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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
05.08.1944 86 OTU Wellington X HE821 WO. Willis D. Murdie

Operation: Training

Date: 05th August 1944 (Saturday)

Unit: No: 86 OTU (Operational Training Unit)

Type: Wellington X

Serial: HE821

Base: RAF Gamston, Nottingham

Location: Hennymore Farm near Cresswell

Pilot: WO1. Willis Don Murdie R/116943 RCAF Age 26. Killed

Nav: P/O. Lowell Milton Brehaut J/41540 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. Walter William Cooper J/40083 RCAF Age 32. Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. John Joseph Lee R/259992 RCAF Age 19. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Robb Clarke R/207295 RCAF Age 21. Killed


Took off at 13:55 hrs for a cross country training exercise. After over 6 hours in the air the starboard engine failed due to fuel failure and the prop was then feathered and it appears that the pilot decided to make a forced landing. However at around 800 ft. he lost control and the Wellington completed one turn of a flat spin and crashed heavily at 20:10 hrs. at Hennymore Farm near Cresswell.

It appears that according to the log from the navigator's log they had been flying at 150 mph rather than 140 mph as instructed.

The crash report states that:

All port and starboard main tanks were empty, starboard nacelle tank empty - not holed, port nacelle tank small amount of fuel (2 pints) not holed. Starboard engine was feathered on impact, port engine under power. Airframe was so extensively damaged on impact that no concrete evidence can be provided as to position of trimmer tabs and controls. The aircraft did not catch fire on impact. Total hours of this Wellington is recorded as 562.2 hours. The engines were fitted to the airframe on the 25th May 1944 and had run for 79 hours.

Inspection carried out by W/Cmdr. John Wooldridge and W/Cmdr. J.G. Portlock - accident report signed off by Gp/Cpt. W.D. Ferris 93 Group.

A witness to the crash, Mr. Arthur Plant died 2 years ago, prompted by his younger brother, Gerald he left in his will provision to erect a memorial in the village to this Canadian crew also to invite relatives over for the unveiling ceremony - paying for their trip! Arthur also lost a very dear friend, P/O. Herbert Sidney Keeton aged 21, from 236 Squadron on 30th May 1942 - flying as a W/Op/Air/Gnr on a Bristol Beaufighter. Arthur requested that P/O. Keeton also be remembered on the memorial.

Jeff Legault from Ottawa, Canada lost a relative in this crash and has greatly assisted the British Committee to link with the other relatives. Along with many others.

On May 21st 2011 the ceremony took place at Creswell Crags, with over 20 relatives attending from all the crew members together with the Canadian High Commissioner, British Legion and many others. A scheduled flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight had to be cancelled due to high winds.

A poem was also written by a local poet, Rr. Craig Griffin for the ceremony, which can be read in our WW2 Poetry section.

Burial details:

WO1. Willis Don Murdie. Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery. Sec. E. Row A. Grave 6. Son of Percival Clarence Willis Murdie and Gladys Irene Parks of London, Ontario, Canada, husband of Betty Lucille Thurman. The family also lost another son, Sgt. Ross Thomas Murdie killed in a motor car accident during service in Canada on the 15th November 1941.

P/O. Lowell Milton Brehaut. Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery. Sec. E. Row A. Grave 7. Son of Thomas Milton Brehaut and Mildred Olive Brehaut, husband of Shirlee Marion Brehaut, of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

F/O. Walter William Cooper. Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery. Sec. E. Row A. Grave 8. Son of William Henry Cooper and Louisa Harriet Cooper, husband of Edith Cooper, of Trail, British Columbia, Canada.

Sgt. John Joseph Lee. Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery. Sec. E. Row A. Grave 4. Son of Thomas Henry Lee and Mary Jane Jocelyn, of London, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. James Robb Clarke. Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery. Sec. E. Row A. Grave 5. Son of James Clarke, North Bay, Canada.


P/O. Herbert Sidney Keeton 114307 236 Squadron RAFVR Hamburg Cemetery. Grave 6A.E.4. Son of Sidney and Ada Keeton of Cresswell, Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

Researched by James Legault for relatives/friends of the crew. James kindly also supplied the photographs. With thanks also to Whitwell Parish, plus the many people who have helped this memorial to take place. Photo credits: F/O. Walter William Cooper - Joyce Chiasson, WO1. Willis Don Murdie - Library and Archives Canada, P/O. Lowell Milton Brehaut - Blair and Shirley Brehaut Son of James Clarke Margaret Graham, Sgt. John Joseph Lee - Tom Lee. Other sources as quoted below.

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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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