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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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61 Squadron crest
18.02.1943 No. 61 Squadron Lancaster I W4270 Sgt. Thomas H. Warne

Operation: Training

Date: 18th February 1943 (Thursday)

Unit: No: 61 Squadron

Type: Lancaster I

Serial: W4270

Code: QR-T (as advised by Ian Hinks - January 2017)

Base: RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire.

Location: 1 mile from Staunton in the Vale, Lincolnshire

Pilot: Sgt. Thomas Herbert Warne R/102085 RCAF Age 23. Killed (Later WO.II)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. George Arthur Hitchon 576765 RAF Age 19. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Robert John Preece 1174086 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Raine Newton 1119116 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. James Milton Whitehead 975551 RAFVR Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Edward John Loverock 950159 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Coaker 1276786 RAFVR Age 22. Killed


Whilst on a Cross country training flight W4270 crashed at 22:.56 hrs. following an engine fire about 2 miles north west of RAF Bottesford, Leicestershire. The aircraft came down a mile from the village of Staunton in the Vale, Lincolnshire.

This tragic event has been well researched over a period of 11 years + and a Memorial to the crew set up in the burial ground of St Mary’s Church, Staunton-in-the-Vale. Living relatives of all 7 men have been contacted, and the research team are indebted to them for supplying further information, photographs, letters etc.

Crew of Lancaster W4270 (courtesy DI Ablewhite)

Left: Sgt. George Arthur Hitchon (courtesy Hitchon/Weaver family) Right: Sgt. James Milton Whitehead (courtesy Mrs Sylvia Jamison - sister)

Staunton Lancaster Crash – background to the research. Prepared and written for the Aircrew Remembered by Di Ablewhite:

"In November 1999, Mr Sid Baggaley, a retired farmer of Staunton, asked a family friend (Di Ablewhite) if she could do an investigation into a plane crash he witnessed in WW11, he knew she was interested in history and archaeology, but she had not undertaken any research of this nature before. For obvious reasons this tragic event left a huge mark on him, and since that night he had wanted to know more about what had happened. He had heard several rumours including the fact that one of the crew was a Canadian, but knew nothing of where they flew from or any other detail being of course wartime.

Working on the information he gave her and with a piece of the wreckage he later recovered from the crash site, she and eventually along with an ex RAF/BBMF friend she met through the Bomber Command Museum of Canada’s message board (Ian Hinks) and Sid’s Granddaughter (Annie Hogg) set about finding the details of the accident. Sid really wanted to know who these men were and to hopefully see what they looked like, but he had very little information for the team to work with. All he could remember was it was a cold winters night, he thought it was a Wellington Bomber and he knew 6/7 men had lost their lives. An initial reading of the Bomber Command Losses books, searching for a Wellington crashing in that area came up with nothing.

Luckily the piece of wreckage he saved was a structural piece and once cleaned up by Newark Air Museum had RAF Section/Reference marks on it, which identified the aircraft as a Mark 1 Lancaster. By another full search through W.R. Chorleys’ Bomber Command Losses books a list was made of all local Lancaster crashes.

Memorial to the crew (courtesy DI Ablewhite)

Eventually the search narrowed down to it being just one aircraft.

On the 18th of February 1943, a crew from 61 squadron, RAF Syerston had been on a long cross country training flight when, at 22.56 hours, after 6 hrs 45 mins of flying, a con rod broke on the inner starboard engine, causing a fire, which , despite their best efforts, they failed to put out. A combination of this and the fact the landing gear was in a lowered position, caused them to lose control and the aircraft crashed.

All 7 crew members were killed and at 23 years of age the pilot, a Canadian from Saskatchewan, WO11 Thomas Herbert Warne (then a Sgt.) was the oldest and most experienced member of the crew despite only having 15 hours of night flying experience on this type of aircraft.

All the men except the Canadian Pilot were buried in their respective home towns, while he is buried in Newark War Cemetery.

Sid lived long enough to know the names of the crew and where they were from, but sadly didn’t get to see any of the photos, it was 8 years later that any of those surfaced. Eventually due to endless appeals for information in the local press and on the internet, several family members came forward with amazing photos and other documents relating to the crew, and because of this the personal side of this tragedy became more apparent, and the research team were more motivated to complete as much as they could to preserve these men in history, 11 years on and finally all of the crew’s relatives have been traced and made aware of the Memorial and research into the last few hours of their loved ones lives. Over 55,000 died in Bomber Command alone in WW11, not all can possibly be remembered in such detail, but it is so important as many as can be are paid tribute to.

A Memorial to this crew was built in the new burial ground of St Mary’s Church, Staunton-in-the-Vale for the millennium exhibition. The stone was kindly donated by Mr and Mrs E. Staunton, a Lancaster propeller blade from a crash site in Crowland, was donated by LARG (Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group) organised for us by Ian Blackmore, the actual memorial plinth was built by Lee Brigham and memorial plaques again bought with donations. Sadly the original plaques deteriorated in the first 10 years, so Annie Hogg set about renovating the Memorial and replacing the brass plaques with slate ones in 2010.

The Memorial is now included in the Nottinghamshire Aviation Trail and it is hoped that more and more people will be visiting the site and remembering these 7 promising young men, who tragically lost their lives in training, without the chance to reach their full potential in life, paying the ultimate sacrifice. We will remember them." Part of a short film made on the Rededication of this Memorial in 2010.

Funeral of Sgt. Warne at Newark (courtesy of the Warne/Boe family)

Sgt. Thomas Herbert Warne (courtesy of the Warne/Boe family) Grave photo (courtesy Gary Watson)

Burial details:

Sgt. Thomas Herbert Warne. Newark-Upon-Trent Cemetery. Sec. P. Grave 307. Son of Samuel Kernick Warne and of Isabelle Warne (nee Munro), of Kennedy, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Sgt. George Arthur Hitchon. Padiham Churchyard. Row 3. Div. 7. Grave 5. Son of Edwin and Lilian Mary Hitchon, of Padiham, Burnley, Lancashire, England.

Sgt. Robert John Preece. Wembdon Churchyard. Sec. C. Row A. Grave 14. Son of Herbert and Daisy Preece, of Bridgwater, Somerset, England.

Sgt. Thomas Raine Newton. Brandon and Byshottles Cemetery. Grave 46. Son of Herbert and Gertrude Newton, of Durham, England.

Sgt. James Milton Whitehead. Cambusnethan Cemetery. Sec. A. Grave 824. Son of Willie and Janet Reid Greenshields Whitehead, of Riddrie, Glasgow, Scotland.

Sgt. Edward John Loverock. Matlock Cemetery. Plot 1. Row 12. Grave 15. Son of Frederick and Mabel Victoria Jubilee Loverock, of Matlock, Derbyshire, England.

Sgt. John Coaker. Leusdon Churchyard. Son of George and Edith Amy Coaker, of Poundsgate, Newton Abbot, Devon, England.

Researched by Di Ablewhite, Ian Hinks, Annie Hogg and many others, but also with a special mention to the relatives of this crew. Many people have assisted in this research and the people who have made this memorial possible would like to thank everyone who has assisted over the previous eleven years or so.

KTY 09.11.2016 - Map and crew image added 17.01.2017 Code for aircraft updated.

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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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