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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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R.A.F. Crest
26.01.1943 No. 23 OTU Wellington III Z1695 Sgt. Cornfield

Operation: Training

Date: 26th January 1943 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 23 Operational Training Unit

Type: Wellington III

Serial: Z1695

Code: Not known

Base: RAF Pershore, Worcestershire

Location: Halvergate, Norwich

Pilot: Sgt. Joseph Samuel Cornfield R/122947 RCAF Age 22. Killed

Nav: P/O. Robert Porter Love J/14178 RCAF Age 25. Killed

Nav 2: Sgt. Brian Patrick Enright 1385891 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas James Whalley 1314155 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav/Air/Bmr: F/O. Dalton Ross Alexander MacDougall J/22497 RCAF Age 24. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Joseph Snyder R/122037 RCAF. Age 25. Killed


The RAF investigation carried out after the accident is very inconclusive in its findings and the actual cause of the disaster will likely remain a mystery. Now some 67 years later we can only speculate what may have started the fire and the resulting disintegration of the aircraft and loss of six young lives.

What is known is that aircraft assigned to training squadrons were commonly those that had been retired from use and were in poor shape with worn out engines and tired airframes. The Wellington at this point was being phased out of operational sorties over Europe in favour of the heavier four engined Halifax and Lancaster types.

Perhaps, in this light, an electrical short due to previous damage was the cause igniting oil or other combustible material in the aircraft.

The aircraft was not carrying any bombs but did have .303 ammunition, Very signal cartridges, one aluminium sea marker and two flame floats on board. None of which was thought likely to have caused the fire.

From the investigation report we can learn that Sgt. Cornfield and crew took off from Pershore at 17:55 hours in order to carry out a night navigational training exercise known as a “Bullseye.”

This exercise was intended to train inexperienced navigators to locate various “targets,” usually various cities within the British isles, and for pilots to practice searchlight avoidance techniques prior to being assigned to an operational squadron.

At approximately 21:30 hours, the aircraft was plotted by the Royal Observer Corps at Freethorpe near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, at an estimated height of 10,000 feet. It was next seen to circle to the right dropping rapidly to about 5000 feet where it was picked up by a searchlight beam. Moments later a sheet of flame erupted followed by several explosions at which point the aircraft broke up in mid air. Prior to this no communication was received and none of the crew was seen to bale out of the stricken craft. At the time of the disaster no other aircraft, friendly or hostile, were known to be in the area nor was the sound of any gun-fire or other engagement heard.

The wreckage fell over a distance of one and a half miles. The main part of the fuselage coming to rest in the Runham Marshes five miles WNW of Great Yarmouth. Although the fuselage was partly destroyed by fire none of the crew members’ bodies found within the wreckage showed any signs of burning, scorching or blast. All were wearing parachute harness but none had parachutes attached.

The official RAF accident investigation report concludes, that;

“It is considered that the primary cause of the accident was due to the fire in the air, resulting in the pilot being temporarily blinded by the smoke and losing control of the aircraft. As the result of over-stressing during the pull out of the dive, both tail planes failed in download. The aircraft then bunted and the wings failed in download. The origin of the fire in the air was not determined.”

Above Sgt. Joseph Samuel Cornfield grave at Norwich Cemetery.

(1) Cornfield Lake in northern Ontario is named after Sgt. Cornfield

Some of these crew graves are available at a high resolution - please don't hesitate to request a copy from us.

Burial details:

Sgt. Joseph Samuel Cornfield. Norwich Cemetery. Jewish Sec. Grave 234. Son of David and Helen Cornfield, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

P/O. Robert Porter Love. Scottow Cemetery Grave 289. Son of Fred C. Love and Bessie G. Love, of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Sgt. Brian Patrick Enright. Scottow Cemetery Grave 292. Son of Brian and Margaret Enright, of Limerick, Irish Republic. Grave inscription reads: "In Loving Memory Of Our Dear Son, On Whose Soul Sweet Jesus Have Mercy R.I.P".

Sgt. Thomas James Whalley. Oxford (Rose Hill) Cemetery Sec G.2. Grave 203. Son of Francis James Whalley and Edith Annie Whalley, of Cowley, Oxford, grandson of Susan Whalley, of Cowley, England. Grave inscription reads: "His Name Liveth For Ever".

F/O. Dalton Ross Alexander MacDougall. Scottow Cemetery Grave 290. Son of Alexander and Amanda MacDougall; husband of Maureen Agnes MacDougall, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: "We Have Loved Him In Life, Let Us Not Forget Him In Death St.Ambrose".

Sgt. James Joseph Snyder. Scottow Cemetery Grave 291. Sgt. James Joseph Snyder. Scottow Cemetery Grave 291. Born in Parsons, Kansas, USA on 31 December 1918. He was the son of the late Dennis Patrick and late Mary Catherine (née Dibble) Snyder. Upon enlistment at Vancouver on 31 July 1941 he gave his brother, Dennis Patrick Snyder, Jr, of Kansas City, Missouri, USA as next of kin. He had spent the previous seven years working as an auto mechanic. He was assessed as "Ideal AG material. A scrapper full of spirit". He left his entire estate to his foster sister, Mrs Marguerite Lillag, of Kansas City.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew. With thanks to Library and Archives Canada and Dave Champion for further information and photographs - July 2018. Michel Beckers for his contributions.

Message received from Mr. Giveon Cornfield in July 2015 - not a relative, a fellow brother in arms:

"I was born in Montreal in 1926, but grew up in Israel (then called Palestine). After high school, I enlisted in the RAF, hoping to eventually transfer to the RCAF. In 1944, it was rather late in the war and the only aircrew option was as a WOP/AG. I worked hard memorising the Morse code, while stationed at a North African base that serviced Ventura and Liberator bombers operating in the Italian campaign. The war ended and I never flew (except as a passenger in test-flights of aircraft that I had worked on). In 1946 I was honourably discharged, and briefly enjoyed civilian life, during which I married Marion, my high school sweetheart.

In November 1947, all Muslim nations in the Middle East began their attack on the newly created State of Israel, and I found myself in uniform again, in the Israeli Air Force. Shown above is a picture of our little family taken two years later. The young man on Marion's left is our son Eitan. Fast forward to 1962, when we - including our daughter Eleanor - were living in Montreal, and I was Music Director of radio station CKVL-FM. Eitan had a deep interest in music as well, both by avocation and as a 'cellist. He went to work for the CBC, and became a respected producer of music programmes and recordings. He married a fellow worker in Halifax. They had two children: Charlotte, a singer/composer/guitarist and hot-shot jazz drummer, and a son, Joseph G. Cornfield, a thriving entrepreneur.

We are sharing this with "the kids" and looking forward to our next trip to the Motherland (we live in Hawaii) and a visit to Lake Joseph C. Cornfield, to pay homage to that great brother in arms".

CHB 04.04.2010

KTY 02.08.2015 Page updated.

KTY 14.03.2016 Page further updated.

KTY 13.07.2018 New photographs and further information added.

CHB 10.10.2019 Link to map 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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