Operation: Air Test
Date: 5th January 1942 (Monday)
Unit: No.405 RCAF Vancouver Squadron
Type: Wellington II
Base: RAF Pocklington, Yorkshire
Location: Strensall Camp, Yorkshire
Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Osbourne Bayfield Le Furgey R/50333 RCAF Age 32. Killed
Pilot 2: Fl/Sgt. Peter Wityck R/80002 RCAF Age 20. Killed (A)
Nav: Sgt. James David Garrow 404529 RAAF Age 21. Killed
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Allan Robertson R/59266 RCAF Age 28. Killed (B)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. John Burton (Bud) Gayfer R/18039A RCAF Age 22. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
From the RAF accident report:
Wellington W5589 took off at 09:28 hours from their base at Pocklington with Flight Sergeant Le Furgy at the controls. The aircraft had been serviced the previous day and signed off as airworthy by the ground crew. As an upcoming sortie was anticipated the Flight Commander had authorised the crew to conduct an air test of their aircraft to ensure the machine was operating normally.
The weather forecast at the time of take off called for intermittent snow showers but otherwise fine. Captain Le Furgey was an experienced pilot with 412 hours of solo flying time 168 of which were on Wellingtons.
Approximately 30 minutes after take off, witnesses reported seeing an aircraft flying very low in a north easterly direction over the army training base at Strensall Camp with flames trailing back along the port side to the tail. By this time it had started snowing very heavily and the witnesses lost sight of the aircraft but seconds later heard a crash.
Investigators at the crash site determined that it appeared that the aircraft had hit the ground at an angle of 45 degrees with both engines creating craters about three feet deep. The Wellington then flipped over on its back and exploded scattering wreckage over a wide area.
The condition of the wreckage made a positive cause of the accident very difficult but preliminary examination of the port engine showed the flame traps to be burnt out possibly causing a backfire in the carburettor. It was thought that the resultant fire spread along the fuselage to the tail making the aircraft uncontrollable and caused it to dive into the ground.
112th Canadian Squadron Air Gunners course, taken at Halton, Buckinghamshire December 1940
- Back Row L to R:- William (Smokey) McLachlin (1), Ray Bourgeau (2), John (Bud) Gayfer (3), Graham McCleod (4), Jack Morrison, Erle Miller, Marcel Fortin, Gerry Hart (5)
- Centre L to R:- George (Mush) Higgins, Bob Fallis, Al Smith, John Maville (6), Ken Gray, Spud Murphy, Wally Gillingwater, Jack Patey (7), Ed (Nibs) Palmer (8)
- Front L to R:- Cliff Lomas (9), Stan Reid (10), Bernie Villeneuve, Ludger Nault, Jack McArdle, Harvey Lacelle, Gord Craddock, Ed McGeragle (11), Chuck Forman.
- Absent:- Bill Pullen, Bert Spence (12), George Marr
- Photograph Note: Of the 29 RCAF 112 Squadron Air Gunners listed on the back of this photograph, 12 lost their lives on operations:
Any relative of these lost who may like to have a page of remembrance dedicated to them please contact us.
