29.05.1943 No. 23 OTU Wellington III X3704 F/O. Graham Stanley Hynam DFC,
Date: 29 May 1943 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 23 Operational Training Unit
Type: Vickers Wellington III
Code: Not known
Base: RAF Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Location: Pershore, Worcestershire
Pilot: F/O. Graham Stanley Hynam DFC J15652 (previously R66294) RCAF Age 22 - Killed (1)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Peter Ernest Zoeller 1428439 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (2)
Passenger: Cpl. (Fitt II A) Harry Allan 1368090 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (3)
Passenger: AC2 (FME) George Rupert Band 1417073 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (4)
Passenger: AC2 (FMA) William Alyn Gravell 1411885 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (5)
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In the dark days of 1943 from March onwards, towns across the nation were encouraged to hold "Wings for Victory" fund raising weeks, during which the public were to be asked to make contributions towards the provision of an aircraft, usually a Spitfire or a Lancaster.
The town of Pershore in Worcestershire was no exception and duly arranged a Wings for Victory week commencing on Saturday 29 May 1943.
On the opening day Air Chief Marshall Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt (Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief at Bomber Command from September to April 1940) was to take the salute at a march past led by the bands of the Royal Canadian Airforce and the Worcestershire Regiment followed at 1900 hours by a "Flying Demonstration" performed by 11 Wellingtons of No. 23 Operational Training Unit based at RAF Stratford-upon-Avon a satellite airfield of RAF Pershore.
One of the pilots detailed to take part in the flying demonstration was F/O. John R. Emmerson, DFC, AFM, MID, who many years later wrote of his wartime recollections for the Scottish Saltire Aircrew Association. In his account he recalled that:
"The end of May 1943 heralded Wings for Victory Week. There were thirteen [sic] Wellingtons from the OTU involved - we practised flying in formation and I was Wellington number 13. During practise I followed the prescribed procedure and did a dive into Pershore then pulled out steeply. I heard an almighty crack. On landing I suggested to the NCO that a check of the wing might be in order. I then went off to the Flight Office and saw that a volunteer was required to take an aeroplane to Lossiemouth and bring back a new one. I wasn't over keen on being a display pilot so I volunteered and off I went on my trip". (see http://www.aircrew-saltire.org/lib045.html)
His place was to be taken by F/O. Graham Hynam. Born in Wales in 1920, Graham's mother sadly died in childbirth when he was 4 years old. His father married again the following year and in 1929 the family emigrated to the USA where they settled in Akron, Ohio. In 1940 Graham crossed the border to enlist in the RCAF at Niagara Falls. In due course he received his Flying Badge and by September 1941 he was back in the UK. After advanced training here he was posted to No. 420 (Snowy Owl) Squadron RCAF in February 1942.
He completed a tour of operations with No. 420 Squadron before being posted as a screened pilot instructor to No. 23 Operational Training Unit at RAF Pershore on 21 November 1942.
Because they would be flying non-operationally and in the immediate locality, the only crew required apart from pilots were wireless operators. Flying with Graham Hynam was to be pupil wireless operator Peter Zoeller. Peter was 22, the same age as Graham, and hailed from East Sheen, an affluent suburb of South London in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
Graham also agreed to take with him, just for the ride, three ground crew lads: 22-year-old Corporal Fitter, Airframe, Grade 2 Harry Allan and two 'erks', AC2 Flight Mechanic Electrical, George Band also 22 and AC2 Flight Mechanic Airframes, William Gravell aged 21. Somewhat coincidentally, Bill Gravell was from the Monmouthshire village of Blaina located quite near to New Tredegar where Graham Hynam had been born.
On Saturday 29 May 1943 the Opening Ceremony duly took place at 4.45 followed by the Grand Parade led by the bands of the Royal Canadian Air Force Band and the Worcestershire Regiment and followed by units of the Navy, Army, RAF WAAFs and others.
Later, as 7 p.m. drew near, all eyes eagerly scanned the skies in anticipation of the promised flying demonstration.
