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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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RAF Crest
24.04.1944 111 (Coastal) OTU Liberator GR.V BZ759, Flt Sgt. Peter H. Thomas

Operation: Training

Date: 24th April 1944 (Monday)

Unit No: 111 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit (OTU)

Type: Liberator GR.V

Serial No: BZ759

Code: LP

Location: Some 400 miles NE of Nassau (North Atlantic Ocean)

Base: Windsor Field, Nassau

1st Pilot (Pupil Captain): Flt Sgt. Peter Henry Thomas 1384747 RAFVR Age 27. Missing

2nd Pilot: Fg Off. William Francis Smith J36238 RCAF Age 19. Missing

Flt Eng: Sgt. Kenneth John Cameron 1569890 RAFVR Age 20. Missing

Nav (Instructor): Flt Lt. Philip Raymond Aitken 123092 RAFVR Age 22. Missing

Nav: Flt Sgt. Frederick Archibald Pearce 1561521 RAFVR Age 28. Missing

WOp (Air): Sgt. Stanley Henry Seaforth 1395491 RAFVR Age 23. Missing

WOp (Air): Sgt. John William James Spiller 1586438 RAFVR Age 20. Missing

WOp (Air): Sgt. Kenneth Powell 1398357 RAFVR Age 22. Missing

WOp (Air): Sgt. Denis William Fussell 1580360 Age 20. Missing

Note: Liberator GR.V BZ759 LP was built as B-24D, Serial no. 42-40590


Above: RAF Coastal Command, 1939-1945. Consolidated Liberators of 111 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit, parked on the apron at Oakes Field, Nassau, Bahamas. (Miller (Fg Off), Royal Air Force official photographer)

Above: Liberator GR.V BZ746 LP (Courtesy of the Australian War memorial).

Nassau, Bahamas, c. 1943-08. A port side view of Liberator GR.V BZ759 LP, of 111 (C) Operational Training Unit (OTU). This aircraft was used to train RAAF Navigators serving with RAF Coastal Command.

BZ759 took off from Windsor Field at 11:53 hrs on the 24th April 1944 on the pupil crew’s final training exercise in the company of several other aircraft.

111 (Coastal) OTU was established at Nassau Airport on the August 1942 to train General Reconnaissance crews on US aircraft, mainly Liberators and Mitchells. The airport was renamed Windsor Field, after the Duke of Windsor on the 30th December 1942 and became an RAF Station. The airfield is now known as the Lynden Pindling (named after the first Prime Minister of Bahamas) International Airport.

BZ759 was last seen by RN Frigate HMS Dominica at Lat/Long 28 36N, 72 19W at 16:54 hrs proceeding on a course of 250 degrees ahead of the ship. The weather was good and the aircraft was about to carry out a square search ordered by the ship. Contact was lost with the aircraft at 17:13 hrs.

The Lat/Long of 28 36N, 72 19W is in the North Atlantic Ocean, some 400 miles NE of Nassau and some 500 miles SW of Bermuda.

When the aircraft failed to return at the ETA or make contact two other aircraft that were still out in the area, some 300 miles NE of Nassau, were instructed to search for the missing aircraft. All shipping was warned to be on alert, and constant radio watches were maintained.

During the following two days a very comprehensive series of aircraft searches was made throughout all possible areas BZ759 might have been in. HMS Dominica was kept in the area and ASR Launch 339 was dispatched from Harbour island to join the search.

No aircraft wreckage or dinghy’s associated with the aircraft were found and the assumption was that whatever had occurred the crew had no time to make any form of distress signal.

The loss of the aircraft to enemy action was deemed to be extremely unlikely. The crew of nine were posted as missing.

Burial Details.

Above Ottawa Memorial (Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Crimes Commission)

Flt Sgt. Peter Henry Thomas. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 2. Born on the 29th July 1916 in Richmond, Surrey. Son of Charles Henry and Amy Thomas, of St. Margarets, Twickenham, Middlesex, England.

Fg Off. William Francis Smith. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 4. Born on the 12th June 1921 in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. Son of Sydney John and Marion Shelburn (née Holloway) Smith, of Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.

Sgt. Kenneth John Cameron. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 2. Son of William and Annie Cameron, of Fort William, Inverness-shire, Scotland.

Sgt Cameron is remembered and honoured on a family grave headstone in the Glen Nevis Cemetery in his hometown of Fort William, Inverness-shire, Scotland.

Flt Lt. Philip Raymond Aitken. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 2. Son of Albert Edward Aitken, and of Florence Aitken, of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, England.

Flt Sgt. Frederick Archibald Pearce. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 2. Son of Frederick and Jane Pearce, of Clarkston, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

Sgt. Stanley Henry Seaforth. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 3. Born on the 9th January 1921 in West Ham, Essex. Son of William Thomas and Mary Violet (née Nash) Seaforth of Walthamstow, Essex, England.

Sgt. John William James Spiller. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 3. Born on the 23rd May 1923 in Totnes, Devon. Son of Francis Gilbert and Edith May Spiller, of South Brent, Devon, England.

Sgt. Kenneth Powell. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 3. Son of Sidney and Elsie Powell, of Worthing, Sussex, England.

Sgt. Denis William Fussell. Ottawa Memorial Panel 3. Column 3. Born in 3rd Qtr of 1923 in Brighton, East Sussex. Parents believed to be William and Matilda Harriet (née Gill) Fussell residing in London at that time.

Researched by Ralph Snape (Aircrew Remembered) and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.

Other sources quoted below:

RS 02.10.2022 - Nok details for Sgts. Seaforth and Fussell 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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