22/23.05.1944 No 429 (Bison) Squadron RCAF Halifax III LV989 AL-R F/O. Alan Francis Brown
Operation: Le Mans, France
Date: 22/23 May 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 429 (Bison) Squadron RCAF - Motto: "Fortunae nihil" ("Nothing to chance").
Badge: On a mount, a bison, the head lowered. The bison, indigenous to Canada, is a fierce and powerful opponent.
Type: Handley Page Halifax III
Base: RAF Leeming, North Riding of Yorkshire
Location: Near Snape, North Riding of Yorkshire
Pilot: F/O. Alan Francis Brown J/25827 RCAF Age 23 - Killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Peter Vose 2210136 RAFVR Age 19 - Killed (2)
Nav: F/O. William George Hunter J/25758 RCAF Age 29 - Killed (3)
Air/Bmr: P/O. John William Leitch J89918 RCAF Age 30 - Killed (4)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. J. Swordy RCAF - Safe and uninjured (5)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Lawrence Edward Morris R/106875 RCAF Age 23 - Killed (6)
Air/Gnr: F/O. William Earl Scott J29485 RCAF Age 33 - Killed (7)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via the helpdesk
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 23:59 hours on a mission to bomb the railway yards at Le Mans. A total force of 133 aircraft made up of 112 Halifaxes, 13 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitoes of 6 and 8 Groups was despatched for the raid.
The crew of Halifax LV989 had been briefed to climb to 8000 feet before setting course. There was 10/10ths cloud from 2500 feet to 8000 feet. According to the sole survivor of the crash, Wireless Operator Flying Officer Swordy, the aircraft performed alright until at about 3/5000 feet, when it shuddered, climbed, then shuddered again and apparently stalled, going into a spin which developed into a spiral dive. He baled out on orders from the captain and landed safely. It was thought that the other members were unable to jump due to centrifugal force. The aircraft crashed and caught fire. Approximately twenty minutes later the bombs exploded due to the heat from the burning wreckage.
It had been impossible to determine any technical failure as the aircraft crashed with full bomb load which exploded causing the aircraft to disintegrate.
The forgoing account was taken from the Form 765(G) (Report on Flying Accident or Forced Landing not Attributable to Enemy Action).
Scale: 1" = 2 miles
The aircraft crashed at 00:24 between Low Park House and Oaktree Farm south west of Snape in North Yorkshire. A Crash Tender quickly reached the scene but as its crew were about to deploy, the bomb load exploded injuring all five of the crash crew. Consequently the fires were left to burn themselves out.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/O. Alan Francis Brown was born on 20 April 1921 at Winnipeg the son of Francis Herbert Brown and Willa Winnifred Brown nee Platt 18 Parkholme Apts., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
His father was a Salesman and also a work colleague of Bomb Aimer William Leitch's father at the Ashdown Hardware Co.)
He attended Isaac Brock School 1925 - 1936 and Daniel McIntyre School 1936 - 1938 (to Matric XI). From 1939 to 1941 he was employed as an Office Manager/Clerk at Scott Bathgate & Co., wholesale Confectioners of Winnipeg. On his enlistment at Winnipeg on 29 December 1941 he was 5'9" tall, weighing 131 lbs with a fair complexion with brown hair and eyes. He played basket-ball and hockey and was a stamp collector.
He trained at Brandon, Regina and Fort William before graduating at No. 11 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Yorkton and being awarded his Flying Badge on 30 April 1943 when he was also commissioned as a Pilot Officer. He embarked for the UK on 23 June 1943 and after arrival was posted to No 14 (P) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Banff in Scotland. Whilst undergoing training here he was slightly injured when he crashed Oxford V3349 whilst practicing a single engine landing on 8 October 1943. The Form 765(G) (Report on Flying Accident or Forced Landing not Attributable to Enemy Action) contained the following information about the incident:
'While carrying out a practice single engine landing with starboard engine "dead" aircraft started to undershoot. Pilot attempted to reach aerodrome using only port engine and then opened both throttles to overshoot. Starboard wing stalled and aircraft crashed during this attempted overshoot'
The unit commander considered that the incident was due to the 'Pilot under training used insufficient port throttle to regain position and continue to land' and 'Decision to overshoot was taken too late and at too low an airspeed and use of engine failed to prevent a stall.'
The station commander added:
'It would appear that the pilot failed to appreciate the ideal gradient and make necessary allowance for it.'
On 30 October Alan Brown was promoted to Flying Officer and three days later was posted to 24 Operational Training Unit at RAF Honeybourne in Worcestershire and to No 61 Base at RAF Topcliffe on 28 February 1944. Having crewed up at 24 OTU he and his crew were posted to 429 Squadron on 15 April 1944 for operational flying.
(2) Sgt. Peter Vose was born in 1925 at Prescot the son and only child of Sydney Vose (a Colliery Lampman) and Emily Vose nee Gornall of 10 Allanson Street, Parr, St. Helens, Lancashire.