REASON FOR LOSS
At 18.30 hours F/O. John Gilbert took off from RAF Stratford and together with Wg/Cdr Turner and Fl/Lt Breckon, attached himself to the port side of the "vic" which had approached over Stratford led by the Unit Commander, Wing Commander John Alan Roncoroni.
At about the same time he noticed the machines of Fl/Lt Kilnsy and Graham Hynam also take off from the satellite and attach themselves to the starboard side of the "vic". Graham Hynam was last man on the starboard side.
The first flypast over Pershore was made at 1500 feet; the formations then changed to echelon starboard.
W/Cdr. John Roncoroni said that the formation approached two miles west of Pershore, flying on a southerly course at 1500 feet. The aircraft then peeled off at intervals of three seconds by making a 90° turn and flying over the Pershore cricket ground at 200 feet.
John Gilbert explained that he and Hynam "were level with each other as last man port and starboard. When the formation changed to starboard echelon I was the first machine to move to starboard and so formatted on F/O. Hynam. I was near enough to see him and gesture to him".
The aircraft then peeled off at intervals of three seconds by making a 90° turn and flying over the Pershore cricket ground at 200 feet.
John Gilbert continued " On the "peel off" I followed him down about 100 feet above and slightly to starboard. My speed was 220 IAS [Indicated Air Speed] gradually increasing. I had adopted the same diving attitude as F/O. Hynam and noticed he checked his dive some time before reaching the cricket pitch at Pershore, as I had to check also. I was about 300 feet and Hynam between 150 and 200 feet and I was about 100 feet behind him".
Watching the display from the Pershore Cricket Ground was Mr. Howard George Maxton, a Vickers Armstrong representative who later reported what he had seen.
"The Squadron of which X3704 was one was at a height of approximately 1500 feet on a south westerly course, which would have taken them about 2 miles west of Pershore and proceeding in echelon formation. When approximately west of the town the squadron broke formation by peeling off to port and the various aircraft headed for the central part of the town at heights between 100 and 300 feet and speed 200 - 220 mph. The machine which we eventually found to be X3704 flattened out at about 100-150 feet and headed straight for the cricket field (it was the fact that this machine was dead in line with me that made me watch it more than the others). When about 200 yards away, the machine banked about 15 degrees to port - taking it slightly to my right, when I ceased to watch it until my attention was drawn back to it by an explosive noise. When I looked up to my right the air appeared at first to be full of parts of an aeroplane and I could not at first see what had broken away, but the parts, which all fell on the playing field, were eventually identified as - Starboard outer plane complete with aileron - starboard tail plane and sections of starboard elevator.
The main part of the aircraft continued in a fairly straight line, but with the remaining wing gradually becoming vertical until the machine hit a roof top and then disappeared from sight".
John Gilbert, flying immediately behind Graham Hynam, said that:
"From my attitude it seemed as though the starboard wing broke away as the machine passed over the cricket pitch near the first houses on the west side of the Pershore square. I had my eyes on F/O Hynam's machine the whole time as we had previously arranged to follow one another back to base as we had an engagement in the evening".
The above account of the accident was compiled from statements given by the Commanding Officer of No. 2 Wing, Unit Commander and pilot of the leading aircraft, Wing Commander John Alan Roncoroni, Flying Officer John Gilbert, the pilot of another of the Wellingtons flying close to that of F/O. Hynam and Vickers Armstrong Representative, Mr. Howard George Maxton, a spectator on the ground. [See Note 1 below re death of Mr Maxton and F/O. John Gilbert]
The crash was timed at 19.10 just 45 minutes after taking off. After losing its starboard wing Wellington X3704 continued flying for about another 400 yards damaging the roof of the Brandy Cask Public House in Bridge Street, before crashing behind the building killing the crew and slightly injuring Mrs Berry, the wife of the licensee who was later admitted to Pershore Hospital.
A propeller blade from the Wellington is today displayed at the rear of the Star Hotel, next door to the Brandy Cask which is now a private dwelling.
The funerals of F/O. Hynam and Sgt. Zoeller took place at Pershore Cemetery on 2 June 1943. The funeral service for Graham Hynam was conducted at 3 p.m. by Fl/Lt. Scott, the Canadian Padre for the area whilst that of Peter Zoeller was performed by the Reverend F.P. Maydew, R.A.F. Station, Pershore.
