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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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Lancaster I
31/01.09.1943 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit Lancaster I R5698 UG:P Plt.Off Joseph W M Macdonald

Operation: Night Training Exercise

Date: 31st/1st September 1943 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU)

Type: Lancaster l

Serial: R5698

Code: UG:P

Base: RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire

Location: Nr Southwell, 6 miles W of Newark-upon-Trent, Nottinghamshire

Pilot: Plt.Off Joseph 'Joe' Widger Murphy Macdonald 156663 RAFVR Age 30 Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt George Robert Joyce 1238563 RAFVR Age 19 Killed

Nav (Inst): Fg.Off. Walter Stephen 'Steve' Jobling DFC 120547 RAFVR Age 34 Killed (1)

Nav (UT): Sgt. Thomas George William Shepherd 1546655 RAFVR Age 20. Killed (note)

Air Bmr: Sgt Edward Neilan Jones 1087736 RAFVR Age 20 Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt George Herbert Tough 1044676 RAFVR Age 23 Killed (2)

Air Gnr: Sgt John Henry Hutchinson 853608 RAuxAF Age 38 Killed

Air Gnr: Flt.Sgt Robert William Rashbrook 415917 RAAF Age 20 Killed (3)

Note: The name of the navigator under training was discovered in September 2018 - efforts are already underway to add his name to the memorial.

Above as described - further details here


RAF Wigsley, Nottinghamshire (courtesy Newark Air Museum)

The aircraft took off from RAF Wigsley for a night cross country training exercise. On the same evening Lancaster JB132 took off from RAF Syerston for an operation on Berlin and was returning to base when the two aircraft collided in mid-air at 03.26hrs. Both aircraft exploded and all members of both crews were killed. Lancaster R5698 was flying in a Southerly direction while Lancaster JB132 was flying in a Northerly direction. Neither crew saw the others navigation lights and collided head on. A number of other aircraft were flying in the vicinity and would have witnessed the explosions.

Above: Group image: left to right: Flt.Sgt. Robert Rashbrook, Dorothy Shepherd (Land Girl), Sgt. Thomas Shepherd. Right: Flt.Sgt. Robert Rashbrook, and Sgt George Herbert Tough (Courtesy Dorothy Shepherd and Pam Hamilton)

Above as described - do you recognise any of the boys? Can you confirm location and details as we are not sure.

Conclusions from the Court of Inquiry (courtesy Australian National Archives) state:

'....The question of congestion over this country is of too complex a nature to be raised on one single case of collision. Nevertheless it is felt that consideration should be given to the following suggestions which may help to reduce the possibility of a mid-air collision:

1. A flashing light is more liable to attract attention than a stationary one. It is recommended that navigation lights should be flashing

2. If the pilot of one aircraft notices that another is approaching or converging dangerously close he should flash either the identification lights or headlights

3. Training Units should be informed of height, route and timing of any major force of operational aircraft so that local modifications of flying programmes can be made to prevent their aircraft from crossing the route or becoming involved in an already dangerous congestion'

622 aircraft took part made up from 331 Lancasters, 176 Halifaxes, 106 Stirlings and 9 Mosquitoes. Due to the use for the first time of fighter flares dropped by German aircraft to mark the route of the bombers, the German night-fighters made many attacks on the bomb run. This resulted in huge losses to the Allies with 47 aircraft lost - 10 Lancasters, 17 Stirlings and 20 Halifaxes.

Map showing the area of the collision Nr Southwell, 6 miles W of Newark-upon-Trent, Nottinghamshire

Plt.Off. Macdonald (courtesy War Memorials forum) Sgt Joyce (courtesy IS-Find a Grave) Fg.Off Jobbling (courtesy Richard Croft) Sgt Jones (courtesy Mike McQuaid)

Sgt Tough (courtesy John O'Grady) Flt.Sgt Rashbrook (courtesy Richard Croft) and Sgt Hutchinson who is buried in Liverpool Anfield Cemetery (courtesy CWGC)

Burial details:

Plt.Off Joseph 'Joe' Widger Murphy Macdonald. Birkdale Roman Catholic Cemetery, Lancaster. Grave Ref: Sec. M. Grave 83. Son of William and Mary Joseph Macdonald. Husband of Phyllis Macdonald of Knighton, Radnorshire, Wales

Sgt George Robert Joyce. Gravesend Cemetery, Kent. Grave Ref: Plot B. 15. Grave 1754. Son of John and Violet Joyce of Northfleet, Gravesend, Kent.

