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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
08.09.1944 No. 29 OTU Wellington III BK552 F/O. Desmond De V. Clarke

Operation: Cross country navigation exercise

Date: 08th September 1944 (Friday)

Unit: No. 29 OTU (Operational Training Unit - 92 Group)

Type: Wellington III

Serial: BK552

Code: F

Base: RAF Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire

Location: Maesbury Road, Oswestry

Pilot: F/O. Desmond De Villiers Clarke 160076 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Nav: P/O. Harold James Holmes 164590 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Nav 2: Sgt. Gordon Edward Manning 1520513 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Clifford Taylor 1671845 RAFVR Age 30. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Thomas Donovan Potter AUS/432260 RAAF Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Leslie Edward Bowler Walker 1852244 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Stanley Alexander Nicholson 1597145 RAFVR Age 20. Killed


Taking off at 11:20 hrs for a cross country training exercise.

Route: Base - Northampton - Fishguard - St. Tudwal - Skegness - Boston - Newbury - Tetbury - Northampton - Base.

Just over two hours later the aircraft crashed, with the loss of all the crew.

The airframe of the Wellington had 669.30 hours flying time logged, and whilst the port engine had been installed on 7 July 1942, the starboard engine was fitted only 4 weeks previously on 6th August. The primary cause, pending the Board of Enquiry, appeared to be a single engine failure. The pilot had logged 26 hours on Wellingtons, 7 of them at night and 140 hours of all types of aircraft, 40 of them at night, proving that he was quite an experienced pilot.

The aircraft made contact at 13.03 hrs with a position check, all seemed to be well.

Despite this the Board of Enquiry judged that the pilot should have landed the aircraft earlier due to weather conditions en-route. It appears that severe icing took place rendering one engine useless, with the result that the Wellington dived into the ground after the pilot lost control at 13:43 hrs. The reason for loss of control could not be determined, the technical people stated that both engines were running when the aircraft hit the ground.

This aircraft was involved in an earlier accident. On the 29th December 1943 it was hit at RAF Bitteswell in Leicestershire by Wellington X3872. Neither aircraft was seriously damaged although the collision killed the 21 year old Air Bomber, Sgt. Wallace Bennett Blakely R/130420 RCAF of Ontario, Canada who was in Wellington BK552.

Burial details:

F/O. Desmond De Villiers Clarke. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A. Grave 103. Son of Irene and Stanley Clarke, brother to Lorraine of Port Alfred, South Africa. (Former service No. 710212 - commissioned 14th August 1943)

P/O. Harold James Holmes. Bedworth Cemetery. Sec. K. Row C. Grave 17. Son of Henry and Agnes Holmes, of Bedworth, husband of Marian Mary Holmes, of Exhall, Coventry, England.

Sgt. Gordon Edward Manning. Malahide Church Of Ireland Churchyard (St. Andrew) Grave 393. Son of William Edward Francis and Katharine Manning, of Malahide, Dublin, Ireland.

Sgt. Clifford Taylor. Lindale Churchyard (St. Paul) Sec D. Grave 103. Son of Harold Taylor, and of Frances Taylor, of Low Newton, Lancashire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Thomas Donovan Potter. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A. Grave 714. Son of Fred and Susan Eliza Potter, of 24 Janet Street, Five Dock, Thornley, New South Wales, Australia.

Sgt. Leslie Edward Bowler Walker. Abingdon New Cemetery. Sec. I.F. Grave 26. Son of Thomas Bowler Walker, and of Beatrice Annie Florence Walker, of Boar's Hill, Berkshire, England.

Sgt. John Stanley Alexander Nicholson. Chester Cemetery (Blacon) Sec A. Grave 804. Son of John Joseph and Adelaide Martha Nicholson, of Holmrook, Cumberland, England.

No. 2 Initial Training School Course 35A Bradfield RAAF 24th December 1942

Left to right, back row: 432139 Kingsley Talbot Easter; R.I. Jacobs; 424077 Harry Douglas Barrowman; 432260 Thomas Donovan Potter (Killed 8 September 1944); 432142 Russell John Emmett; 432138 Roy William George Eagle; O22088 Leslie Edward Giffin; 432098 Kenneth Arthur Bourke. Third row: 432248 Leslie John Norton; 432095 John Douglas Blackshaw (Killed 9 February 1945); 432181 Ronald Norman Hall; 424624 Alexander John Cook; 432280 Alexander Rex Smith; 432266 Donald Leslie Roberts; 432243 Ronald William McKechnie; 432263 Malcolm James Rae; B. Spence; 424672 Noel Ernest Francis McClelland; 423480 Ross Thomas Pallett. Second row: 432082 Barry Evans Ainsworth; 432161 John Henry Hailey; 432205 Stephen Kingsley Collier; Corporal M. Ferrandiae; 432110 Walter Leonard Burke; 432114 Peter Ross Callahan (Killed 27 April 1944); 427294 Robert Mayo Clarke (Killed 7 January 1945); 432184 Arthur Edward George Howell (Killed 8 December 1946). Front row: 432089 William Edward Barnes; 432198 Douglas Alexander Jolly; 424645 Clement Hiliary Arkins; 432162 David Maxwell Lyndsay Hall; 432236 Lerryn William (Bill) Mutton; 432208 Ivor Lee Kelleway; 432081 Kevin Kenny Abrams (Killed 12 August 1944).

With thanks to Joy Dixon for photo of F/O. Clarke. Page created for her son, Ashton for assistance in his school project. For further details our thanks to the sources shown below.

KTY 12.07.2015

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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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