(1) Fl/Sgt. William (Smokey) McLachlin 158 Sqdn. 19/20th July 1942 Halifax II W1179 NP-S Operation: Vegesack
(2) Fl/Sgt. Ray Bourgeau 405 Sqdn. 28/29th December 1941 Wellington II W5561 LG-J Operation: Emden
(3) Sgt. John (Bud) Gayfer 405 Sqdn. 5 January 1942 Wellington II W5589 LQ-F Operation: Air Test
(4) Sgt. Graham McCleod 405 Sqdn. 7/8th November 1941 Wellington II W5553 LQ-D Operation: Berlin
(5) P/O. Gerry Hart 419 Sqdn. 2/3rd September 1942 Wellington III X3711 VR-R Operation: Karsruhe
(6) Sgt. John Maville 207 Sqdn. 21/22nd June 1941 Manchester I L7314 EMY-Y Operation: Boulogne
(7) P/O. Jack Patey 61 Sqdn. 30/31st May 1942 Lancaster I R5561 QR-? Operation: Cologne
(8) P/O. Edward (Nibs) Palmer 15 Sqdn. 2/3rd September 1942 Stirling I W7611 LS-F Operation: Karlsruhe
(9) P/O. Cliff Lomas 419 Sqdn. 15/16th January 1942 Wellington IC Z1145 VR-A Operation: Hamburg
(10) Fl/Sgt. Stan Reid 405 Sqdn. 1/2nd June 1942 Halifax II W7713 LQ-T Operation: Essen
(11) Sgt. Ed McGeragle 9 Sqdn. 1213th August 1941 Wellington IC R1513 WS-? Operation: Kiel
(12) F/O. Bert Spence 163 Sqdn. 22nd September 1943 Harvard 2572 Operation: Bombing demonstration, Mott Lake, Alberta, Canada.
For the Gayfer family the death of their only son was not just a great personal loss but it was also hoped that Bud would take over the family business when he returned home from overseas. Gayfer’s Rexall Drug Store had been run by the family in the small town of Ingersoll, Ontario since 1863 after being founded by his grandfather. Just after the war and now without a successor, Bud’s father Jack decided to call it a day and sold the business bringing an end to an era some 83 years after it was begun.
The lone Australian in the crew, Sergeant James Garrow, had only been with the squadron a little over two months having spent the first three months since his arrival in the UK in July 1941 at 22 OTU.
In 1939 Garrow enlisted in the army serving seventeen months with the Queensland Cameron Highlanders before resigning to join the RAAF in 1940. After initial training in Australia, he embarked for Canada in December 1940. Here he trained at No.2 Air Observer School, No. 2 Bombing and Gunnery School and finally No.1 Air Navigation School, Rivers, Manitoba.
Sergeant Robertson (shown left) had been employed by a bank for ten years until, in June of 1940, he enlisted in the RCAF. After training at Regina and No.1 Wireless School at Montreal, he graduated from No.1 Bombing and Gunnery School, Jarvis, Ontario in January of 1941. Robertson had only been married for two weeks prior to being posted overseas in February 1941.
The funeral procession of the crew taking the one and half mile walk to Barmby On the Moor Church (courtesy Frances Gehr)
Fl/Sgt. Osbourne Bayfield Le Furgey. Barmby On The Moor (St. Catherine) Churchyard Row G Grave 2. Son of John and Margaret Le Furgey and husband of Kathrine Le Furgey of Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Fl/Sgt. Peter Wityck. Barmby On The Moor (St. Catherine) Churchyard Row F Grave 7. Son of Peter and Jennie Wityck of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
Sgt. James David Garrow. Barmby On The Moor (St. Catherine) Churchyard Row G Grave 7. Son of Peter and Helena Esther Garrow of Ascot, Queensland, Australia.
Sgt. William Allan Robertson. Barmby On The Moor (St. Catherine) Churchyard Row E Grave 6. Son of Joshua Kines and Elizabeth (nee Bulloch) Robertson and husband of Marjorie (nee Johnston) Robertson of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Fl/Sgt. John Burton Gayfer. Barmby On The Moor (St. Catherine) Churchyard Row F Grave 3. Son of John E. Gayfer and Eva M. Gayfer of Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and RCAF specialist Colin Bamford for relatives of this crew.
Aircrew Remembered would like to thank Frances Gehr, niece of Fl/Sgt. John (Bud) Gayfer, for her assistance in researching this article which is dedicated to all of the relatives of the crew of Wellington W5589. Further information courtesy of Les Allison and Harry Hayward - 'They Shall Grow Not Old'.
(A) Wityck Lake south of Nejanilini Lake in Manitoba is named after Fl/Sgt. Wityck.
(B) Allan Robertson Lake west of Sellar Lake, Manitoba is named after Sgt. Robertson.
Above: Further great photographs from the family regarding 'Bud' Gayfer (courtesy
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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