16/17.03.1944 17 OTU Wellington III BK352 Plt.Off. Roy Dennis
Date: 16/17th March 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit: No. 17 OTU (Operational Training Unit)
Type: Wellington III
Base: RAF Turweston, Buckinghamshire
Location: Near Brackley Airfield (Hinton-in-the-Hedges)
Pilot: Plt.Off. Roy Dennis DFM 162836 RAFVR Age 22. Killed (1)
Pilot 2: Flt.Sgt. Peter John Calder 417799 RAAF Age 19. Killed
Air Bmr: Sgt. John James Owen Walters 1652405 RAFVR Age 20. Killed
Air Bmr 2: Flt.Sgt. Ernest William Baldwin 419948 RAAF Age 23. Killed
WOp/Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Donald Stephen Robinson RAFVR Age 22. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Thomas John Greenhill 430099 RAAF Age 19. Killed
Air Gnr: Sgt. Douglas George Small 423551 RAAF Age 20. Survived
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 00:55 hrs to carry out night circuits and landings exercises.
The survivor, rear gunner trainee Sgt. Small, described the events at the Court of Enquiry:
"We had completed 4 or 5 landings when the captain decided that we had to carry out an overshoot. This we completed with no problem and then I heard Plt.Off. Dennis shout over the intercom Throttle". Almost immediately the aircraft stalled to port and I think that we were about 1,000 ft above the aerodrome. There was no steep dive and the aircraft seemed to be under control again with increased power having been applied to the engines. Very shortly afterwards the aircraft stalled to starboard and I noticed increased juddering in my turret.
The aircraft then seemed to flick up onto its tail and then the nose went straight down. Then the aircraft started turning very steeply to port and these turns were very tight. I could see the ground at 180 degrees and when flying level I would normally see about 90 degrees - at about this time Plt.Off, Dennis called out over the intercom "bale out". I was unable to do this as I couldn't unlock the doors to get to my parachute. There was no fire in the air."
It is not known if Sgt. Small did bale out, or he escaped from the aircraft after it had crashed. On impact the aircraft is known to have caught fire.
(1) Sgt. or Flt.Sgt Roy Dennis front of the Wellington (R for Richard/Roger - Depends whether this image was taken before or after 1942). Additionally it appears that the aircraft had undertaken a single bombing mission over enemy territory. It is probable that this was a 199 Squadron aircraft. His first operational sortie (199 Squadron’s 9th operation) was in Wellington III EX-N (BK541) on the 6th December 1942 - Target Lorient (Sea port in Brittany, France).
His family retell that Sgt. Dennis was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) for piloting his badly damaged Wellington bomber back to base and saving his crew. The aircraft was riddled with bullets, the undercarriage was shot to pieces and part of the wing was missing but somehow no-one was injured. When the crew got off the plane they collapsed and their oxygen masks were frozen to their faces due to flying so high to escape enemy fighters. He was awarded the DFM on the 14th September 1943 and was decorated in February 1944 alongside his brother, who was awarded the Military Medal, at Buckingham Palace by king George VI in the presence of their parents.
Flt.Sgt. Dennis was promoted to Pilot Officer (Plt.Off) on probation, on the 4th October 1943.
(Credits: James Hollinworth for Roy Dennis. The remaining five The War Graves Photographic Project (TWGPP))
Plt.Off. Roy Dennis. Featherstone Cemetery, Yorkshire. Row 90. Grave 7. Son of George and Selina Dennis, of Featherstone, Yorkshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "His Country Called He Did Obey We'll Meet Again One Beautiful Day". (Shown left)
Flt.Sgt. Peter John Calder. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery Plot 1/2. Grave 179. Son of Maj. John Bricknell Calder, M.C., and Ruby Ellen Calder (nee Cornish), of Unley Park, South Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Pro Deo Et Patria". (shown right)
(Left: Courtesy of Shaun Mcguire) Sgt. John James Owen Walters. Marshfield Churchyard, Monmouthshire, Scotland. S.E. of Church. Son of James and Eleanor Walters, of Marshfield, Scotland. Grave inscription reads: "They Shall Grow Not Old As We That Are Left Grow Old: Age Shall Not Weary Them, Nor The Years Condemn".
Flt.Sgt. Ernest William Baldwin. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery Plot 1/2. Grave 178B. Son of Alfred James Baldwin and Marion Ethel Baldwin, of Gre Gre South, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "Duty Nobly Done". (shown right)
Flt.Sgt. Donald Stephen Robinson. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery Plot 1/2. Grave 181. Son of Stephen and Anna Robinson, of Osterley, Middlesex, England. Grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This".
Sgt. Thomas John Greenhill. Oxford (Botley) Cemetery Plot 1/2. Grave 180. Son of John Dickson Greenhill and Olive Christina Greenhill, of Corryong, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "His Duty Fearlessly And Nobly Done. Ever Loved And Remembered".
Researched for relatives of the crew. With thanks to Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses Vol. 7", Fay and Gerald Mcpherson, Desmond Peters, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Thanks also to James Hollinworth for the images of Sgt. and Plt.Off Roy Dennis (Aug 2018). Thanks to Shaun Mcguire of Remembering Newport’s War Dead for updated Grave marker and cuttings for Sgt. John J.O. Owens (Mar 2019). Additional information researched by Aircrew Remembered (Mar 2019 & Nov 2020).