Full Service Honours were accorded and several wreaths were laid including ones from the Officer Commanding RAF Pershore and Pershore Town Council.
The funeral of Graham Hynam was attended by his uncle, Mr. R.J. Crossman of Cardiff.
The funerals of the other three servicemen killed in the accident were conducted in their home towns.
1. F/O. John Trevor Gilbert 117396 RAFVR (29), Mr. Howard George Maxton (32) the Vickers Armstrong Representative, mentioned in the text, and Mr Maxton's secretary Miss Gwendoline Rosa Lloyd (23) and pilot were all killed two months later on 31 July 1943 when Wellington BJ581 of No. 23 OTU crashed at Packwood near Honiley airfield, Warwickshire while low flying.
Wellington X3704 had completed 134 hours flying and was allotted to No. 23 OTU from a squadron after having completed 60 hours. It is considered that the airframe was not subjected to any undue stress, and that the accident was due to the starboard main-plane breaking off outbound of the engine nacelle. The reason for structural failure was investigated by the Air Accident Branch.
F/O.John R. Emmerson, DFC AFM, MID said this about the investigation:
"It was decided that there was a structural weakness in the Wellington wing so they were modified and we were restricted to a Rate One turn only. It had not come to light before because the aeroplane had only been involved in operations over Germany and had not been required to take part in air displays. Who knows how many wings had fallen off during operations?"
Indeed it seems that as long as 12 months after this accident the problem had still not been resolved. See the account by our Roy Wilcock of the crash of Wellington HZ262 of No. 20 OTU on 22 July 1944. http://aircrewremembered.com/grigg-allan-joseph.ht...
In 2011 Wychavon District Council chose 10 of the 74 servicemen buried in Pershore Cemetery to have streets named after them on a new estate adjacent to the cemetery.
One of those chosen to have a street named after him was Flying Officer Graham Hynam and Hynam Road was duly named in his honour
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) F/O. Graham Stanley Hynam DFC was born at 26 Duffryn Terrace, New Tredegar, Monmouthshire Wales on 28 October 1920 the son of Gilbert Stanley Hynam (a Machinist) and Harriet Ann Hynam nee Jones.
He had two known siblings: Thelma Marjorie Hynam (1922-1981) and Doreen Harriet Hynam (1923-1986)
Harriet Hynam died in childbirth on 1 January 1924 and in 1925 Gilbert Hynam married Martha Winnifred Prosser at Dartford, Kent.
The family emigrated to the USA in 1929 and settled at Akron, Ohio where Graham Hynam attended Harris Elementary School 1930-1934 and North High School 1934-1938. After leaving school he was employed by Dr Troller, Daniel Guggenheim Airships Institute at Akron Ohio as a Co-Worker in Research from May 1939 until enlisting in the RCAF.
Model aircraft building and target shooting were his main hobbies whilst he participated extensively in swimming and track sports and to a lesser extent, football.
He enlisted at RCAF Niagara Falls on 24 October 1940 when he was described as being 5'7¼ tall weighing 141 lbs with a dark complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He gave his address at this time as 1044 Dayton Street Akron Ohio USA.
After training at No. 8 (BR) Squadron at RCAF Kelly's Beach North Sydney, Nova Scotia, No. 1 Initial Training Sool at RCAF Toronto, Ontario, No. 10 Elementary Flying Training School at RCAF Hamilton (Mount Hope) Ontario and No. 8 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Moncton, New Brunswick he was awarded his Flying Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 27 July 1941. After two weeks leave he was posted to the UK and on arrival was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at RAF Bournemouth on 8 September and on 23 September to No. 16 Operational Training Unit at RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire where crews undertook night bomber training on the Handley Page Hampden and Hereford.
On 27 January 1942 he was promoted to Flight Sergeant. The next day he had an accident flying Hampden P2080. Sliding on a muddy airfield surface on landing, his aircraft “came into contact” with an Anson tail. At the time he had flown 153 hours 50 minutes on all types and 43 hours 45 minutes on Hampdens.
