22/23.06.1944 76 Squadron Halifax III LW620 MP:G Sqn Ldr. West
Date: 22rd/23rd June 1944 (Thursday/Friday)
Unit No: 76 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire.
Location: Hotham, 7½ miles due east of Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire.
Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Robert George West J9142 RCAF Age 25. KiA
Flt Eng: Plt Off. Alfred Thomas Clarke 175596 RAFVR Age 20. KiA
Nav: Flt Lt. Peter Scott Milliken J10425 RCAF Age 27. KiA
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. James Johnson 1556755 RAFVR Age 22. KiA
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Wilfred Jim Lowe 173593 RAFVR Age 24. KiA
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Plt Off. Leslie James Barnard 178232 RAFVR Age 21. KiA
Air Gnr (Rear): Flt Sgt. Thomas Glen 639111 RAF Age 22. KiA
REASON FOR LOSS
Halifax LW620 took off at 23:07 hours on the night of 22 June 1944. Its operation, along with 220 other aircraft in the sortie comprised of 111 Lancasters, 99 Halifaxes and 10 Mosquitos, was to bomb the railway yards at Laon and Rheims. Reportedly, the operation was a success in terms of the destruction of the yards, rolling stock and locomotives.
During the raids, which cost Bomber Command a total of eight aircraft and their crews.
The conclusions of the Court of Inquiry were:
The aircraft was returning from operations. From the Engineer's log it was ascertained that the Port Inner (PI) engine had been feathered. Prior to this the aircraft had been attacked by an enemy fighter and a Halifax aircraft obtaining hits on LW620. The aircraft arrived back at base on 3 engines, entered the circuit and called up base on R/T. Shortly after, the aircraft crashed near Hotham Village approximately seven and a half (7½ ) miles due east of Holme-on-Spalding Moor resulting in the deaths of all seven members of the crew.
From the examination of the wreckage it was found that the PI engine had distinct signs of oil shortage, its propellor being approximately 1½ miles from the engine and the main wreckage. The propellor was still attached to the reduction gear which also showed signs of seizure. The reduction gear casing had sheared. The position of the aircraft controls could not be obtained but both undercarriage up locks were in and the flaps were lowered approximately 25 degrees.
From the Flight Engineer' s log, it was ascertained that the Air Speed Indicator (ASI) was unserviceable, presumably due to the enemy action. These facts point to the pilot, on entering the circuit, and finding poor visibility at base and having a unserviceable ASI decided to restart the port inner engine to assist in the necessity of an overshoot.
The first indication of there being anything wrong with the aircraft was a witness seeing a "white light" fall from the aircraft. It was suggested that enemy action, on the port inner engine, caused a shortage of oil by the severing of an oil pipe line. This is borne out by the statement given by another witness that the hole in the cowling from the port inner engine was caused by an enemy bullet and that this bullet had also passed through some other material. From the Flight Engineer's log, it was also noted that the oil temperature of this engine began to rise indicating there was a shortage of oil. The engine had then been feathered.
If a leak had occurred the oil installation would drain out so that on restarting, of the engine, complete seizure of that engine and reduction gear would result, the reduction gear casing, shearing and allowing the propellor to become detached. The condition of the PI propellor blades showed that it had been rotating as the blades were very polished possibly caused by rotation through the ground. All these conditions point to the fact that the engine had been restarted.
There were four salient points:
(i) The aircraft on a left hand circuit.
(ii) The pilot was on the left hand side.
(iii) The aircraft controls, are on the left hand side.
(iv) The port inner engine is the one in question.
These had shown that there was a great possibility of the propeller striking the aircraft. This was borne out by the condition of the pilot's seat and the rudder. This was also borne out by the Medical Officer's statement that from the nature of the pilot's injuries they could have been sustained by a rotating propeller and if this was so the controls, situated on the port side would also be severed so that on this propeller striking the aircraft, the aircraft would immediately become out of control. This was borne out by the witness statement that a "white light" was seen to fall from the aircraft approximately thirty (30) seconds before the crash.
Additional forwarding remarks:
The findings of the Court of Inquiry were agreed upon except that it was impossible to differentiate between damage caused by a British .303 and German 7.92 mm bullet. The aircraft may have been hit by either enemy aircraft or friendly aircraft, more probably the latter as it was ascertained that the bullet that hit the cowling was probably from ahead.
Sqn Ldr. Robert George West. Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire. Section B, Row G, Grave 11. Inscription: 'IN DEATH AS IN LIFE REMEMBERED AND LOVED'. Born on the 2nd December 1918 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan . Son of Walter (deceased) and Florence Jane (née Clarry) West of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.
West Lake, Saskatchewan (Map No. 074F16) is named after Sqn Ldr. West
Plt Off. Alfred Thomas Clarke. Dover (Charlton) Cemetery Section 3. T. Grave 14. Inscription: ''TIS ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE LOST CAN TELL THE LOSS OF A SON WITHOUT FAREWELL'. Son of Henry and Evelene Matilda Clarke of Dover, Kent. England.
Flt Lt. Peter Scott Milliken. Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire. Section B, Row G, Grave 10. Inscription: 'GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS'. Born on the 1st December 1916 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan . Son of George Watson and Mary Belle (née Huffman) Milliken of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
Milliken Creek, Saskatchewan is name after Flt Lt. Milliken
Flt Sgt. James Johnson. Glasgow (St. Kentigern's) Roman Catholic Cemetery, Section 3, Grave 1861/2. Son of James and Mary Johnson of Glasgow, Scotland.
Plt Off. Wilfred Jim Lowe. Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire. Section B, Row G, Grave 9. Inscription: 'REMEMBERED ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS AND IN OUR HOME'. Son of Wilfred John and Ruth Lowe of Maidenhead, Berkshire, England.
Plt Off. Leslie James Barnard. Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire. Section B, Row G, Grave 8. Inscription: 'INTO THE MOSAIC OF VICTORY WE PLACE THIS PRECIOUS PIECE, OUR DEARLY BELOVED ONLY CHILD'. Son of Horace James and Ethel Barnard of Copnor, Hampshire, England.
Flt Sgt. Thomas Glen. Heston (St.Leonard) Churchyard, Middlesex. New Extension, Grave104B. Born during 1922 in Kilfinane, County Limerick, Ireland. Husband to Eleanor Marguerite (née Rogers) Glen of Brentford, Middlesex, England.
Researched and compiled by Colin Bamford for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to relatives of the crew of Halifax LW620. Sqn Ldr. West and Flt Lt. Milliken photographs courtesy of and copied from Veterans Affairs Canada website (May 2010). Canadian commemorative features added (Oct 2019). Reviewed and updated with new information relating to the loss of the aircraft and Next-of-Kin details for Flt Soft. Glen. (May 2023).
Other sources listed below: