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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 428 (Ghost) Squadron
05.12.1944 428 (Ghost) Squadron Lancaster Mk I KB768 NA-E Flt.Lt Harold Angus Shewfelt

Operation: Soest, Netherland

Date: 5 December 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit: 428 (Ghost) Squadron

Type: Avro Lancaster Mk I

Serial: KB768

Code: NA-E

Base: RAF Middleton St. George, County Durham

Location: East of Yelvertoft, Near Rugby, Warwickshire

Pilot: Flt.Lt. Harold Angus Shewfelt J/915 RCAF Age 25 Killed

Flt.Eng: Sgt. Charles Norman Collingwood 1595173 RAFVR Age 19 Killed

Nav: Fg.Off. John Reid J/40469 RCAF Age 20 Killed

Air/Bmr: Fg.Off. Samuel William Pechet J/35060 RCAF Age 30 Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Plt.Off. James Emil Virag J/95480 RCAF Age 22 Killed

Air/Gnr: Flt.Sgt. Arie Gordon Baxter R/254110 RCAF Age 21 Killed

Air/Gnr: Fg.Off. Everett Ellwyn Cooper J/42284 RCAF Age 20 Killed

August 2018 - It has been brought to our attention that someone is selling pieces from this aircraft on a well known auction website (and linking to this page) - we would like it to be known that we do not condone the selling of pieces from any aircraft crash site, whether crew members lost their lives or not. All pieces recovered from any crash site, even if they have been recovered with the appropriate MoD licence, belong to the Ministry of Defence.

However, if of course they have the necessary permissions and the appropriate licence, any profits are to be used to assist in any memorial to this or other crews and not for personal profit then we support this sale! We are sure that the relatives of this crew support our views.


Lancaster KB768 took off from RAF Middleton St. George at 17:50 hrs for an bombing operation to Soest. Lancaster KB768 collided in mid-air with 426 Squadron aircraft Halifax LW200. Both aircraft crashed to the ground at 19:00 hrs 1 mile East of Yelvertoft, near Rugby, Warwickshire and were destroyed by fire on the ground, and by the explosion of bombs. Both aircraft disintegrated and scattered over a large area.

An entry from the flying log of a fellow Wireless Operator (W/Op) (Courtesy Mary-Anne Pechet)

Dec 5. Had a hard time getting DI’s [Daily Inspections] done as most of the W/Ops still in bed from last nights trip - but they were done. Ops came through about noon: target Soest. We received the bad news that Sgt. Virag is missing and all are sorry to hear this because he was one of the best types.

All seven crew from Halifax LW200 were identified, but only two crew from Lancaster KB768 could be identified with five being commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Both air gunners Flt.Sgt. Arie Gordon Baxter and Fg.Off. Everett Elwyn Cooper lying in Brookwood Military Cemetery

Top: Lancaster MkI (courtesy IWM) Bottom: RAF Middleton St George (courtesy Bomber Command Museum, Canada)

Map showing the area of the collision East of Yelvertoft, Near Rugby, Warwickshire between Lancaster KB768 and Halifax LW200 (Click here)

The Mercury & Herald, Friday December 8, 1944

'....An umbrella of flares in the sky drew the eye of villagers for miles around Yelvertoft on Tuesday night. It opened out into a vast dome, reminiscent of the "mushroom" from rockets on pre war Bonfire Nights. Five or six seconds afterwards there was a crash, shaking doors in houses as far distant as Northampton, Wellingborough, Kettering and Market Harborough, and leaving a bright red glow in the sky, which rapidly sank to a sullen red reflection. Two planes, which has apparently collided in mid-air at a height of three miles, crashed to earth, and a bomb from one fell near the canal bank at Yelvertoft Wharf, making a huge crater, but failing to burst the bank. The first plane fell near the canal bridge and the other near Yelvertoft Convert

A house at the Wharf, called The Boat (formally an inn) occupied by two farmers, Mr J. Spencer and Mr J. Hakesley, with their housekeeper, Mrs Field, her daughter. Mrs Wells, and two young children, was stripped of windows, doors, slates and ceilings. Mrs Wells's husband, who is in the forces, had told her; "If you think there is going to be any trouble, grab the children and get out into the open air with them" The advice was followed, with the result that no casualties were suffered. Mrs Field grabbed one child, Mrs Wells another, and escaped before the first pieces of plaster fell in their ill-fated house. This is the third time planes have crashed near the The Boat. "Obviously the Lord takes care of us" said Mrs Field next morning

