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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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RAF Crest
4/5.09.1944 84 OTU Wellington X HF570 C-OJ Plt.Off. Byrne

Operation: Training

Date: 4/5th September 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: 84 Operational Training Unit

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HF570

Code: C-OJ

Base: RAF Desborough, Northamptonshire

Location: Braybrook Road, between Desborough and Harrington

Pilot: Plt.Off. Reginald Elwyn Byrne. 432112. RAAF Age 23. Killed (1)

Nav: Sgt. J. McNich. 1566711. RAFVR Age ? Injured (2)

Air/Bmr: Sgt. R. McDowell. 1672529. RAFVR Age ? Injured (3)

WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Terence Francis O'Neill. 434801. RAAF Age ? Injured (4)

Air Gnr: Sgt. Edward Brisbourne. 3050808. RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. William John Barnett. 2235180. RAFVR. Age 32. Killed

If you have any further information on the loss of this aircraft, crew, their relatives and friends than please contact us via the "add info" button at the top of this page


Took off from RAF Desborough at 21:10 hrs for a night navigation training flight. On returning to base at approx. 02:05hrs and having received permission to reduce height from 300ft to 1000ft and while in the process of descending in the airfield circuit the starboard engine failed. Wellington HF570 made an emergency landing hitting a tree and caught fire.

Plt.Off. Reginald Elwyn Byrne (courtesy of Anthony Miller) Sgt. William John Barnett (courtesy of Bill Everatt) and Flt.Sgt. Terence Francis O'Neill (Australian National Archives)

The accident may have been caused by the incorrect manipulation of the petrol cock CS with the result that the engine failed. The aircraft crashed on the Brayford Road between Desborough and Harrington just outside the outer circuit on the down wind leg

Wellington X of 84 Operational Training Unit

(1) Reginald Elwyn Byrne was born on the 21st April 1921 in Undercliffe, NSW. Educated at St. Joseph's Collage, Sydney. He was a gifted sportsman who rowed and played rugby. Reginald had gained his Flying Badge on the 1st October 1939. He enlisted on the 5th December 1942 at No. 2 Recruiting Centre, Sydney and was posted to the No. 1 Initial Training School (ITS) Point Cook, Victoria. On the 27th February 1943 Reginald was moved to No. 8 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) Narrandera, NSW and within a few months 6th May 1943 he was transferred to No. 2 Embarkation Depot, Bradfield Park, Sydney. He left Sydney on the 25th May 1943 on attachment to the RCAF based at No. 5 Service Flying Training School, Brantford, Ontario, Canada. On the 12th October 1943 Sgt. Byrne was posted to No. 1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia. (No 1. "Y" Depot was an embarkation depot from Canada to the United Kingdom)

Reginald left Canada on the 21st October and arrived in the U.K. on 30th October 1943 posted to No. 11 Personnel Dispatch and Reception Centre (PDRC) It was not until the 4th April 1944 that Reginald was transferred to No. 15 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit based at RAF Ramsbury, Wiltshire. On the 27th June 1944 he was then posted to No. 84 Operational Training Unit, RAF Desborough, Northamptonshire. Reginald Elwyn Byrne was appointed to a commission in the RAAF as Pilot Officer with effect from 31st August 1944. Reginald had 56 flying hours in Wellingtons and 193hrs solo flights in other aircraft

Part of a letter sent to Reginald's father in 1944 from Group Captain Lowe, Desborough's Station Commander. "Reginald was an exceptionally capable pilot and did very well on his course here. He showed great keenness in his work and was very popular with fellow pupils and the Staff instructors. He is greatly missed in the Mess and his loss is regretted by all. May I express the great sympathy which all of us feel with you in your sad loss. I should like to assure you how greatly his comrades in the Royal Air Force admire the unselfish gallant sacrifice that your son made so far from home in the cause of freedom and service of the Empire"

The letter sent to Reginald's father (courtesy of Anthony Miller

No. 1 Initial Training School, Point Cook, Victoria and No. 2 Embarkation Depot, Bradfield Park, Sydney. (courtesy of Australian War Memorial)

