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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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Bomber Command crest
23.03.1944 No. 22 O.T.U. Wellington X HF732 Fl/Lt. Leddy

Operation: Air Test

Date: 23rd March 1944 (Thursday)

Unit: No. 22 Operational Training Unit

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HF732

Base: RAF Sywell, Northamptonshire.

Location: At base, RAF Sywell

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Gerald Bernard Leddy DFC. J/17478 RCAF Age 23. Killed

Nav: F/O. Walter Mansell Rawbone J/17552 RCAF Age 27. Killed

Air/Bmr: LAC. Cyril William Hugh Brook 1193941 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: P/O. Thomas William Dimma DFM. J/18929 RCAF Age 24. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: LAC. Owen Joseph McGowan 992535 RAFVR Age 25. Killed

Air/Gnr: AC.2. Sydney John Brandon 1644180 RAFVR Age 41. Killed


Taking off at 15:55 hrs from RAF Sywell, Northamptonshire when it veered out of control at high speed, started to rise when the under carriage hit Wellington XIV MP718 - both aircraft destroyed in the accident.

No crew on Wellington MP718, but 4 of the crew on Wellington NF732 were killed at the scene. LAC. Cyril Brook survived, critically injured and succumbed to his injuries on the 26th March 1944, P/O. Thomas Dimma DFM. also died of injuries on the 24th March 1944 - both at Northampton Hospital.

Wellington X - This one from 75 Squadron which went on to serve with 22 OTU. (courtesy I.W.M.)

Fl/Lt. Gerald Leddy DFC. Citation reads:

'This officer has completed a number of operational sorties against major targets in Germany and Italy. In October 1943, during an attack on the Italian mainland, he was forced by engine trouble to bring his aircraft down on the sea. His skill and coolness on this occasion enabled his whole crew to escape with only minor injuries. Fl/Lt. Leddy was, on another occasion, forced to make a crash landing in the desert. This he also accomplished without incident. He has proved himself to be a most capable captain'.

Statement by the then F/O. Gerald Leddy of the ditching that took place on the 1st October 1943 (off Cap Bon, Tunisia)

'I have the honour to report when engaged on an operational flight on the night of October 1st, 1943, in Wellington aircraft Mark X HZ424, due to port engine failure I was forced after approximately two hours on the outward journey to abandon operations and make an attempt to return to base. At the height of 7,000 feet my port engine cut and I was unable to start same after performing the vital actions. I then trimmed my aircraft for single engine flying and jettison my bombs safe and immediately turned on a course that would take us to cape Bon flying at an airspeed of 130 miles per hour.

I endeavoured to lose height gradually to 3,000 feet and at this height I tried to start the port engine but was unsuccessful. As I found myself still losing height I jettisoned approximately 450 gallons of petrol and had all the ammunition thrown out. At this time I found myself at 1,500 feet and still going down, and also a fire had started in my port engine. Vital actions were taken and the fire persisted so in order to extinguish it the port engine fire extinguisher was used with success. I had already instructed the crew of the possibility of ditching and all were ready. By the time the fire was out the aircraft was practically in the drink so I opened the starboard engine a little farther to try and get a little height.

The engine coughed and cut and dinghy instructions were given and we hit the sea on a dead stick, a few seconds later in the lading attitude. The aircraft, that is the nose went under about 30 feet and then came up and the crew were able to get out and get into the dinghy. The aircraft sank in 20 seconds.

We were afloat in the dinghy for 15 hours and ten minutes and picked up by an American destroyer, U.S.S. Benson, and taken to Oran.'

Crew consisted of J/16889 P/O. W.K. McGregor (nav), 1148969 Sergeant R. Miskimmin (Air/Bmr), R/93947 Warrant Officer J.A. Kellner (W/op/A/Gnr) and 1302486 Flight Sergeant A. Rudd (Air/Gnr) - all surviving.

Some of the crew graves at Brookwood Military Cemetery

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. Gerald Bernard Leddy DFC. Brookwood Military Cemetery Grave 48.C.3. Further information: Born 18th April 1921 at Lafleche, Saskatchewan home in Calgary where he was a mailing clerk for United Grain Growers, 1940-41 - enlisted there 19th December 1940 and posted to No.2 Manning Depot, Brandon. - No.37 SFTS, Penhold, 27th January 1941 (guard duty) - to No.2 ITS, Regina, 17th March 1941 - graduated and promoted LAC, 20th April 1941 - No.8 EFTS, Vancouver, 21st April 1941 - No.3 SFTS, Calgary, 3rd July 1941 - graduated and promoted Sergeant, 20th September 1941. To “Y” Depot, Halifax, 22nd September 1941 - to RAF Trainee Pool, 6th October 1941. Taken on strength of No.3 PRC, Bournemouth, 19th October 1941. - No.2 SFTS, 3rd November 1941. Attached to No.1512 Beam Approach Training Flight, 15-29th December 1941. - No.3 PRC again, 20th January 1942. - No.13 OTU, 10th March 1942. Promoted Flight Sergeant, 20th March 1942. - No.1442 Flight, 11th May 1942. - No.25 OTU, 13th July 1942. Promoted WO2, 20th September 1942. - No.26 OTU, 29 September 1942. - No.424 Squadron, 9 December 1942. Commissioned 9th March 1943. Proceeded with squadron from Britain to North Africa, 2-3rd June 1943, returning to Britain 6th November 1943. Promoted Flying Officer, 12th August 1943. - No.22 OTU, 23rd December 1943 as instructor.

F/O. Walter Mansell Rawbone. Brookwood Military Cemetery Grave 48.C.1. Son of Walter F. R. Rawbone and Bethia Rawbone, husband of Lena L. Rawbone, of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription: 'Beloved Husband Of Lena L. Rawbone'.

L.A.C. Cyril William Hugh Brook. Bristol (Arnos Vale) Cemetery. Plot TTT. Grave 600. Son of William and Ellen Brook, of Bristol, husband of Dorothy Hilda Brook, of Clifton, Bristol, England. Dorothy died on the 13th January 2001 age 91 and is buried with her husband.

P/O. Thomas William Dimma D.F.M. Brookwood Military Cemetery Grave 48.C.2. Further information: From Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Instructor with 22 O.T.U. Awarded his D.F.M. (23rd November 1943) after a tour with 408 Squadron.

L.A.C. Owen Joseph McGowan. Accrington Cemetery. Sec C. R/C Plot D. Grave 548. Son of William and Joan McGowan, of Accrington, Lancashire, England.

A.C.2. Sydney John Brandon. Ippollitts (St. Ippolyt) New Churchyard. Grave by path. Son of Frederick and Sarah Brandon, husband of Elsie Clara Brandon, of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Alan Rawbone - relative of F/O. Walter Mansell Rawbone, Les Allison and Harry Hayward - 'They Shall Grow Not Old', Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

KTY Page updated 13.11.2019

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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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