03.03.1943 No. 15 O.T.U. Wellington 1C HF906 Sgt. Robert Harvey Millar
Date: 3 March 1943
Unit: No. 15 Operational Training Unit
Type: Wellington 1C
Code: Not known
Base: RAF Hampstead Norris, Berkshire
Location: Hermitage, Berkshire
Pilot: Sgt. Robert Harvey Millar 927578 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (1)
Nav: Sgt. Laurence Norman Abercrombie NZ/42284 RNZAF Age 29 - Killed (2)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. George Albert Hovell 1391094 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Benjamin Charles (Benny) Lock 1271461 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (4)
Air/Gnr (MU): Sgt. Sidney Edward (Buck) Harmes 1308078 RAFVR Age 22 - Killed (5)
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REASON FOR LOSS
Took off at 20.05 for a night navigation sortie which was scheduled to last 4 hours. Not long after departure, the wireless equipment failed and the exercise was aborted. At around 20.30, the Wellington was reported on approach to land but this was abandoned in favour of another circuit. While so engaged, the bomber stalled from 100 feet and smashed into the Bungalow, Common Farm [Common Barn] farmhouse on the North side of Hermitage five miles NNE of Newbury, Berkshire. All five crew died in the crash.
Mrs Eva Adeleine Chiverton (aged 68) and her Nurse Companion Miss Amy Playle (aged 65), occupants of the bungalow, also perished. (6 & 7)
(Details courtesy Bomber Command Losses Volume 7- W.R. Chorley)
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) Sgt. Robert Harvey Millar was born in 1921 at Croydon the son of Maximillian A. Millar and Mary Cissie Millar nee Munday of Saunderstead, Surrey. He had a sister Marjorie E. Millar born 1918.
(2) Sgt. Laurence Norman Abercrombie was born in 1914 at Auckland, New Zealand the son of Frederick Norman Abercrombie and Elsie Annie May Abercrombie nee Fox of Kohimarama, Auckland City, New Zealand.
RCAF, 4 Air Observer School, London, Ontario Base Record
Course 1: Class 50.11/09/1942
Remembered on the Takapuna War Memorial, The Strand, Takapuna and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, World War 2 Hall of Memories
(3) Sgt. George Albert Hovell was born on 20 November 1920 at Hammersmith, London the son of Sidney George and Mary Lilian E. Hovell nee Hitchinson of Shepherd's Bush, London. He had two brothers: Sidney C.R. Hovell (1917-1983) and Frederick J. Hovell (1923-2004)
(4) Sgt. Benjamin Charles (Benny) Lock was born on 23 January 1922 at 255 East Street, Walworth, London the son of William Lock (a Fruiterer) and Annie E. Lock nee Masters. He had three brothers: William John Lock 1919-1991), Frederick David Lock 1923-2000) and Alfred Ernest Lock (1924-1943).
Tragedy was to strike the family again just six weeks after Benny was killed, when his youngest brother, Alfred Ernest Lock, a Private in the Black Watch, was drowned whilst training in Scotland: he was 18 years old.
Benny was very well known in and around the Walworth area for his ability in the boxing ring and later represented the RAF. He was trained at Manor Place Baths, Walworth by Ted Broadribb the British legendary boxer, manager, referee and promoter: it is said Benny was very good and could have become a professional boxer.
At the time of his death Benny was engaged to be married to his childhood sweetheart.
Aircrew Remembered would like to thank Michele Hailey for kindly providing biographical details and photographs of her Uncle Benjamin Charles "Benny" Lock.
(5) Sgt. Sidney Edward (Buck) Harmes was born in 1921 the son of Arthur Bernard Harmes and Bridget Harmes nee English, of Guildford. He had a brother Patrick B. Harmes born in 1919. In 1942 Sidney married Pearl Lilian Cox at Nuneaton, their son Peter Sidney Harmes being born in 1942.
Buck Harmes was the first casualty from Course No. 75 as recorded in the diary of a fellow trainee Sgt. John Gerard Hagan who himself lost his life when his aircraft, Wellington LN335* of No. 37 Squadron which crashed on 24 October 1943 whilst on a raid to Guidonia Airfield, Italy. His remarks about the aircraft crashing on return from a raid were clearly a case of misinformation.
Aircrew Remembered would like to thank Mark Hagan for providing the copy of the entry in his Uncle's diary.
*To read the story of the loss of Wellington LN335 click here
(6) Mrs Eva Adeleine Chiverton age 68 born c1874 of Common Barn Bungalow, Hermitage.
(7) Miss Amy Playle age 65 born c1877 of Common Barn Bungalow, Hermitage.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) Sgt. Robert Harvey Millar was buried at Harwell Cemetery, Berkshire - Grave 544
His epitaph reads:
For your tomorrow
He gave his today
(2) Sgt. Laurence Norman Abercrombie was buried at Harwell Cemetery, Berkshire - Grave 546.
(3) Sgt. George Albert Hovell was buried at Mortlake Cemetery, Surrey - Plot 14. Sec. C. Grave 48.
His epitaph reads:
In loving memory
Of dear George
Always in our thoughts
(4) Sgt. Benjamin Charles (Benny) Lock was buried at Harwell Cemetery, Berkshire - Grave 545.
(5) Sgt. Sidney Edward (Buck) Harmes was buried at Guildford (Stoke) New Cemetery, Surrey - Block L. Grave 386.
His epitaph reads
In ever loving memory
Of dearest Syd.
God grant him eternal rest
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - August 2017
With thanks to the sources quoted below.