28.12.1942 No. 23 Operational Training Unit Wellington III BK517 F/O. Byrne
Operation: Air Test
Date: 28th December 1942 (Monday)
Unit: No. 23 Operational Training Unit
Type: Wellington III
Code: Not known
Base: RAF Atherstone-on-Stour (Stratford Upon-Avon)
Location: Bodicote, Oxfordshire
Pilot: F/O. John Gordon Byrne 112527 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Obs: Fl/Sgt. Jack Thompson McDonald R/90083 RCAF Age 26. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William McMillan 967661 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
Air/Gnr: AC.2. John Ernest George Beaumont 1710222 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
Air/Gnr: LAC. Leslie Hamilton Nicholson 1066387 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air/Gnr: AC.2. Granville Broadhurst 1579235 RAFVR Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Atherstone-on-Stour at 11:20 hrs for an air test - but within minutes they encountered very poor weather conditions.
Described on the Accident Card as and Air Test (medical) which may suggest that the pilot had to demonstrate that he was fit to fly or perhaps another member of the crew were being checked.
Shortly before midday the aircraft was seen by a schoolboy and his mother in Bodicote, flying very low from the south-east, with one engine apparently smoking. It was not unusual for bombers to be seen flying very fast and very low over the village, but on this occasion the schoolboy saw the Wellington hit an elm tree, losing a wing and then crashing into a valley just beyond. When he got down to the crash site he saw a pile of wreckage which was still on fire, and the bodies of several airmen.
No wireless operator on board would have meant that the pilot would have had an increased work load and that may have contributed to the crash. As the flight had been planned for about 25 minutes the base may have thought it unnecessary.
It seems that the Wellington continued for about 400 metres after it struck the tree, meaning that it hit at high speed. It should be noted that prior to the crash they were flying low over the village - perhaps the crew were experiencing difficulties and that they planned to miss the populated area of the village.
In June 2012 a plaque was placed in honour of the crew killed.
A memorial to ex-employees of Robert Jenkins in Rotherham is due to be unveiled at St. Pauls Church - local to the Jenkins works which is due for demolition. The dedication service is to be held on the 25th November 2017 - LAC Leslie Hamilton Nicholson is one of those named.
F/O. John Gordon Byrne. Fulwood Churchyard (Christ Church) Grave 408. Son of Armel and Annie Byrne, of Fulwood, Sheffield and husband of Beryl Jean Byrne, of Millhouses, Sheffield, England. Grave inscription reads: "I Thank My God Upon Every Remembrance Of Thee".
Obs: Fl/Sgt. Jack Thompson McDonald. Middleton Stoney Churchyard (All Saints) Plot 2. Row G. Grave 11. Son of William T. McDonald and Minnie Thompson McDonald of Strathroy, Ontario, Canada and husband of Aletha McDonald. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends".
Fl/Eng: AC.2. John Ernest George Beaumont. Brompton Cemetery Plot O. Grave 191819. Son of John Emmanuel and Rena Victoria Beaumont, of Fulham, England. Grave inscription reads: "Forget You, No, Dear John We Never Will. We Loved You Here And Love You Still".
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William McMillan. Greenock Cemetery. Sec. I.I.I. Grave 242. Son of William and Agnes Napier McMillan, of Greenock; husband of Annie Norris McMillan, of Greenock, Scotland.
Air/Gnr: LAC. Leslie Hamilton Nicholson. Rotherham Cemetery (Moorgate) Sec.B.1st New. Grave 64. No further details - are you able to assist?
Air/Gnr: AC.2. Granville Broadhurst. Erdington Churchyard (St. Barnabas) Grave H.186. Husband of Muriel Gertrude Broadhurst, of South Yardley, Birmingham, England.
With thanks to Leslie Leng for bringing this loss to our attention. We strongly suggest that readers take a look at the Banbury War Memorial Website where further information can be found courtesy of the Midland Aircraft Recovery Group. For further details our thanks to the following sources shown below.