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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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Royal Air Force Crest
17.04.1944 No. 5 LFS Lancaster I W4232 RC-Y P/O. Bruce L. Humphreys

Operation: Training

Date: 17th April 1944 (Monday)

Unit: No. 5 Lancaster Finishing school

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: W4232

Code: RC-Y

Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire.

Location: Hazelford Lock, River Trent, North of RAF Syerston

Pilot: P/O. Bruce Lettington Humphreys AUS/418120 RAAF Age 20. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Alan Townsley 2202697 RAFVR Age 19. Missing - believed killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Arthur Harkness Farrell 1238840 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Nelson Harcourt Cutler 1459698 RAFVR Age 29. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Reginald John Brown 1650995 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Albert Davies 2204830 RAFVR Age 19. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alan Dennis Bale 1894597 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Above as described - please see details here.


Taking off from RAF Syerston at 16:01 hrs for general flying training - just four minutes later and possibly whilst still climbing - eye witnesses state that they thought the aircraft was at about 1000 ft things started to go wrong - statement from eye witness Terry Harrod, then aged 8/9 and lived with his parents in the Lock Keepers house:

The aircraft climbed in the air over our house, when the tip of the port wing fell off. Terry was standing with his mother watching the aircraft, which went into a tight 360 degree turn and crashed into the escarpment just above his house. The explosion and fireball knocked both him and his mother from their feet. The crash just missed the bomb dump area.

The lock keeper’s house, lock and weir is located on an island called The Nabbs. The island is in the River Trent at the foot of the escarpment which forms the northern boundary of RAF Syerston (see maps).

Above: Reportedly photo of Lancaster W4232 during an earlier flight (courtesy A.P and R.M Glover via Ken Ogilvie)

Ken Ogilvie who has done so much to create the Bleasby Aircrew Memorials to crew lost in the area, researched this and several others - submitting them to Aircrew Remembered.

Although the eye witness states the Port wing having fallen off, other sources state the the Port mainplane and the tip of the Starboard wing fell off.

Burial details:

Sadly two of the crew could not be positively identified and are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

P/O. Bruce Lettington Humphreys. Oxford Cemetery (Botley). Plot I/2. Grave 212. Born on the 15th October 1923 at St. Kilda, Victoria, the son of James Thomas Humphreys and Eva May Humphreys, of Kew, Victoria, Australia.

Sgt. Alan Townsley. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 239. Son of Thomas and Doris May Townsley, of Leeds, Yorkshire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Arthur Harkness Farrell. Blackpool Crematorium (Carleton). Panel 2. Husband of Irene Farrell, of Blackpool, England.

Sgt. Nelson Harcourt Cutler. Castleford Cemetery (Whitwood). Sec. C. Grave 425. Son of James N. Cutler and Hannah Cutler, of Glasshoughton, Castleford and husband of Joyce Cutler, of Glasshoughton, Yorkshire, England.

Sgt. Reginald John Brown. Newport Cemetery (St. Woolos). Block 20. Grave 215. Son of George and Gertrude May Brown, of Newport, Wales.

(Grave photo courtesy Rob Pearson)

Sgt. John Albert Davies. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 228. Son of Flt. Lieut. Albert Edwin Davies and Caroline Isobel Davies, of Glengormly, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Sgt. Alan Dennis Bale. Darlington West Cemetery. Sec. L.5Q. Grave 102. Son of George Watson Bale and May Bale, of Croydon, Surrey, England.

Researched by Ken Ogilvie and dedicated to the relatives of this crew, with thanks to an an eye witness to the crash, Terry Harrod, then aged 8/9 and lived with his parents in the Lock Keepers house. With thanks to Rob Pearson for sending grave photo - July 2017. Also to sources as mentioned below.

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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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