On 12 February 1942 he was posted to No. 420 Squadron and on 22 June he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer.
On 13 October 1942 whilst flying Wellington BK295 "H" en route to the target of Kiel he was in collision with an unidentified aircraft at 14000 feet near the Danish coast. The crew jettisoned the bombs and returned to base. The port wing tip was damaged and approximately one foot cut off the top of fin and rudder. There was also slight damage to geodetics of the port wing due to the collision.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 12 January 1943 as promulgated in the London Gazette of 12 January 1943.
The citation for the award reads:
‘This Officer, who has taken part in attacks on many of the enemy’s most heavily defended targets, has achieved success with almost unfailing regularity. He is a gallant and determined Captain of Aircraft, who has always pressed home his attacks with the greatest resolve and spirit and has set an example to all'
The award of the DFC came after 28 operational sorties as Pilot including targets at Lubeck, Hamburg, Essen, Rostock, Stuttgart, Warnemunde, Cologne, Bremen, Duisburg and Dusseldorf.
On completion of his tour of operations he was posted on 21 November to No. 23 Operational Training Unit at RAF Pershore as an instructor and on 22 December 1942 he was promoted to Flying Officer.
His medals, photographs and other documents were sold at auction on 2 June 2002 for £1,100.
(2) Sgt. Peter Ernest Zoeller was born in 1920 (his birth registered Sept. Qr. 1920) at Willesden, Middlesex the son of Ernest Thompson Helmuth Zoeller and Dorothy May Zoeller nee Fenner later of East Sheen, Surrey.
He had two siblings: Pauline D. Zoeller born 1922 and Geoffrey Zoeller born 1926
In 1939 the family lived at 17 Smitham Downs Road, London. Ernest Zoeller was a Company Director of a Camera Importing business and Dorothy Zoeller was Secretary of the Eccentric Club at Dieudonné's Hotel in London.
(3) Cpl. Harry Allanwas born c 1921 the son of William Allan and Letitia Marion Allan;
In 1942 he married Wendy Veronica Chisholm at Canongate and Portobello, Edinburgh.
(4) AC2 George Rupert Band was born on 26 March 1921 at Richard’s Castle, Herefordshire the only child of Leonard R. Band (a Farm Carter) and Gertrude M. Band nee Dovey. In 1939 the family lived at 9, Woofferton, Herefordshire.
Before joining up in 1941 George Band was employed as a van driver.
(5) AC2 William Alyn Gravell was born in 1921 at Blaina, Monmouthshire, Wales the son of (David) Thomas Gravell and (Harriet) Maria Gravell nee Davies later of Blaina.
He had seven siblings Evan Charles Gravell born 1903, David Thomas Gravell born 1906, Olive Mary Gravell born 1909, John A Gravell born 1912, Lilian M Gravell born 1917, Samuel G Gravell born 1919,
Raymond G Gravell born and died 1924.
In 1943 William married Mary Freda Price at Bedwelty, Monmouthshire and who later lived at Nantyglo, Monmouthshire.
He is commemorated on the Blaina War Memorial situated in the park and sports ground at Surgery Road, Abertillery, Gwent, Wales.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) F/O. Graham Stanley Hynam was buried at Pershore Cemetery Worcestershire: Plot Q. Grave 379.
His epitaph reads:
Our hearts, our hopes,
Our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant
O'er our fears,
Are all with thee.
(2) Sgt. Peter Ernest Zoeller was buried at Pershore Cemetery, Worcestershire: Plot Q. Grave 382.
His epitaph reads:
"He is crowned
With the sunshine
Of eternal youth"
(3) Cpl. Harry Allan was buried at Edinburgh (Piershill) Cemetery, Scotland. Section J. Grave 1031
His epitaph reads:
In sacred memory
(4) AC2 George Rupert Band was buried at Brimfield (St. Michael) Churchyard, Herefordshire. Grave reference: East of Church.
Details of his epitaph are unknown.
(5) AC2 William Alyn Gravell was buried at Nantyglo and Blaina Cemetery, Blaenau Gwent, Wales. Section 3. Grave 2547
Details of his epitaph are unknown.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - April 2019
With thanks to the sources quoted below.