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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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408 Squadron Halifax VII NP745 P/O. Crawford Lee Johnston

Operation: Training

Date: 17th October 1944

Unit: No. 408 Squadron (motto: 'For Freedom')

Type: Halifax VII

Serial: NP745

Code: EQ-H

Base: RAF Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire

Location: Penruddock, Cumberland

Pilot: P/O. Crawford Lee Johnston C/89128 RCAF Safe (1)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Thomas Herbert Chandler 1594677 RAFVR Sprained knee (1)

Nav: F/O. John Ernest Freeman J/39402 RCAF Fractured pelvis

Air/Bmr: F/O. J.D Austin J/24625 RCAF Bruises and exposure

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Jack Clarence Mortley R/175266 RCAF Sprained arm and leg (1)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Frank Henry R/219998 RCAF Exposure (1)

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Brooks Earl House R/224796 RCAF Safe (1)


Taking off on a night cross country exercise but due to a storm being encountered which caused severe icing, the crew were forced to return.

The aircraft became uncontrollable and the pilot ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. At 20:30 hrs whilst near Penruddock in Cumberland. All the crew baled out and the aircraft crashed in a field.

The navigator, F/O. Freeman was initially listed as missing but was found the following morning. He was examined and diagnosed with a rupture of the bladder and was admitted to Carlise City Hospital and later by air to Northallerton RAF Hospital.

Three other members of the crew were slightly injured and admitted to Coult Hall emergency military hospital in Penrith. F/O. Austin was also admitted to Northallerton RAF Hospital. All three were discharged after treatment.

Report from the pilot;

'While on the second leg of a night cross-country, severe vibration was noticed and ice was picked up along the leading edge, on the propellor tips, blades and hubs. An attempt was made to climb above it. The height at the time was 17,000 ft. at 19,000 ft. with the throttles through the gate at 2600 RPM heat, pitot heat on, L.A.'s the aircraft would climb no further. Still being in icing conditions I decided to let down below freezing level. While letting down the vibration became very severe. Control was maintained with difficulty and aileron control was non-existent. The airspeed fell off to D, on attempting to level out the aircraft stalled violently a few times so I decided to keep on letting down with a high airspeed, approx. 200 or better. Finally, the windscreens being completely iced up. The wings and props and having a great load of ice. Having severe vibrations practically no control I ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. When I knew were safely out I followed. As soon as I left the controls the aircraft seemed to fall off into a spiral dive to the right. Some difficulty was encountered in freeing myself of the front hatch. Whilst descending by chute I saw the aircraft hit the ground and explode'.

Despite the considerable efforts from the medical team F/O. Freeman died on the 02nd December 1944 at10:35 hrs.

The board of enquiry concluded the pilot took the correct action and no blame would be placed.

Burial details:

F/O. John Ernest Freeman. Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery. Sec. H. Row C. Grave 19. Born on the 24th August 1909 in Chicago, USA. Son of Earl Ernest Freeman and Elsie Mary (nee Taylor) Freeman, of Innisfail, Alberta. Husband of Pauline Frances Freeman of West Georgia Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Grave inscription: 'To The World He Was But One But To Us He Was The World'.

(1) Later on an operation to Stuttgart on the 29th January 1945, Halifax VII NP743 EQ-K was lost with all 7 crew, including 5 who survived this incident:

P/O. Crawford Lee Johnston. Durnbach War Cemetery. Joint grave 4. C. 20-21. Born on the 30th March 1921 in Toronto. Son of Frank Lee Johnston and Elizabeth Margaret Johnston, of Toronto, Ontario. Grave inscription: 'Beloved Only Son Of Elizabeth M. And F.Lee Johnston, Toronto, Canada. R.I.P.'.

Sgt. Thomas Herbert Chandler. Durnbach War Cemetery. Joint grave 4. C. 15. Born in 1926. Son of Thomas Herbert and Phyllis Chandler, of Marske-by-the-Sea, Yorkshire, England. Grave inscription: 'Not Just Today But Every Day We Remember Him. Mam, Dad, Brother And Sisters'.

Fl/Sgt. Jack Clarence Mortley. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4. C. 17. Born on the 11th June 1924 in Toronto. Son of Clarence and Sadie May Mortley, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Sgt. Frank Henry. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4. C. 17. Born on the 19th of November in Sudbury, Ontario. Son of Frank Cochrane Henry and Muriel Ola (nee Hyland) Henry, of Toronto, Ontario.

Sgt. Brooks Earl House. Durnbach War Cemetery. Grave 4. C. 16. Of Watertown, Ontario, Canada.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to John Jones for photographs and detailed reports, other sources as quoted below:

KTY/JJ 25-03-2022

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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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