He is commemorated on St. Peter's Parish Church War Memorial and the Parr Central School War Memorial
(3) F/O. William George Hunter was born on 9 October 1914 at Deloraine, Manitoba, Canada the son of George and Emily Hunter nee Bond of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Both his parents had been born in Ireland and lived at 1 Fontana Apts., Winnipeg. His father was a Retired School Inspector.
William Hunter was educated at Deloraine School and later at Brandon College to Grade XII. From 1936 to 1939 he worked as a Drug Apprentice after which he attended the University of Manitoba for the next two years passing the Diploma Course in Pharmacy. In July 1941 he applied to join the RCAF to be a Drug Dispenser but was rejected as they had no requirement for such. From then until his enlistment he worked as a Chemist at L.K. Liggett & Co. Ltd of Winnipeg.
On his enlistment on 13 May 1942 he was described as being 5'10" tall and weighing 171 lbs with a fair complexion, hazel eyes and light brown hair. He enjoyed playing hockey and swimming.
After training at Brandon, Regina and 5 Air Observer School at Winnipeg he was awarded his Navigator's Badge on 30 April 1943 and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer.
He had a brother, Sqn/Ldr. Harry Bond Hunter of No. 2 Training Command in Winnipeg and a sister, Mrs Alys Robertson.
He embarked for the UK in June 1943. Promoted to Flying Officer on 30 October 1943 he was posted to 24 Operational Training Unit on 4 November 1943 and to No. 61 Base on 28 February 1944. Having crewed up with Alan Brown at 24 OTU he and the other crew members were posted to 429 Squadron on 15 April 1944 for operational flying.
(4) P/O. John William Leitch was born on 21 November 1913 at Winnipeg the son of John Henry Leitch and May Louise Leitch nee Bescoby. His father was an Assistant Superintendent and work colleague of pilot Alan Brown's father at the Ashdown Hardware Co. Educated at Laura Second and Kelvin Schools in Winnipeg from 1919 to 1931 and was a graduate in Geology after 5 years at the University of Manitoba. After university he worked as a Geological Mapper and for a year before enlisting he was employed in Clerical Work by Swift Canadian Meat Packers.
On enlistment at Winnipeg on 27 August 1942 he was described as 5'9½" weighing 148 lbs with a medium complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He played basketball, baseball, hockey, golf and ping pong. He trained at Brandon, Mossbank Saskatoon, and Portage La Prairie and was awarded his Air Bomber's Badge on 6 August 1943 and promoted to Flight Sergeant.
He embarked for the UK on 26 August 1943. On 2 November he was posted to No. 24 Operational Training Unit and to 61 Base at RAF Topcliffe on 28 February 1944. Having crewed up with Alan Brown's crew at 24 OTU he and the other crew members were posted to 429 Squadron on 15 April 1944 for operational flying. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 22 May 1943.
(5) F/O. J Swordy - Nothing further known, if you can help please contact us via the helpdesk.
(6) Sgt. Lawrence Edward Morris was born in 1921 in Vancouver the son of Frank and Laura Annie Morris nee Young. He enlisted in June 1941 and was stationed at No. 12 SFTS working as ground crew but re-mustered as aircrew. In August 1943 he married Juliette Patenaud of St Boniface, Winnipeg and two months later embarked for the UK. His brother Bill also served with the RCAF at Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
(7) F/O. William Earl Scott was born on 27 November 1910 in New Brunswick, Canada the son of William Steward Scott and Grace Mary Scott nee Mann. The family lived at Dalhousie, Restigouche, New Brunswick. He had five sisters and four brothers.
BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS
The five Canadian airmen were buried at Harrogate at 10:30 a.m. on Friday 26 May 1944. The funeral service was conducted by Squadron Leader Binning the Chaplain at RAF Leeming. The dead were afforded full honours, a firing party, Union Flag on the coffins and the sounding of the last post. There were wreaths from the Commanding Officer of RAF Leeming and comrades of the deceased.
F/O. Alan Francis Brown was buried at Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery, North Yorkshire - Section B. Row D. Grave 3. (1)
His epitaph reads:
Come unto Me
All that travail
And are heavy laden
And I will refresh you
Brown Esker south of Swampy Lake, Manitoba was named after F/O Alan Brown in 1995
Sgt. Peter Vose was buried at St. Peter's Churchyard, Parr, St. Helens, Lancashire - 1926 Extension. Grave 467. (2)
F/O. William George Hunter was buried at Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery, North Yorkshire. - Section B. Row D. Grave 4. (3)
His epitaph reads:
Who gave his life
In the cause
Of honor, decency
And a Christian way of life
Courtesy David Archer - Operation Picture Me
Hunter Rapids in the Caribou River, Manitoba was named after F/O William Hunter in 1995
F/O. John William Leitch was buried at Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery, North Yorkshire. - Section B. Row D. Grave 2. (4)
Leitch Lake northeast of Brereton Lake, Manitoba was named after P/O John Leitch in 1973
Sgt. Lawrence Edward Morris was buried at Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery, North Yorkshire. - Section B. Row D. Grave 1. (6)
F/O. William Earl Scott was buried at Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery, North Yorkshire. - Section B. Row D. Grave 5. (7)
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - April 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.