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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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Coastal Command
618 Squadron Mosquito FB.VI DZ543 P/O. Alfred Robert Milne

Operation: Training

Date: 11th October 1944 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 618 Squadron. Coastal Command

Type: Mosquito FB.IV

Serial: DZ543/G (1)

Code: -

Base: RAF Beccles, Suffolk

Location: Bransdale Valley, North Yorkshire

Pilot: P/O. Alfred Robert Milne 186495 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Nav: W/O. Eric Alan Stubbs 1323395 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Mosquito DZ543 was on a top-secret transit flight from RAF Beccles to Turnberry airfield to undertake a weapons training exercise that would involve dropping a highly secretive bomb. The aircraft was carrying two 'Highball' bombs, a smaller version of the bouncing bomb which was intended for use on shipping.

When attempting to break cloud cover near the Yorkshire coast the aircraft crashed into a hill near Bransdale, killing both of the crew. One of the two weapons was recovered amidst great secrecy by Special Police. Some body parts were assumed to have also been recovered.

Following the crash, it seems that the scattered wreckage was put into the crater caused by the crash and this was partly covered over with soil - usual practice at this time.

Move the clock forward 76 years when in 2020 a farmer was investigating a blocked septic tank discovered human remains on land formerly owned by a 'x', (name withheld) a disgraced military historian and collector of militaria. The remote property became the centre of a massive police operation which continued for weeks as a field adjoining the home was excavated in sections in a search for further remains.

At the time the bodies were found in March 2020, x had only recently been released from a five-year prison term for firearms and explosives offences and for stalking a female neighbour.

In 2010 police found a huge cache of bombs and live weaponry at his Appletree Hurst Cottage at Chop Gate, including a loaded Luger pistol under his pillow and an aircraft cockpit with functioning loaded guns.

Earlier, 'x' had been found to be in possession of a personal item from a deceased pilot.

The MOD confirmed that in 1999 he was given an informal warning over his possession of a pendant believed to have belonged to a Canadian airman who died in a crash in East Yorkshire during the war.

Above: Alfred and Gwendoline at their wedding in 1943 (courtesy North Yorkshire police)

The suspected date of the offence was 1982, before the Protection of Military Remains Act was passed four years later, making it illegal to search wrecks without MOD permission.

'X' is known to have spent much of his life searching for aircraft wrecks and he kept hundreds of items of memorabilia, opening his home as an unofficial museum.

When the remains of Mr Stubbs and Mr Milne were found, 'x; was arrested by North Yorkshire Police at his new home in a caravan park at York. They discovered his caravan was stuffed with military memorabilia, which was also seized. But despite a protracted investigation centring on how the airmen ended up at Appletree Hurst and whether any other remains were present on the property, no charges were brought.

It meant the relatives of the two 22-year-old pilots will never know how their remains came to be so far away from the spot where their de Havilland Mosquito combat aircraft crashed in Bilsdale in October 1944.

The inquest in Northallerton heard that police were called to the uninhabited cottage after a family who had recently moved into the adjoining property discovered a human jawbone on an open grassed area near a shed in the paddock.

Left: Eric Alan Stubbs (courtesy North Yorkshire police)

Two lower mandibles were confirmed by forensic archaeologists to date from before 1950, and pre-emptive dental work performed by the RAF on servicemen flying at high altitude was noted in teeth.

There was evidence of impact injuries and discolouration from contact with a helmet or chinstrap and fragments from a harness were found nearby.

It was established that the bones had been moved from the original crash site and had been exposed to the elements for a prolonged period.

Detective Chief Inspector Carol Kirk from North Yorkshire Police and forensic archaeologist Dr Carl Harrison both confirmed that the remains were classed as a 'secondary deposition' and had been moved from another place.

The inquest also heard evidence from a military historian, Richard Allenby, who said he had interviewed the only witness to the Mosquito crash, a farm labourer called Ken Luck.

Above: Highball installation on the Mosquito

Afterwards, the two men's bodies were thought to have been recovered and buried - deepening the mystery as to how they ended up on 'x' land.

Reaching a conclusion of accidental death, the coroner said: 'It's 77 years since the end of the Second World War, and 78 years since this incident. This year would have been Sgt Stubbs' centennial, and PO Milne's would have been last year.

'This is a timely reminder to us all of those young men who made the supreme sacrifice during those difficult times, and it's a reminder of the cost of war.'

He was posted to Canada and rose through the ranks, eventually commissioning as a pilot officer and marrying his wife just a year before he died.

(Information Daily Mail Online)

(1) The aircraft carried the prefix 'G' on the serial number meaning the aircraft was to be guarded because of the secret nature of what it was used for.

Crew graves courtesy Michael Baldock and Debbie Deacons.

Burial details:

The remains were buried in their existing graves in August 2021.

P/O. Alfred Robert Milne. Mitcham Cemetery. (London Road). Plot 14. Grave 8633. Born on the 17th December 1921 in Wandsworth. Worked as a post officer sorter. Son of Alfred Charles and Daisy Milne Husband of Gwendolen Margaret Milne (née Oliver, later Fitzgibbon - died 22nd December 2011, age 86) of Mitcham, Surrey, England. In 1947 she emigrated to Winnipeg in Canada. In 1948, she married Cyril Howard Fitzgibbon (died 25th December 2002, age 83). Epitaph: 'At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning We Will Remember Him'.

W/O. Eric Alan Stubbs. Guildford New Cemetery (Stoke). Block E. Grave 193. Born on the 14th June 1922 in Guildford. Worked as a local government clerk prior to service. Son of Arthur Frederick and Edith Stubbs, of Guildford, Surrey, England.


Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Yorkshire Aircraft, Imperial War Museum, Dignity Memorials, RAF Command Forum, Daily Mail Online, Winnipeg Free Press.

Other sources as quoted below:

KTY - 29-01-2023

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Acknowledgements
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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