Defiant I N3424 Sgt. John Denis Harold Cunningham
Date: 08th April 1941 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 256 Squadron (motto: Addimus vim viribus - 'we add strength to strength'). 9 Group
Type: Defiant I
Base: RAF Squires Gate, Lancashire
Location: Marton Moss, Blackpool
Pilot: Sgt. John Denis Harold Cunningham 923918 RAFVR Age 21. Killed
Air/Gnr. Sgt. Albert Douglas Wood NZ/401819 RNZAF Age 24. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
The squadron was celebrating the downing of a Ju88 A5 8138 of 5/KG-54 by Fl/Lt. Donald Rock West and Sgt. Reginald Thomas Adams during the night but they were shocked when they heard that a crew had been killed during a take-off incident. The pilot of the Ju88 Oblt. Gunther Klemm and another crew member were taken PoW with the other two killed.
Taking off at 04:50 hrs on a training fight but quickly lost height and crashed into some greenhouses off Midgeland Road, almost in a direct line with the extended runway line.
It is thought that the engine had cut out possibly because it was not run up to temperature before take off.
Sgt. Cunningham had only been posted in on the 05th March. On the 10th April his body was p[aced on a train and returned to his home town. His funeral took place on the 14th of April after a service at St. Lawrence church.
Sgt Wood's funeral was held on the 12th of April and attended by Sq/Ldr. George Howie Gatherall (shown left) as well as 12 other officers from 256 squadron.
Sgt. John Denis Harold Cunningham. Ramsgate Cemetry. St. Lawrence Div. Section A. Grave 146. Worked as a clerk for Hudson Mill. Enlisted in July 1940. Son of Hugh and Dorothy E. Cunningham (died 09th January 1973), of Grange Road, Ramsgate, Kent, England.
Sgt. Albert Douglas Wood. Lytham St. Anne's Cemetery (Park). Section D. Nonconformist. Grave 723. Born on the 26th of June 1916 at Otahuhu. Studied at Otahuhu Technical High School. Worked as a porter for the New Zealand Railways before enlisting. Enlisted at Levin on the 02nd July 1940 as an air gunner. Air gunner badge was awarded on the 22nd of August 1940. Promoted to sergeant on the 23rd August 1940. Embarked for England via Pitcairn Island and Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the SS Tamaroa (shown below) on the 14th of September 1940. Joined 256 squadron on the 10th January 1941. Son of Norman Cecil (died in 1983, age 89) and Violet May Wood (née Rogers - died 28th February 1972, age 71), of Helensville, Auckland, New Zealand. A total of 72 flying hours logged and completed 3 operational sorties.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, 'For Such Deeds' Gp. Cpt. C.M Hanson, AirForce Museum of New ZealandForce Museum of New Zealand, Wigram, other sources as quoted below: