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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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No. 221 Squadron Crest
23.12.1941 No. 221 Squadron Wellington VIII Z8703 DF-? Sgt. William Dennis Reason

Operation: Special Duties Search

Date: 23 December 1941 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 221 Squadron (Coastal Command) Motto: "From sea to sea"

Type: Vickers Wellington Mark VIII (Mark IC conversion for Coastal Command service)

Serial: Z8703

Code: DF-?

Base: RAF Luqa, Malta

Location: Possibly at sea near Marsala, Sicily.

Pilot: Sgt. William Dennis Reason 748405 RAFVR Age 25 - Missing believed killed (1)

Unknown: W/O. Alfred John Gulliver 565550 RAF Age 26 - Missing believed killed (2)

Unknown: Sgt. Graham Humphreys Hunt 553842 RAF - Missing believed killed (3)

Unknown: Sgt. Douglas Mason Kingston 1377562 RAFVR Age 29 - Missing believed killed (4)

Unknown: Sgt. Arnold John Reid 755773 RAFVR Age 32 - Missing believed killed (5)

Air/Gnr (R): F/Sgt Leslie John Woolley 646917 RAF Age 25 - Missing believed killed (6)

Royal Navy Observer: Sub-Lieut. Robert Howard Cardwell RNVR Age 23 (No. 830 Naval Air Squadron) HMS St. Angelo - Missing believed killed (7)

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No. 221 Squadron

Disbanded in 1919 No. 221 Squadron reformed at RAF Bircham Newton (near Docking, Norfolk) as part of Coastal Command and began training with Wellingtons. On 23 February 1941 the squadron began convoy escort patrols and the following month, shipping reconnaissance sweeps along the Dutch coast.

In March the squadron started receiving brand new Wellingtons equipped with a new device for detecting U-boats, Air-to-Surface Vessel or ASV radar and special training on the system commenced in earnest.

On 2 May "A" Flight and Headquarters moved to Limavady, Northern Ireland from where the squadron undertook anti-submarine patrols.

In September the squadron was ordered to move to Reykjavik and also to provide three experienced crews for posting to Middle East Command. F/Lt. Milton, F/O. Watson and F/O. Tony Spooner were detailed. The three crews subsequently landed in their ASV equipped Wellington VIIIs in Malta on the night of 29/30 September 1941.

The three Wellingtons were to undertake night reconnaissance sorties in conjunction with the Swordfish of 830 Squadron, a number of which had been fitted with special receivers for the purpose.

Bristling with an array of aerials the ASV Wellington was known in England as a "Stickleback" but on Malta, for reasons unknown it became known as a "Goofington".


Details of the arrival of Wellington Z8703 and its crew on Malta have so far not been found but on 23 December 1941 the aircraft captained by Sgt. William Dennis Reason was detailed for a Special Duties Search. On board the aircraft in addition to the usual crew of six was Royal Navy Observer Sub-Lieut. Robert Howard Cardwell RNVR of No. 830 Naval Air Squadron but it is unclear whether he was on board in an official capacity or merely "going along for the ride".

Wellington Z8703 took off from RAF Luqa at 17.55 hours but failed to return. The aircraft is thought to have crashed in the sea near Marsala, Sicily but nothing was seen or heard of the crew after take-off.


(1) Sgt. William Dennis Reason was born in 1916 at West Bromwich the only child of William H. Reason and Alice Gertrude Reason nee Drage later of Stafford.

(2) W/O. Alfred John Gulliver was born in 1915 at Worcester the son of John Gulliver and Florence Gulliver nee Holmes. His only sibling Mary E. Gulliver was born in 1923.

He attended Worcester Royal Grammar School from 1926 to 1931.

(3) Sgt. Graham Humphreys Hunt was born in July 1922 at Reading Berkshire the son of Sydney Richard Hunt (a Grocer) and Marian Grace Hunt nee Winter. He had one sibling: John Richard Hunt born in 1916.

Graham Hunt was educated at Reading Grammar School and is commemorated on the school war memorial

(4) Sgt. Douglas Mason Kingston was born in 1911 at Willesden, London, the son of Howard Kingston and Jessie E Kingston nee Mason. In 1937 he married Edna I. Roberts at Hendon.

(5) Sgt. Arnold John Reid was born in 1909 at Newcastle upon Tyne the son of John Alexander Reid and Mabel Elizabeth Reid nee Arnold. In 1937 he married Elizabeth Doreen Morrow at Newcastle upon Tyne and they had a daughter, Margaret A. Reid, born at Carlisle in 1940

(6) F/Sgt Leslie John Woolley was born in 1921 at West Ham the son of Edward Henry Francis Woolley and Florence Elizabeth Woolley nee Dockray, of Woking, Surrey. He had one sibling Edward A. Woolley born 1916.

(7) Sub-Lieut. Robert Howard Cardwell was born on 3 June 1918 the son of Howard Elliott Cardwell, a schoolmaster of Capetown, and Agnes Maitland (nee Kelly) Cardwell of “Clovelly”, Albion Hill, Exmouth, Devon. He was educated at Lancing College, West Sussex where he won an Exhibition and was in Seconds House from September 1931 to July 1937. A Sergeant in the Officer Training Corps he achieved Certificate A in 1934 and was a member of the Fives Team in 1936. He gained his School Certificate in 1933 and Higher Certificate in 1935. He was appointed as a House Captain in 1935. He went on to Hertford College Oxford in 1938.

Robert Cardwell joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and trained as an Observer in the Fleet Air Arm. He was commissioned as a Sub Lieutenant (A) on the 10th of February 1941 and was posted to the aircraft carrier HMS "Ark Royal". In July 1941 he was one of six Swordfish crews who were posted to Malta to reinforce 830 Squadron. (Biographical details courtesy Lancing College War Memorial)


(1) Sgt. William Dennis Reason. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial, Panel 2, Column 1

(2) W/O. Alfred John Gulliver. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial, Panel 1, Column 1

(3) Sgt. Graham Humphreys Hunt. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial, Panel 1, Column 2.

(4) Sgt. Douglas Mason Kingston. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial, Panel 1, Column 2.

(5) Sgt. Arnold John Reid. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial, Panel 2, Column 1.

(6) F/Sgt Leslie John Woolley. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial, Panel 1, Column 2.

(7) Sub-Lieut. Robert Howard Cardwell. Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial Bay 2, Panel 6

Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Leslie Francis and all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - June 2017

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 25.06.2017

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