Riding of Yorkshire] Lincolnshire stated:

"On the night of 23/24th April I was on duty at the Royal Observer Corps Post, Aldeborough [Aldbrough]. At approximately 22:30 hours I saw an aircraft illuminated by searchlights approaching from the South West at a height of about 15000 feet. There were about twelve searchlight beams on the aircraft; it was not burning lights itself. It flew straight for about two minutes and then commenced gentle zig-zagging. It turned East and was lost by the searchlights. After a second or two I saw a yellow flash in the sky which I took to have come from the aircraft and after this I heard a roar of engines as though an aircraft was in a high speed dive; I could not see the aircraft. Very shortly afterwards the noise ceased and a fire was seen about two miles out to sea.

Whilst I saw the aircraft it did not show any lights or give any visual signals by lights".

In its conclusions the Court of Enquiry stated that:

"Sgt. Broomfield was just an average pilot. His flying lacked polish and this was most apparent in instrument flying which was commented upon both at his Conversion Unit and at the Lancaster Finishing School [LFS]. Nevertheless he was considered to be safe on instruments. He had receive correct instruction on the corkscrew but had not practiced it solo in four engined [sic] aircraft until he reached LFS, and the exercise on 23/24th April was the first time that he had carried out the manoeuvre on heavy aircraft in searchlights.

Description of Corkscrew Manoeuvre

The pilot was briefed as to the correct douse signal to be given if he got into difficulties in searchlights".

"Owing to the fact that no part of the aircraft was recovered from the sea after the crash it had not been possible to complete a full investigation into this accident; In particular it cannot be said whether or not structural or technical failure occurred. It is likely, in view of the pilot's weakness in instrument flying that he lost control after entering a small bank of cloud whilst carrying out defensive manoeuvres in searchlights. Evidence indicates that the orange flash seen to come from the aircraft was something other than a momentary illumination of the downward identification light. Such a flash has been known to have occurred in cases of structural failure in the air".

The Court of Enquiry made the following recommendation:

"In view of (i) other accidents of this nature on four-engined [sic] aircraft which have been attributed to loss of control by comparatively inexperienced pilots and (ii) the accuracy and high standard in instrument flying demanded of the night bomber pilot, not only from the point of view of defensive manoeuvres but primarily for achieving accurate bombing results, it is recommended that the Conversion Unit Syllabus should be examined to see whether more time could be devoted to pure instrument flying practice.

Although the Link Trainer is of use for basic instrument flying it is considered that at the Conversion Unit stage of training the most important factor is to build up confidence of the pilot in his ability to fly by instruments on the aircraft type concerned. This can only be achieved by practical flying and perhaps the best means would be to include more day flying 'under the hood' [utilising a hood device that restricted the pilot's view to only the aircraft's instruments] with an instructor safety pilot".

The investigation was closed temporarily on 6 May 1944 pending possible recovery of wreckage from the aircraft but was finally closed on 30 May 1944 when it was established that there would be no likelihood of this.

On 25 April 1944 the body of Sergeant Ernest George Emsley was recovered from the sea at Grimsby and later buried at Camberwell.

On 1 June 1944 the body of Flight Sergeant Frederick Ernest William Veal was also recovered from the sea. According to a Cypher in the National Archives of Australia 'at Catfoss Quaroiell'. This possibly indicates not the place where the body was recovered but where the body then lay, RAF Catfoss. Presumably, the cypher (see below) was intended to read 'Catfoss Airfield'.


It has been brought to our attention by Eric Heaviside that the 619 Operations Record Book reported that ME747 was 'thought to have been shot down by enemy intruder' (see image below). Interestingly the Court of Enquiry makes no reference to this possibility and explains the orange/yellow flash observed by witnesses as thought to have been due to structural failure. As wreckage of the aircraft was not recovered no further evidence was forthcoming.

The ORB also noted that Sgt, Martin was the air bomber lost in the accident. This would seem to be an error as all other documents record the air bomber as Sgt. Hunt who is also recorded on the Runnymede Memorial.


(1) P/O. John (Jack) Broomfield was born in 1923 at Sunderland son of John Forbes Milne Broomfield and Robertina Broomfield nee Hepple; stepson of Edith Broomfield nee Robinson of Sunderland, Co. Durham. He had three siblings: Vera Broomfield born 1921, Lilian Broomfield born 1928 and William Broomfield born 1930 and two half siblings: Margaret Broomfield born 1940 and Eileen Broomfield born 1945.