The body of one of the airmen was found a mile away from the wreckage. An example of the strange tricks played by blast is found in the fact that the house of Mr. W. Morris a well-known farmer, in the centre of the village, is undamaged, while houses across the street are minus glass in their windows. Several windows in the church were broken'

Left: Flt.Lt Harold Angus Shewfelt and right Fg.Off. Samuel William Pechet (both courtesy Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

Fg.Off. Reid, Plt.Off. Virag, Fg.Off. Cooper and Flt.Sgt Baxter (courtesy David Champion)

Yelvertoft History Group

Air Collision Commemoration. Saturday 6th December 2014. Yelvertoft History Group invited residents from the village and surrounding area to join them, to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the collision and to remembere the sacrifice made. For further details click (here)

Burial details:

Flt.Sgt Arie Gordon Baxter and Fg.Off Everett Elwyn Cooper (both courtesy Charlie - Find a Grave) Right: Bookwood Cemetery

'The funeral of Flt.Sgt. Arie Gordon Baxter and Fg.Off. Everett Elwyn Cooper took place on the 12th December 1944 at Brookwood Cemetery. Full service honours were accorded with the coffins carried by RAF personnel. Three representatives from the Squadron were in attendance. A Firing party was present, and the coffins were covered by the Union Jack with wreaths from the Officers and Sergeants messes'

Top: Runnymede Memorial 2011 (courtesy SAC Paterson, RAF) Bottom: Runnymede Memorial (courtesy CWGC)

Left: Dauphin War Memorial (courtesy Gordon Goldborough)

Flt.Lt. Harold Angus Shewfelt. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 244. Son of Benjamin and Christina Shewfelt of Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada. Born 25 September 1920 in Dauphin, Manitoba and Harold is remembered on the Dauphin War Memorial.

Shewfelt Lake, Manitoba was named after Harold 20 February 1975.

Sgt. Charles Norman Collingwood. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 227. Son of Charles Henry and Florence May Collingwood of Balby, Doncaster, Yorkshire, England.

Fg.Off. John Reid. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 248 Son of William and Margaret Reid of Montreal, Quebec John was born 11th May 1924 in Roche Percee, Saskatchewan. The family had moved to Montreal in 1929. Before enlisting John was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Fg.Off. Samuel William Pechet. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 247. Son of William and Sophia Pechet of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Samuel was born 15th September 1914 in Cuper, Saskatchewan.

Plt.Off. James Emil Virag. Runnymede Memorial, Surrey. Panel 253. Son of Emil James Virag and Elizabeth Virag of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. James was born 14th November 1922 in Felso, Hungary (now part of Slovakia) He grew up speaking Czech. The family came to Canada in 1930. Before enlisting James was employed by the British Columbia's vast pulp and paper industry.

Left: Moose Jaw War Memorial (courtesy A G Gordon Times Herald Newspaper, Moose Jaw, Canada)

Flt.Sgt. Arie Gordon Baxter. Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. Grave Ref: 51. J. Son of William Gordon Baxter and Ella Baxter of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. Arie was born 1st September 1923 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Before enlisting Arie was serving with the Army cadets and working part time in a hardware store. Arie is remembered on the Moose Jaw War Memorial.

Baxter Lake, Saskatchewan was named after Arie in 1951.

Fg.Off. Everett Ellwyn Cooper. Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. Grave Ref: 51. J. Son of Thomas Henry Cooper and Elizabeth Pearl Cooper of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Everett was born 27th September 1924 in Kelowna, British Columbia. He enlisted 3 August 1943 in Vancouver and was appointed to commission 25th February 1944.

Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks: A G Gordon - Moose Jaw Times Herald newspaper, David Champion for the pictures of John Reid, James Virag, Everett Cooper and Arie Baxter and for providing further information, Rob Palmer - Yelvertoft History Group, Gordon Golborough, SAC Paterson RAF, British Newspaper Archive.

RS 17.03.2020 - Log book entry added
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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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