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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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10 OTU Crest
19/20.04.1943 No. 10 Operational Training Unit Whitley V P4989 Fg.Off. Richards

Operation: Training

Date: 19/20th April 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. 10 Operational Training Unit

Type: Whitley V

Serial: P4989

Code: ZG-?

Base: RAF Abingdon

Location: Horton, Gloucestershire

Pilot: Fg.Off. Austin Oliver George Richards 30005 RAAF Age 23. Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Ronald Walter Cumbers 1385133 RAFVR - Safe, injured

Nav: Fg.Off. John Verney 131568 RAFVR - Safe, injured

Air Bmr: Sgt. F.G. Boothby 123726 RAFVR - Safe, injured

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Harry Raymond Robertson Guley 1458306 RAFVR - Safe, injured

Air Gnr: Sgt. Philip Gough 628577 RAFVR - Safe, injured


Taking off at 21:20 hrs on a night cross country training exercise. It is understood that the 'Pitot' tube (Instrument used for measuring airspeed) became iced up giving erratic air speed readings. The aircraft stalled but the pilot, Fg.Off. Richards managed a crash landing, saving the crew.

The aftermath of the crash is described in the citation for the award of the BEM to Sgt. Gough and the MBE Fg.Off Verney:

Their awards were posted in the London Gazette on the 27th July 1943.

To be an Additional Member of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire: Flying Officer John Verney (131568), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve:-

628577 Sergeant AG Philip Gough Royal Air Force, awarded the British Empire Medal (Military Division):-

Citation reads: ‘One night in April, 1943, a Whitley aircraft crash-landed and burst into flames. Flying Officer Verney (navigator) was thrown clear, but received superficial wounds on the face, head and legs and suffered from shock. Sergeant Gough (air gunner) managed to extricate himself from the rear turret and proceeded to the front of the aircraft where he found the pilot and bomb aimer lying together in the wreckage. The bomb aimer was on fire, but was pulled to safety and passed to another member of the crew by Sergeant Gough. This airman then returned to assist the pilot who was pinned from the waist downwards. Ignoring his own safety, Sergeant Gough made heroic attempts to release the pilot, despite the flames and ammunition which was bursting in the front turret. He only desisted in his efforts when his harness, flying suit and hair were burning. Flying Officer Verney, who was suffering considerably, made several valiant attempts to go to the aid of Sergeant Gough, but became exhausted by his efforts and finally collapsed, being dragged away by another member of the crew. He was taken to a nearby residence, where he displayed commendable coolness and fortitude in making his report of the accident and in attending to the needs of the other survivors.

(Left: newspaper announcement for Sgt. Gough’s BEM. Courtesy Phillip Jones)

Further details:

Sgt. Ronald W. Cumbers - 14th November 1944 awarded the DFM whilst with 35 Sqn, understood to have survived the war.
Sgt. Philip Gough - DFM awarded whilst (now Warrant Officer) with 35 Sqn, Gazetted 12th January 1945. Understood to have survived the war.
Fg.Off. John Verney - awarded the DFC whilst with 35 Sqn, understood to have survived the war.
Sgt. Harry R.R. Guley - was listed as missing, believed killed just 4 months later. Pilot Edward Robert Sklarchuk R115545 RCAF and all his 6 other crew went missing on Halifax II HR859 on an operation to Hamburg - 2/3rd August 1943. The crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt. F.G. Boothby - no further information found to date - are you able to assist? Understood to have survived the war.

Burial details:

Fg.Off. Austin Oliver George Richards. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 4H.23. Born on the 30th April 1919 at Mole Creek, Tasmania, the son of Gloster Richard and Minnie Richards, of Mole Creek, Tasmania, Australia. Grave inscription reads: "For Liberty And Justice".

Plaque placed at Mole Creek Memorial Hall, Mole Tasmania. (Courtesy Monument Australia and Arthur Garland who took the photograph). The other airman named is Flt.Sgt. Lawrence Ernest Waddington 408410 RAAF 22 years old when he went missing - believed killed on the 21st September 1943. Whilst on a patrol in Sunderland III DV969 from 10 Sqn - all 10 crew lost when shot down by, it is understood by some 6 x Ju88s.

Researched for Lesley McSharry (her mother had been a friend of the pilot). Page dedicated to the relatives of all the crew, with thanks to National Archives Australia, other sources as shown.

RS 29.06.2020 - Addition of newspaper cutting.

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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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