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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
18.07.1943 No. 1485 Flight Wellington III BK235 W/O. John W. Heard

Operation: Gunnery demonstration

Date: 18th July 1943 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 1485 Flight

Type: Wellington III

Serial: BK235

Base: RAF Fulbeck, Lincolnshire

Location: 1 Mile South East of Appleby, Lincolnshire

Pilot: W/O. John William Heard 1169045 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Inst: Fl/Sgt. Daniel Breslin DFM. 1561437 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Student: W/Cmdr. Alister William Stewart Matheson AUS/29258 RAAF Age 33. Killed

Student: Gp/Cptn. Brian Everard Lowe 28252 RAF Age 33. Killed

Student: Gp/Cptn. Reginald Vere Massey Odbert RAF Age 39. Killed

Student: Sq/Ldr. Philip Brandon-Trye 42792 RAF Age 24. Killed


Taking off from RAF Fulbeck, Lincolnshire with senior officers who had arrived to see what the training involved. The students due to go up were informed that there training had been cancelled that afternoon!

RAF Records state:

'Wellington BK235 was engaged in a corkscrew fighter affiliation exercise on the 18th July, 1943 with Martinet HN877 piloted by F/O. Jordan. Both aircraft operated with 1485 BG Flight.

Description of Corkscrew Manoeuvre

When F/O Jordan was about 200 yards astern of the Wellington he saw the starboard wing of the aircraft break completely off at the outboard of the starboard engine. The Wellington at once went into a dive, and crashed 1 ½ miles south of Appleby, Lincolnshire, killing the six crew members. Timed at 16.25hrs.

The crew details: Pilot – W/O. Heard, Instructor – Sgt. Breslin, students on Senior Officer’s Gunnery Course – Group Captain Lowe; Group Captain Odbert; Wing Commander Matheson; and Squadron Leader Brandon-Trye.'

Right: Pilot of Wellington III BK235 W/O. 'Jonny"'Heard. Taken on the 1st May 1943 whilst acting as best man to the father of Kerry Walsh who submitted this photograph. Her father was due to fly as the Gunnery Instructor on this flight.

Burial details:

W/O. John William Heard. Brigg Cemetery. Plot C. Grave 370. Son of Edward and Louisa Heard, of Ewell, Epsom, Surrey, England.

W/Cmdr. Alister William Stewart Matheson. Brigg Cemetery. Plot C. Grave 182. Son of William and Kathrine Matheson; husband of Nancy Elaine Matheson, of Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Born 07th October 1909 at Winchelsea, Victoria, Australia. Prior to service worked as a surveyor.

Gp/Cptn. Brian Everard Lowe. Brigg Cemetery. Plot B. Grave 88. Born Kings Norton, Worcestershire, October 1910.

Granted short-term commission in the RAF 5 February 1930. Married Mary Jessie (nee James) at Birmingham, September 1935. 1940 Air Force List shows him as Squadron Leader with effect from 1 October 1938. 28252 Squadron Leader Lowe temporary Wing Commander with effect from 10 December 1940. MiD awarded 1 January 1941. OC No. 103 Squadron 4 April 1941 - 25 August 1941.

Gp/Cptn. Reginald Vere Massey Odbert. Newark-Upon-Trent Cemetery. Sec. G. Grave 314. Further information: Son of Herbert Massey Odbert and Annie Emily Odbert, of Monkstown, Co. Dublin, Irish Republic. Born on the 9th February 1904. Captained RAF Rugby in 1928 and 1932. 1 Cap for Ireland against France in Belfast in 1928. Joined the RAF straight from Blackrock College, served in the Middle East - worked as an experimental pilot on armament testing, Promoted to Sq/Ldr in June 1936, W/Cdr in March 1939 and then to Gp/Cptn in September 1941. A fellow officer wrote his obituary in the Times on 9th August 1941:

Left: Group Captain. Reginald Vere Massey Odbert.

In the course of 20 years service in the Royal Air Force men such as Group Captain R. V. M. Odbert acquire many friends. In captaining the rugger team he still further enlarged that circle. All who knew him will agree that 'Oddy' gave his whole life to his profession and closely approached the ideal officer. Those who served with him pay tribute to his honesty of purpose and tenacity: his simplicity of living was exemplary, his only luxury being his generosity to others. These qualities evoked a profound respect both from those who saw eye to eye with him and those who differed in the many difficult problems in which he dealt. After many years of hard work he had his reward. It was clear from talking to his officers and men that during the few months in which he commanded an operational station in Bomber Command they saw in him the man who gave his utmost and who was grateful for the support that inevitably followed. Although he leaves so many friends, there will be many to greet him.'

Sq/Ldr. Philip Brandon-Trye. Brigg Cemetery. Plot C. Grave 464. Born in London 30th October 1919. Serving with 106 Squadron at date of loss and attending 1485 on a senior officers gunnery course.

Fl/Sgt Daniel Breslin DFM. Strabane Cemetery. Sec.A. Class C. Grave 21. Son of Daniel and Bridget Breslin, of Strabane, Northern Ireland. DFM awarded whilst with 106 Squadron - London Gazette 15th June 1943.

Kerry Walsh wrote via our Helpdesk:

'My father, a gunnery instructor at 1485 at the time, was going to fly as the instructor on the VIP flight but was well ahead in a card game in the mess at lunchtime. Jonny told him to carry on playing and took another gunnery instructor on the ill-fated flight. I guess he cheated the reaper again. Luckily for me and my siblings!

Incidentally; that particular Hampden crash - shot down shortly after take-off by an intruder - features in Terence Rattigan's play 'Flare Path'. He even mentions the survival of 'Ginger' Walsh. I've never found any evidence that Terence Rattigan knew my dad or served on 144 sqn or at Hemswell. Maybe he just heard the story from fellow airmen. My mum & dad went to see the play in the West End during its original run.'

Ginger Walsh also features in the Hampden AD761 story.

Researched for relatives of the crew with thanks to Jill Gilliver for grave photographs, Kerry Walsh for photo of the pilot, W/O. Heard. Also to Dave Champion for details on Gp/Cpt. Lowe - March 2019.

RS 24.03.2019 - Correction to airbase

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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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