30.04.1945 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF Lancaster X KB879 Flt Lt. William G. Campbell
Operation: Training (Cross country)
Date: 30th April 1945 (Monday)
Unit No: 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Lancaster X
Base: RAF Middleton St George
Location: Sandon, NE of Stafford
Pilot: Flt Lt. William Gavin Campbell J21450 RCAF Age 23. Killed
Flt Eng: Flt Sgt. Walter Graham Ward 1567245 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Nav: Sgt. John Henry Kay R142448 RCAF Age 26. Killed
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Stuart Berryman R186388 RCAF Age 23. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: WO2. Thomas Daniel Lawley R214612 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. John Lester Tweedy R286646 RCAF Age 19. Killed
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Edward James Wright R287664 RCAF Age 16. Killed (1)
Above: left to right from their service files: Flt Lt. Campbell (Trainee), Sgt. Kay, Flt Sgt. Berryman (Trainee)
Above: left to right from their service files: WO2. Lawley, Flt Sgt. Wright.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 10:59 hrs from RAF Middleton St George on a cross country training exercise.
The pilot of the second Lancaster, flying slightly above, was alarmed at the erratic behavior of KB879. His tail-gunner, Sgt. Ronald Cranston, had alerted him to this after they'd been in the air awhile. Flying at an altitude of 18,000 feet, Cranston had a relatively clear view of Campbell's aircraft, three thousand feet below. "At first it appeared to be flying with a side-slipping motion," he later told investigators. "After another 20-25 minutes I noticed the aircraft going down in a spiral dive with white vapour trails or smoke coming from the starboard engine. It appeared that nothing was done to counteract the dive. No parachutes appeared to open and no part of the aircraft seemed to fall off."
For some unknown reason, communication between the two aircraft was cut. There was now no way of knowing what was transpiring inside KB879. Had the skipper lost control? If so, why? Was there an oxygen problem? Was it a mechanical or a man-made problem? We'll never know for sure.
Eyewitnesses on the ground had somewhat different and sometimes conflicting stories. John Kent, a student at a local school, stated in a booklet subsequently published about the crash that the plane "went over the building and then very low over Grove Farm. It seemed to swing around and clipped nearby trees, crossing A51 highway, and bursting into flames as it hit the ground."
Another local resident reported that the main aircraft parts, the fuselage and wings, landed in a corner of the Burston Cottage Farm, near the highway. The tail section, which had split off, rolled across the highway and hit a farm building. Fl/Sgt. Wright was ejected during the crash and later found some distance from the aircraft. He was the first casualty to be identified. Peter Betts, a Sandon School student, watched in disbelief as "a big wheel bounced towards the Williams Farm" according to the booklet he heard a huge thud that actually rattled the school. He assumed this was when the plane crashed. Then Betts saw a massive cloud of smoke. He later recalled walking past the crash site after school Betts saw bodies being taken away while the charred remains of the aircraft were piled onto flatbed trucks.
The subsequent investigation, to which Sgt. Cranston provided his statement, and the RAF 'Report on Flying Accident' concluded that the Lancaster broke up in the air, likely as a result of the pressure and stress from the vertical dive. First, the wing tips came away, followed by parts of the fuselage and the outer port engine. What remained spiraled down, hit the ground and caught fire.
The oxygen supply cock was found to be partially closed. This may have caused some crew members to black out. An additional finding was that, as on a previous occasion, the autopilot was faulty. But this time it was a fatal flaw, causing loss of control and loss of life.
(1) Flt Sgt. Wright had previously tried to join the navy when his father found out and prevented him. He then foiled the Canadian authorities and joined the RCAF at about 15yrs old. Over 2000 other "boys" are listed on the CWGC website - he was not alone.
In 1946, a letter from Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) arrived at the Wright residence. The CWGC was preparing an inscription for a stone tablet to be placed on Teddy Wright's grave. The reply from Wright's mother, Alfreda, surprised commission officials. Wright had been only 16 when he died. On his original attestation papers, Wright had given his date of birth as Nov. 7, 1925. But his mother provided the commission with his actual date of birth. As stated on his birth certificate, he was born in Montreal on Nov. 7, 1928.
(TOO YOUNG TO FLY, OLD ENOUGH TO DIE by Floyd Williston Winnipeg Free Press - Sunday, May 1, 2005).
It appears that Flt Sgt. Ward was acting as the Flight Engineer to gain flying time.
Above and below - funerals for the RCAF airman lost. Flt Sgt. Walter Ward was buried in his home town.
Flt Lt. William Gavin Campbell. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A Grave 707. Grave Inscription: "BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART; FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD". Born on the 31st January 1922 in Strathclair, Manitoba. Son of John Magnus Campbell and Catherine Elizabeth (née McKay) Campbell of Strathclair, Manitoba, Canada.
Flt Sgt Walter Graham Ward. Selkirk Cemetery (Shawfield) Selkirk. Sec H Grave 2009. Son of Mrs A.J. Ward, of Forrest Terrace, Selkirk, Scotland, grandson of James and Jane Ward.
Also remembered on the Scottish National War memorial
Sgt John Henry Kay. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A Grave 932. Grave Inscription: "IN MEMORY'S GARDEN WE MEET EVERY DAY. LOVED AND LONGED FOR ALWAYS. WIFE ANN AND SON JOHNNY". Born on the 26th September 1918 in Maple Creek Saskatchewan. Son of Frank (deceased) and Elizabeth (née Stephenson) Kay. Husband to Annie Doris (née Luttmer) Kay of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Flt Sgt. Stuart Berryman. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A Grave 842. Grave Inscription: "MISSED BY ALL WHO KNEW HIM. ALSO FOND MEMORIES OF HIS BROTHER JACK LOST AT SEA". Born on the 18th April 1922 in Hamilton, Ontario. Son of Edward and Elizabeth (née Gardener) Berryman of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
His brother was Leading Stoker Jack Gardener Berryman MiD, V16905, RCNVR, aged 21, Missing presumed dead serving in HMCS GUYSBOROUGH which was torpedoed and sunk by enemy action at sea on the 18th March 1945. He is remembered at the Halifax Memorial Panel 13.
WO2. Thomas Daniel Lawley. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A Grave 1093E. Grave inscription: "E'EN AS HE TROD THAT DAY TO GOD SO WALKED HE FROM HIS BIRTH, IN SIMPLENESS AND GENTLENESS, HONOUR AND CLEAN MIRTH". Born on the 29th January 1925 in Hamilton, Ontario. Son of Daniel and Marguerite (née Foster) Lawley of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Flt Sgt. John Lester Tweedy. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A Grave 752. Grave Inscription: "THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD". Born on the 24th February 1926 in Hardisty, Alberta. Son of James Nelson (deceased) and Margaret Alma (née Plewes) Tweedy of Lougheed, Alberta, Canada.
Flt Sgt Edward James Wright Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A Grave 1023. Grave Inscription: "GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS". Born on the 7th November 1928 (Service record shows 1925) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Son of James Albert and Alfreda May Wright (née Harvey) of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Researched by Emma Scott for Aircrew Remembered. For all the relatives / friends of the crew. With thanks to the following: Veteran Affairs Website Canada for photo's of the crew, other sources as quoted below. Thanks to John Jones for the additional information regarding the crash (Sep 2018). Thanks to Caroline Cook for the NoK details for Flt Sgt. Ward (Sep 2022). Reviewed and updated by Aircrew Remembered (Sep 2022).
Above: A memorial to the crew on the outskirts of Sandon Village - situated on the A51 to Stone The stone was erected on August 28th, 1999 by the Royal British Legion.