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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
04.03.1945 No. 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit PD431 H4-V Fl/Sgt. Truskett

Operation: Training

Date: 04th March 1945 (Sunday)

Unit: No. 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: PD431

Code: H4-V

Base: RAF North Luffenham, Rutland, England

Location: Edith Weston, Rutland

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Terence George Truskett AUS/428001 RAAF Age 24. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Dennis William Gilbert 627389 RAF Age 26. Killed

Nav: P/O. Bernard William Drake 55096 RAF Age 24. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt. Ian Bailey Yorkston AUS/429072 RAAF Age 25. Killed (1)

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. William Henry Ford 1535240 RAFVR Age 32. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Donald Campbell McLellan AUS/424442 RAAF Age 25. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Thompson 3040793 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Gordon Ratcliffe 2222927 RAF Age 25. Injured (2)


During the afternoon took off from RAF North Luffenham in Rutland for a cross country exercise.

At around 16:00 hrs they landed ver heavily and bounced - the pilot decided to increase power to go round again. During the climb the Lancaster’s undercarriage struck a vehicle - just seconds later the aircraft crashed into trees near the village of Edith Weston, killing all the crew.

(1) The family lost his younger brother, 21 year old, F/O. Gordon Cameron Yorkston AUS/422902 RAAF less than two weeks later. He went missing with all the other 4 crew on Saturday the 17th March 1945. Flying on a meteorological reconnaissance flight when the Hudson IIIA FK739 with 251 Squadron was lost off Iceland - probably due to icing.

(2) Update, October 28th 2018 - Details are sketchy regarding Sgt. Ratcliffe loss. The nephew of the air gunner informed us the following: The occupant of the van, 25 year old, Sgt. William Gordon Ratcliffe was badly injured and taken to the hospital at RAF Rauceby crash and burns unit. Sadly he succumbed to his injuries the following day.

However, on checking various sources it appears that he may indeed have been a member of the crew? Further research continues!

Burial details:

P/O. Bernard William Drake. Lutterworth Churchyard (St. Mary). Plot B. Row 1. Grave 2. Son of Percy and Fanny Louisa Drake (née Dawes), of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England. Grave inscription reads: “His Was The Greater Gift; Watch, Lest It Be In Vain”.

Sgt. Dennis William Gilbert. Kirby Muxloe Cemetery. Row 62. Grave 2077. Of Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire, England - no further details, are you able to assist?

Fl/Sgt. Terence George Truskett. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 15306. Son of John William and Dora Anne Truskett, of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. Grave inscription reads: “His Duty Fearlessly And Nobly Done. Ever Remembered”.

Fl/Sgt. William Henry Ford. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 15303. Son of William Henry and Clara Ford and husband of Florence Elizabeth Ford, of Droylsden, Lancashire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Ian Bailey Yorkston. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 15304. Son of John and Annie Estill Yorkston, of Mosman, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: “A Fine Christian Gentleman "With His Lord”.

Sgt. James Thompson. Sunderland Cemetery (Mere Knolls). Ward 1.A. Grave 1380. Son of James and Mary Thompson, of Fulwell, Sunderland, England. Grave inscription reads: “The Dearly Beloved Son Of James And Mary Thompson. Peace Perfect Peace”.

W/O. Donald Campbell McLellan. Cambridge City Cemetery. Grave 15305. Son of Hubert and Lilian May McLellan and husband of Lilian McLellan, of Waratah, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription reads: “Earth Is Poorer, Heaven Is Richer”.

Sgt. William Gordon Ratcliffe. Anderton Roman Catholic Churchyard (St. Joseph). Plot C. Row 3. Grave 15. Son of Robert and Helen Ratcliffe, of Rivington, Chorley, Lancashire, England. Grave inscription reads: “Thy Will Be Done”.

Researched for Andrew Ratcliffe - relative of Sgt. William Gordon Ratcliffe and dedicated to the relatives of this crew - with thanks to sources as shown below.

KTY - 10.10.2017

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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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