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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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RAF Crest
17/18.07.1941 No. 54 OTU Blenheim IF L8729 P/O. McMurtrie

Operation: Training

Date: 17/18th July 1941 (Thursday/Friday)

Unit: No. 54 Operational Training Unit (81 Group - Fighter Command)

Type: Blenheim IF

Serial: L8729

Code: Not known

Base: RAF Church Fenton, Yorkshire

Location: Cockayne Ridge, Yorkshire Moors

Pilot: P/O. Alexander Douglas McMurtrie NZ/402908 RNZAF Age 21. Killed


A grim evening for 54 OTU losing some 3 aircraft with the loss of 2 pilots killed and another seriously injured.

Several sources have various details on these losses, even the operational record book have some details incorrectly recorded. However it is clear that the accidents were probably due to errors not by the pilots, but by the ground control staff at RAF Church Fenton.

Blenheim L8729 on a searchlight homing exercise was vectored over high ground rather than the correct area where he should have been. The aircraft came down near Cockayne ridge at 04:35 hrs killing the pilot.

Another Blenheim L1449 flown by P/O. Edward James Woodhead 66608 RAF was also similarly directed, that also hit high ground close by at 04:30 hrs. Incredibly the pilot survived, although seriously injured. He recovered and survived the war, remaining in the RAF until the 1950's.

Blenheim K7090 flown by 24 year old, Sgt. Cyril John Neighbour NZ/402238 flew into the ground close to the base at RAF Church Fenton. The controllers had extinguished landing lights due to enemy aircraft activity in the area - they were unaware that this pilot had little experience in night flying. Sadly Sgt Neighbour was killed.

We strongly recommend readers to visit the website of Richard Allenby 'Aircraft Accidents In Yorkshire' who has covered these and other losses in far greater detail.

Burial details:

P/O. Alexander Douglas McMurtrie. Kirkby Wharfe Churchyard Extension (St. John The Baptist). Row C. Grave 1. Son of Alexander Ferguson McMurtrie and Elizabeth McMurtrie, of Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. A total of 174 flying hours logged with 97 of these solo.

Sgt. Cyril John Neighbour. Kirkby Wharfe Churchyard Extension (St. John The Baptist). Row C. Grave 2. Son of Thomas Frederick and Ethel Neighbour; husband of Inger Mena Neighbour, of Te Kuiti, Auckland, New Zealand. A total of 232 flying hours logged.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn QSM and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:

KTY - 05.06.2018

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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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