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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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296 squadron badge
25.05.1945 No. 296 Squadron Halifax III NA291 Fl/Lt. Fraser

Operation: Ferry flight

Date: 25th May 1945 (Friday)

Unit: No. 296 Squadron

Type: Halifax III

Serial: NA291

Base: RAF Earles Colne, Essex

Location: Fortunes Farm, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, England

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Alfred Alex McKenzie Fraser 151535 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James Ross 1824704 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. John Tait 1826325 RAFVR Age 36. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Alan Montague Gates 1335041 RAFVR Age 22. Missing

Passenger: Lt. Keith Moore 268910 SouthStaffs Regt. Age 21. Killed

May 23rd 2016 - new information has been received from a relative of a survivor from this accident - page will be updated once verified.


Aircraft was on a re-positioning flight and flying at 500 ft.

Due to a fault in the 'immersion switch' - coupled with an electrical short-circuit which activated the CO2 bottle, one of the rescue dingies inflated, released from the stowage space in the wing and wrapped around the tail unit.

The pilot could not control the aircraft which then dived into the ground.

Left: W/O. Alan Montague Gates (courtesy Marianne Walsh)

Sadly, he is considered 'missing' and remembered at the Runnymede Memorial - shown below.

This is not the first instance that this fault has taken place with always the same obvious tragic outcome.

21 people were killed on a Halifax with exactly the same problem. 21 people were killed on a Halifax with exactly the same problem. Crashing on the 14th September 1945 at Priddacombe, Bolventor, on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. Halifax VII PN305 9-UW en-route to the Azores from RAF Tarrant Rushton crashed at 08:55 hrs, Bolventor Cornwall with the loss of 7 crew and and all 14 passengers:

Crew: Fl/Sgt. 904583 Clifford William Akers - age 27 (Air Gunner - 644 squadron from Carshalton, Surrey England), F/O. 159989 Peter Stafford Briggs - age 24 (Air Bomber - 644 squadron from Chelmsford, Essex), Fl/Lt. 152486 Jeremiah Charles Garnett - age 23 (Pilot - 644 squadron from Bromley Cross), Fl/Sgt. 1836211 William Henry Mathias - age 20 (W/Operator - 644 squadron from Loughor, Glamorgan), Fl/Lt. 152318 Geoffrey Percival Ormesher - age 22 (Navigator - 644 squadron from Bolton, Lancashire), Fl/Lt. 143807 Gerald Theodore Bailey - age 23 (Flight engineer - 644 squadron from Old Catton, Norfolk), F/O. 181581 Alan John Reardon - age 23 (2nd Pilot - 644 squadron from Edgware, Middlesex).
Passengers: AC2. 1591163 Alan Ralph Titford - age 21 (from Tamworth, Staffordshire), LAC. 1815510 Leonard Roy Victor Cox - age 23 (from Kingham, Oxfordshire), AC1. 1599165 Patrick Fitzgibbon - age 23 (from Drumcondra, Dublin), LAC. 1202198 Cecil Everard Charles Hoborough - age 25 (from Drayton, Berkshire), LAC. 1401473 Roy William Nicholls - age 22 (from Truro, Cornwall), Cpl. 1216502 Henry Phillip Mills - age 26 from Ipswich, Suffolk), LAC. 1131315 Selwyn Thomas - age 25 (from Porth, Glamorgan), LAC. 1692999 Thomas Smith Wallace - age 35 (from Methil, Fifeshire) LAC. 1661054 Ernest Raymond Richings - age 24 (from Knowle, Bristol), LAC 1455798 Stanley Price (from Crookes, Sheffield), AC2. 3030850 Dennis Martin - age 20 (from Hazelslade Staffordshire), LAC. 1797215 Edward Joseph Lynott - age 21 (from Cabra, Dublin), LAC. 1197569 Edwin Arthur George Pettifer - age 24, (from Wolvercote, Oxfordshire), AC2. 2252295 Robert Owen - age 18 (from Llangristiolus, Anglesey).

Other similar accidents with the Halifax during the war have also been recorded.

Above: Memorial placed to the crew by unknown visitors - An older cross can be seen to the right in the hedge, also in the grass below are several remembrance crosses left by people paying their respects. Below: Area of crash site (courtesy Roger Batten - October 2015)

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. Alfred Alex McKenzie Fraser. Grangemouth (Grandsable) Cemetery. Sec 1. Grave 48. Son of Alexander and Christina Fraser, of Grangemouth, Scotland. (Photographed by webmaster in 2010 - original high resolution copy available)

Fl/Sgt. James Ross. Dornoch East Cemetery. Sec 6. Grave 105. Son of Peter and Helen Ross, husband of Catherine Ross, of Dornoch, Scotland.

Sgt. John Tait. Peniculk Cemetery. Sec E. Grave 195. Son of Arthur and Janet Louis Tait, husband of Isabella Tait, of Rosslyn Castle, Scotland.

Left: Unusual photograph of Runnymede, taken from the inside looking out (Aircrew Remembered visit 2013)

W/O. Alan Montague Gates. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 269. Further information: Son of Archie and Olive Gates of Arlesey, Bedfordshire, England. At the time of his death he was engaged to a lady named Beryl. (see notes) Prior to joining he would cycle to Letchworth from Arlesey after doing a day's work in order to attend night classes to obtain the qualifications required to enable him to qualify for the air force. It was his dream. Once accepted he was sent to South Africa for training and 'passed out' in Durban. Tragically his father, just weeks before Alan was killed also lost his life. He had his own motor garage and workshop in Arlesey (Beds) and in April 1945 he was respraying a vehicle when the paint sprayer exploded, inflicting terrible injuries. He died the following day.

Lt. Keith Moore. Colchester Cemetery. Sec. B. Div. B. Grave 99. Son of William John and Marjorie Bashford Moore, husband of Patricia Moore, of East Colne, England.

Researched for relatives of the persons killed. Including Marianne Walsh, niece of W/O. Alan Gates who contacted us with further details in August 2014. Also to Jamie Crocker, the son of Beryl - additional informal and photographs sent in February 2015. Details of exact location and memorial sent into us October 2015, with many thanks to Roger Batten who visited the location and took further photographs of the area/memorial.

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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