Lincolnshire Echo September 2, 1943 (courtesy British Newspaper archive)

Fg.Off Walter Stephen 'Steve' Jobling DFC. Thorney (St. Helen) Churchyard, Nottinghamshire. Grave Ref: Grave 541. Son of Thomas Stephen and Louisa May Jobling. Husband of Dinah Annie Jobling of Lincoln (1) Walter Stephen Jobling was born in 1909. Married in 1936 and before volunteering in 1941, Steve worked at A. W. Foster and Co, Ltd, Bardney. After volunteering and his initial training he joined 50 Squadron where he was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), London Gazette, 17 August 1943. Having completed his first 'tour of duty' he was posted to No 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) to help train aircrew. Steve is remembered on the Lincoln City War Memorial. Steve's DFC was presented by the King to his wife Dinah at Buckingham Palace. Grave Inscription reads: "Radiant And Loyal To The Last".

Lincolnshire Echo, March 18, 1944 (courtesy British Newspaper archive)

Birth. Jobling - On the 16 March 1944, at Fulmar Chase, Fulmer, Bucks., to Dinah, wife of Fg.Off. Steve Jobling, DFC killed on active service September, 1943, a son.

Sgt. Thomas George William Shepherd. Stockton-On-Tees Cemetery (Durham Road) Sec. M.1. C. of E. Row E. Grave 9. Son of William and Edith Evelyn Shepherd, of Stockton-on-Tees, England.

Right: The memorial inscription on the propeller section of the Bleasby Aircrew Memorial. The name of the Navigator Instructor is underway to be added.

Sgt Edward Neilan Jones. Wallasey (Rake Lane) Cemetery, Cheshire. Grave Ref: Sec. 20 C. Grave 634. Son of Edward William and Mabel Jones of Wallasey. Grave Inscription reads: "Much Loved Only Child Of Mabel And The Late Capt. Edward William Jones Merchant Navy".

Sgt George Herbert Tough. Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland. Grave Ref: A. 16-404-17420. Son of Mr and Mrs Herbert Tough and stepson of Evelyn Elizabeth Tough of Rathgar, Dublin (2) George was born 17 August, 1920 in Dublin and is remembered on the St. Laurence's Church WW2 Memorial in Dublin.

Sgt John Henry Hutchinson. Liverpool (Anfield) Cemetery, Lancashire. Grave Ref: Sec. 22. C. of E. Grave 2588. Son of James and Mary Hutchinson of Liverpool. Husband of Edith Hutchinson of Liverpool. Grave Inscription reads: "Thy Will Be Done".

Flt.Sgt Robert William Rashbrook. Thorney (St. Helen) Churchyard, Nottinghamshire. Grave Ref: Grave 540. Son of Ethel May Rashbrook of Bassendean, Western Australia (3) Robert was born 26 January, 1923 in Subiaco, Western Australia and enlisted in Perth, Western Australia. His death was remembered in the Geraldton Guardian and Express, Saturday 31 August 1946 by his mother, brother David and sister Gladys and family. Grave Inscription reads: "His Duty Nobly Done. In God's Care".

Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks to Ken Ogilvie for bringing this loss to our attention, John O'Grady from Dublin, Richard Croft -, Mike McQuaid - Find a Grave, War Memorials forum, BB2-WW2 People's War - They are Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace by Winchester Museum WW2 Exhibition, Newark Air Museum. All the people of Bleasby village who have made this fantastic memorial take place. Thanks to Christina Shepherd, the niece of Sgt. Shepherd, for the correction to the individual family members named in the photograph (Feb 2021).

RS 05.02.2021 - Correction to the individual family members named in the photograph

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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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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