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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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Bomber Command

Operation: Ferry flight

Date: 22nd December 1941 (Monday)

Unit: No. 28 Conversion Flight. 4 Group

Type: Halifax I

Serial: L9522

Code: -

Base: RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire

Location: Terrace Hills, Knipton

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Robert Fenwick Owen DFC 84914 RAFVR Age 25. Killed

Pilot: P/O. Richard Percival William Barker NZ/41464 RNZAF Age 25. Killed

Pilot: P/O. William Stuart Beattie NZ/41301 RNZAF Age 24. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Leslie Merrifield 702345 RAFVR Age 23. Killed

Nav: F/O. Eric Arthur Fawns Gibb DFM 104430 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Stanley Robert Mayston DFM 908800 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Albert Denning 939302 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Passenger: Cpl. James Anthony Hancock 648598 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off at 10:25 hrs from RAF Leconfield on a ferry flight to the Handley Page factory at Radlett in Hertfordshire.

Some forty minutes later was seen flying low over Knipton towards Barkestone Woods in very poor visibility.

L9522 crashed a few minutes later on high ground known as Terrace Hills, Knipton. All the eight crew lost their lives.

Halifax L9522 was built to Contract No. B67577/40 by English Electric Co.Ltd, at Samlesbury and was allotted to 24 MU on the 29th November 1940. It was received by 24 MU on the 8th December 1940 and was taken on charge soon after by 83 Squadron at Scampton on the 20th December 1940.

It was involved in an earlier incident when on the 16th June 1941 piloted by F/O Peter Langmead 86629 the aircraft at the time with 35 squadron skidded on landing resulting in the collapse port undercarriage. The aircraft was repaired at Linton-on-Ouse, but the repair must have taken several months as it was not taken on charge to 35 squadron until Nobember. As a result of the crash on 12th February 1941 the damage was assessed as being Cat.E2/FB (Burnt) damage and it was written off. It was struck off charge on 19th February 1941.

Burial and personal details:

Fl/Lt. Robert Fenwick Owen DFC. Golders Green Crematorium. Panel 3. Son of Joseph Fenwick Owen and Marjorie Owen, of St. Albans, Hertfordshire.

DFC Citation, London Gazette, 25 July 1941: 'In June, 1941, Flying Officer Owen and Sergeant Hogg were the captain and wireless operator/air gunner respectively of an aircraft which participated in a daylight attack on Kiel. After successfully bombing his objective, Flying Officer Owens’s aircraft was attacked by four enemy fighters whilst attempting to regain formation with his leader. The aircraft was repeatedly hit—the starboard engine and the wireless were put out of action and the beam gunner killed. Sergeant Hogg coolly returning fire was instrumental in keeping the fighters at long range which enabled his captain to manoeuvre his aircraft and reach cloud cover. Sergeant Hogg thereupon skilfully repaired the wireless set reconnecting twenty-five leads with spare wire. Although one engine had ceased to function Flying Officer Owen flew safely back to base. Throughout, this officer displayed exceptional skill and courage and was ably assisted by the coolness and ability of Sergeant Hogg'.

P/O. Richard Percival William Barker. Grantham Cemetery. Sec. 17. Row M. Grave 11. Born on the 22nd February 1916 in Reigate, Surrey, England. Emigrated to New Zealand in 1920. Worked as a shepherd on his fathers farm in Gisbourne prior to service. Enlisted on the 18th January 1941 at Levin. Awarded his pilots badge and commission on the 05th July 1941. Attached to 28 Conversion Flight on the 15th December 1941 from 10 squadron. Son of Richard and Sheila Hall Barker, of Gisbourne, Auckland, New Zealand. A total of 206 flying hours logged and completed at least 3 operational sorties. It seems that he was on this aircraft as a passenger.

Note: His older brother, Fl/Lt. Desmond Wallace Ferguson Barker DFC 70043 RAF, was killed on the 12th February 1941. 83 squadron Hampden I AD722 OL-X returning from an operation to Bremen. Whilst circling the airfield in very poor visibility crashed into a house killing 3 crew, 1 survived injured.

P/O. William Stuart Beattie. St Mary Church Churchyard. Southwest of church tower. Born on the 08th March 1917 at Dunedin. Worked as a farmer with is brother at Lauder prior to service. Enlisted on the 19th January 1941 at Levin. Awarded his pilots badge and commission on the 05th July 1941. Attached to 28 Conversion Flight on the 14th December 1941 from 10 squadron. Son of John and Rachel Wilson Beattie (nee Rutherford), of The Downs, Lauder, Otago, New Zealand. A total of 184 flying hours logged and completed at least 3 operational sorties. It seems that he was on this aircraft as a passenger.

Sgt. Leslie Merrifield. Horwich Cemetery (Ridgmont). Div. 2. Sec. 2. C. of E. Grave P.25. Son of Alfred Edward and Alice Merrifield, of Horwich. Grave inscription: 'May We Who Are Left Be Worthy Of His Great Sacrifice'.

F/O. Eric Arthur Fawns Gibb DFM. Edinburgh Cemetery (Warriston). Sec. A. 1. Grave 441. Son of Clement Arthur Gibb, J.P., and Jean Burnet Fawns Gibb, of Edinburgh, Scotland. Completed 33 operational sorties. DFM Citation 23rd September 1941 whilst with 35 squadron; 'Sgt. Gibb is an observer of outstanding ability possessed of a high order of courage. He has been the navigator in F/Off. Owen’s crew over a long period of operations and has contributed in a marked way to the successes achieved. He is strongly recommended for the recognition of the Distinguished Flying Medal'.

Sgt. James Albert Denning. Grantham Cemetery. Sec. 17. Row M. Grave 10. Son of James and Rhoda May Denning of Camberwell.

Sgt. Stanley Robert Mayston DFM. Croydon (Mitcham Road) Crematorium. Panel 4. Son of Robert William and Violet Jessamine Mayston, of Thornton Heath, Surrey.

Cpl. James Anthony Hancock. Grantham Cemetery. Sec. 17. Row M. Grave 9. Son of James Arthur and Florence Beatrice Hancock. Husband of Elsie Hancock, of Blackburn, Lancashire. Grave inscription: 'His Life Was An Emblem Of Love And Devotion, His Death An Unspeakable Sorrow'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, AWMM, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Yorkshire Aircraft, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 26-03-2021

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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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