He was commission as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) with effect from 24 March 1944 (London Gazette 19 May 1944)

Pilot Officer John Broomfield was a member of the congregation of St Gabriel's Church Bishopwearmouth, Suunderland Co. Durham. He is commemorated on the Old Haltonians Roll of Honour.

(2) F/Sgt. Frederick Ernest William Veal was born in 1913 at Emery Down and Bank in the New Forest, Hampshire the only child of Frederick Arthur Veal and Annie Veal nee Shuttler.

Nicknamed "half-pint" due to his short stature, Freddie was employed as a Plumber Journeyman for Gambol and Sons and worked mainly on leading church roofs etc. As well as repairing church roofs Freddie also sang in the church choir.

In 1937 he married May Gill at Wednesbury, Staffordshire. They lived in Silver Street, Emery Down and had three children; Anthony, born in 1941, Peter born in 1943 and Colin born in 1944.

Tony Veal was later told by his mother that his father had been exempt from serving in the armed services and only enlisted late in the war due to some goading or ridicule by others.

Freddie's widow May was still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her husband when her baby son Colin sadly died followed shortly afterwards by her father all within three months of each other. Colin was buried in the same grave as his father and shortly afterwards Peter was adopted by a close childless relation.

If you are able to identify either of the two airmen with Freddie Veal in the photograph on the right please contact our helpdesk

After the war May remarried and following a visit in 1952/3 of Herbert and Elizabeth Wilks the parents of Geoffrey Talbot Wilks, the family decided to move to Australia.

Peter remained with his adoptive parents and still lives in the New Forest area. He regularly tends the grave of his father and brother Colin and the nearby grave of his grandparents.

Frederick Ernest William Veal is commemorated on the Lyndhurst War Memorial and on the Lytch Gate War Memorial of Christ Church, Emery Down.

(3) F/Sgt. Douglas William Anthony Kersey was born in 1924 at Limehouse, London the son of Sydney Francis Kersey and Gladys Winifred Kersey nee Bale later of Greenford, Middlesex. He had four siblings: Norman F. Kersey born 1918, Rita J. Kersey born 1920, Peter S.J. Kersey born 1928 and Robert H. Kersey born 1930.

(4) Sgt. Kenneth William Percival Hunt was born in 1922 at Lambeth, London the son of William Charles Hunt, and of Winifred A.V. Hunt nee Haines later of Beddington, Surrey.

(5) F/Sgt. Geoffrey Talbot Wilks was born at Malvern, Victoria, Australia on 31 March 1919 the son of Herbert Findon Arthur Wilks and Elizabeth Jean Wilks of 3 Wallace Street, Newtown, Geelong, Victoria and the husband of Bessie Kathleen Doreen Wilks, of 3 Price Street, Chilwell, Geelong, Victoria. Prior to enlisting at Melbourne on 11 August 1942 he worked as a Clerk. After initial training in Australia he embarked for the UK at Sydney on 25 May 1943 and was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 19 October 1943. He is commemorated on the Geelong Roll of Honour and the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Panel No. 132.

(6) Sgt. Ernest George Emsley was born in 1917 at Wandsworth, London the son of Ernest George and May Victoria Emsley nee Potter. He married Evelyn Alice Mary Emsley nee Ings at Camberwell, South London in 1939. They had a son Clive Ings Emsley born 1944 at Camberwell and the family lived at East Dulwich.

(7) Sgt. Frederick Liege Tucker was born c1914 possibly at Bedwellty Monmouthshire, Wales.

He married Flora Matthews at Brentford in 1940 and they later lived at Hanwell Middlesex. There were no known children of the marriage.


(1) P/O. John Broomfield. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 210

(2) F/Sgt. Frederick Ernest William Veal was buried at Emery Down (Christ Church) Churchyard, Lyndhurst, Hampshire - SE Part.

His epitaph reads:

In memory of Freddie,

God be with you

Until we meet again

(3) F/Sgt. Douglas William Anthony Kersey. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 219

(4) Sgt. Kenneth William Percival Hunt. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 231

(5) F/Sgt. Geoffrey Talbot Wilks. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 262

(6) Sgt. Ernest George Emsley was buried at Camberwell New Cemetery, South London - Square 80. Grave 8206

(7) Sgt. Frederick Liege Tucker. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel No. 239

Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - June 2017

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 25.06.2017

RW 12.09.2017 additional biographical detail and photographs courtesy Tony Veal added

RW 04.08.2022 addition biographical details and photographs of John Broomfield courtesy Eric Heavysides 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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