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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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3.11.1943 No. 76 Squadron Halifax V LK681 MP-A Fl/Lt. Steele

Operation: Air Test

Date: 03rd November 1943 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 76 RAF Squadron

Type: Handley Page Halifax V

Serial: LK681

Code: MP-A

Base: RAF Holme on Spalding Moor, Yorkshire

Location: Enthorpe House, 5 miles NE of Market Weighton, Yorkshire

Pilot: Fl/Lt. James Steele 127895 RAFVR Age 20. Injured, later died

Flt/Eng: Sgt. Jeffery George Kirby 1453264 RAFVR Age 27. Killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. William Laskie 131957 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Passenger: Miss Dorothy Robson B.Sc Age 23. Injured, later died

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Derek Kneale 1450874 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Roy Arthur Brawn 420611 RAAF Age 25. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Henry Maxwell Welch J/19121 RCAF Age 25. Killed


While carrying out an air test of a new improved bomb sight with Miss Robson aboard, it is believed that Fl/Lt. Steele was flying at a low level in order for her to maintain a view of the ground features. During this manoeuver in an attempt to fly under low level cloud, the aircraft crashed into some higher ground obscured by a bank of fog at around 11:35 hrs.

The Halifax completely disintegrated on impact spreading wreckage over a wide area. Although Fl/Lt. Steele, P/O. Welch and Miss Robson survived the initial crash they succumbed to their injuries a short time later.

As fate would have it, the usual navigator with this crew, F/O. Frederick Hall, was excused from flying in order to allow Miss Robson to sit in his place and check the bomb sight function. Reassigned to another crew, Hall survived the war, completing his tour of operations in 1944.

Conclusion of the accident:

It would appear that the pilot was attempting to keep below the cloud when it then entered a bank of fog lying over some high ground, either side of this the conditions were clear. Miss Robson was considered an expert on the Mk IV Bomb site.

Burial Details:

Fl/Lt. James Steele, Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall), Section C Row D Grave 10. Son of Sq/Ldr. Robert Steele J/15054 RCAF (later Wing Commander) and Norah Esme (née Gallaher) Steele of Crawley, Hampshire, England. No further details.

Sgt. Jeffery George Kirby, City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, Manor Park, Essex. Cremation Panel 12. Home town and next of kin unknown.

F/O. William Laskie, Dundee Cemetery (Balgay), Section M Grave 1030. Son of Margaret Chalmers of Dundee, Scotland. No further details.

Miss Dorothy Robson. Daughter of Shafto and Myra Lily (née Moore) Robson of Hartlepool, County Durham, England. Further details: Dorothy Robson was born in Guisborough and lived there until she was eight years old before moving to Hartlepool where her father had purchased a Chemist’s shop.

Dorothy was an exceptional student and after completing high school gained entrance to Leeds University studying Physics. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, she accepted a position with the Ministry of Aircraft production at Farnborough in Surrey. Her work entailed the development of bomb sight improvements fitted to heavy bombers. Spending much of her time with the bomber crews based at the numerous airfields in Yorkshire, she soon became known by the nickname 'Bomb Sight Bertha'. Critically injured in the crash, Dorothy died in hospital two days later. In accordance with her wishes she was cremated and her ashes scattered from the air by a small aircraft.

Sgt. Derek Kneale,Liverpool Cemetery (West Derby), Section C, C of E, Grave 1495. Son of William and Phyllis Kneale of Stoneycroft, Liverpool, England. Husband of Edna May (née Dobie) Kneale. No further details.

P/O. Roy Arthur Brawn, Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall) , Section C Row D Grave 8. Son of Richard Henry and Alice May (née Lickliss) Brawn, husband of Jean Mary (nee Elliott) Brawn of Cremorne, New South Wales, Australia.

Further details:

P/O. Roy Brawn front row second from left. Stormy Down 26th January 1943

Born on the 30th May 1918 at Ballina New South Wales. Enlisting in June of 1941, Roy Brawn completed his training in Australia being awarded his air gunners badge in September 1942. Posted overseas in October, he was sent to No.7 Bombing and Gunnery School in January, 1943, for a refresher course before going to 20 OTU prior to 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit at Rufforth in Yorkshire. At the end of June, 1943 he joined RAF 76 Squadron based at Holme on Spalding Moor. Between July and November 1943, he completed 17 operations over Europe. A Printers Compositor for the North Coast Beacon newspaper in Ballina, NSW, prior to enrolling, Roy was married just three months before embarking for the UK.

P/O. Henry Maxwell Welch, Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Section C Row D Grave 9, Son of Henry Tremain and Elizabeth Ann (née Rankin) Welch of Thornloe, Ontario, Canada.

Born at Kerns Township December 8, 1917, Henry lived and worked on the family farm at Thornloe. He enlisted at North Bay, Ontario on 10 July 1942 and completed his basic training at No. 5 Manning Depot, Lachine, Quebec. Selected for training as an air gunner, Henry was posted to No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at Mt. Joli, PQ on 11 October 1942 where he graduated with the award of his Air Gunner badge on 30 December 1942. Posted to No. 1 'Y' Depot, Halifax he embarked for the UK on 26 January 1943. Trained at No.24 Operational Training Unit at RAF Honeybourne and from there to No.1664 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Rufforth before joining No. 76 Squadron at RAF Holme on Spalding Moor on 15 August 1943. Henry and his crew mates had completed 14 operational sorties against the enemy when he was lost.

Researched and written by Colin Bamford for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the families of all those aboard Halifax LK681.

References: Hartlepool History Then And Now website.

Miss Robson photo courtesy People At War.

P/O Welch photograph courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada (CVWM) website. Australian War Memorial website. Other sources as quoted below.

CHB 30.11.2013
KTY - Map added 25.05.2018
CHB 06.01.2020 P/O Welch biographical note added.

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