(2) Sgt. J. McNich was injured during the crash and was taken to the station sick quarters at RAF Desborough. No further information as yet

(3) Sgt. R. McDowell. was injured during the crash and was taken to the station sick quarters at RAF Desborough. No further information as yet

(4) Flt.Sgt. Terence Francis O'Neill was injured during the crash and taken to the station sick quarters at RAF Desborough. Born on the 5th October 1924 in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. Terence enlisted on the 29th January 1943 at the No. 3 Recruiting Centre, Brisbane. His training started at Initial Training School, Somers, Victoria. Later he moved to No.3 Wireless and Air Gunner School, Maryborough, Queensland and then onto No.2 Embarkation Depot, Bradfield Park, Sydney. Terence arrived in the UK on the 10th January 1944 posted to 2 Personnel Reception Centre and then to 9 (Observers) Advanced Flying School. Terence married Stella Doyal on the 23rd June 1945 in London. On the 27th June 1944 Flt.Sgt. O'Neill was posted to 84 OTU. From there he joined 514 Squadron on the 9th February 1945. In June 1945 he was posted to RAF Gamston, Nottinghamshire and then to No. 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre, Brighton

Terence had a total of 280.50hrs flying hours. While training he flew in Fairey Battles, CAC Wackets, Ansons, Wellingtons and Lancaster's and while serving with 514 Squadron he had flown in Lancasters. Warrant Officer Terence Francis O'Neill was discharged from the RAAF on the 5th April 1946 having completed his war service

Cessna Crane, De Havilland Dominie and De Havilland Tiger Moth. Just three of the training aircraft used by Royal Australian Air Force (courtesy of the Australian War Museum)

Burial details:

Oxford (Botley) Cemetery (courtesy of Aircrew Remembered Archives) and Much Wenlock Cemetery (courtesy of CWGC)

Flt.Sgt. Reginald Elwyn Byrne's funeral service and his grave headstone. (both pictures courtesy of Anthony Miller)

Memorial to the crew which stands at the entrance of a Desborough housing estate (Courtesy Anthony Booker)

Flt.Sgt. Reginald Elwyn Byrne. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery, Oxfordshire. Grave Ref: Plot H/3. Grave 160. Son of Patrick Bertrant Byrne and Jessie Heather Macleay Byrne of Centennial Park, New South Wales, Australia.

Plt.Off. Reginald Elwyn Byrne's funeral took place at 12.00hrs on Saturday 9th September 1944. He was buried with full military honours in the Australian Section of the cemetery.The coffin was carried by men of the Royal Air Force and the service was conducted by an Australian Service Padre .

Left Sgt. Edward Brisbourne's headstone coutresy of Shropshire War Memorial

Sgt. Edward Brisbourne. Much Wenlock Cemetery, Shropshire. Grave Ref: New Ground. Plot 5. Grave 1. Son of Edward and Ena Brisbourne of Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England

Sgt. William John Barnett. Sarn Cemetery, Glamorganshire, Wales. Grave Ref: Grave 167. Son of William and Lilly Barnett. Husband of Elizabeth Hester Barnett of Bryncethin, Wales

Researched by: Kate Tame for Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew

Acknowledgements: With special thanks to Anthony Miller and Family - relatives of Flt.Sgt. R. E. Byrne, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Australian National Archives, Imperial War Museum, W. R. Chorley - Bomber Command Losses Operational Training Units 1940 - 1947, Flight Archives, London Gazette Archives, William John Everatt - Celtica Radio, Australian War Memorial, Shropshire War Memorial, Stephen Hayter Executive Director Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum Canada. Thanks to Anthony Booker for the memorial images.

RS 13.04.2020 - Memorial 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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A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

My uncle P/O R.E. Byrne was killed in the crash. Your researcher Kate Tame did a brilliant job on the page of remembrance. I want to advise that a memorial to the crew will be dedicated at Desborough on 29 Sept this year at the crash site. All are welcome. Relatives of the crew will attend. Those interested please contact Aircrew Remembered and we will forward details to Anthony.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
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Last Modified: 25 March 2021, 19:49

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