31.01.1944 No. 81 OTU Whitley V LA765 Sgt. Ian Leslie Wilkinson
Date: 31 January 1944 (Monday)
Unit: No. 81 Operational Training Unit
Type: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V
Code: Not known
Base: RAF Tilstock, Shropshire (known as RAF Whitchurch Heath prior to 1 June 1943)
Location: Dilhorne, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Pilot: Sgt. Ian Leslie Wilkinson 1238788 RAFVR - Killed (1)
Nav: F/O. John Frederick Cusworth 148746 RAFVR Age 31 - Killed (2)
Air/Bmr: Sgt. George Victor Bourne 1395380 RAFVR Age 21 - Killed (3)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Andrew Harkes Robertson 1133189 RAFVR Age 30 - Killed (4)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt Thomas H Weightman -Injured (5)
We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via the HELPDESK
REASON FOR LOSS
On January 31st 1944 an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley from Whitchurch Heath in Shropshire, on a training exercise, crashed near Hardiwick between Dilhorne and Caverswall. Of the five-man crew only the rear gunner Tom Weightman survived.
Following investigation it was concluded that the pilot had descended to determine his position and inadvertently flown into rising ground. It was reported that the aircraft crashed about 8.30 am and caught fire. After escaping from the aircraft F/Sgt. Thomas Weightman walked to a nearby mine to raise the alarm.
Dilhorne and Caverswall both appear to have been accident black spots for aircraft during the 1940s and 1950s. One possible explanation is the higher ground that surrounds the area. Between 1942 and 1954 there were 5 air crashes in the locality.
Scale: 1" = 10km
On 5 July 2017 Aircrew Remembered was contacted by Canadian aircraft photographer and WW2 air force enthusiast, Jim Morgan, who provided information regarding the crash of Halifax NA337 of No. 644 Squadron which was shot down over Lake Mjosa in Norway on 24 April 1945. The Rear Air Gunner and sole survivor of the crash of this aircraft was Flight Sergeant Thomas H. Weightman. Jim Morgan told us that he understood that Tom Weightman had been involved in an earlier crash and thought that this may have been Whitley LA765.
After further investigation by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock and following consultation with Karl Kjarsgaard, Project Manager of Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada), who had in the past interviewed the late Tom Weightman about his wartime service, it was concluded that this was the same person.
Flight Sergeant Tom Weightman therefore had had the great fortune to escape with his life from two serious air crashes whilst all the other crew members of both aircraft had perished.
To read the incredible story of Tom Weightman's second dramatic escape click here
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) Sgt. Ian Leslie Wilkinson was born in 1919 at Carlisle, Cumberland the son of J.H. Wilkinson an Insurance Official later of 17 Trent Boulevard, West Bridgford, Nottingham.
Entered Nottingham High School 19 September 1939 age 10. A member of the First XI Cricket, First XV Rugby and Prefect in 1938. He also won the Mayor's Prize in 1938 (for Consistent Industry in School work) and left to study Architecture at either University College Nottingham or Liverpool University. He is commemorated on the Nottingham High School War Memorial. (Details courtesy of Nottingham High School Archives)
Photograph: courtesy Nottingham High School Archives.
(2) F/O. John Frederick Cusworth was born in 1912 at North Bierley, West Riding of Yorkshire the son of Harry and Clara Cusworth nee Dearnley and later of Pudsey, Leeds. He married Grace Edna Bowen at Strood, Kent in 1940. LAC 1397146 to be Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) from 27 March 1943 (London Gazette 31 August 1943). Promoted to Flying Officer (war subs) from 27 September 1943 (London Gazette 31 December 1943)
(3) Sgt. George Victor Bourne was born in 1923 at West Ham, London the son of Albert Ernest and Maud Penelope Bourne, of East Ham, Essex.
(4) Sgt. Andrew Harkes Robertson was born in 1913 at Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of George and Lizzie Robertson. He is commemorated on the Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh, Scotland.
(5) Fl/Sgt Thomas H. Weightman was born at Alnwick, Northumberland in 1924 the only child of Albert E. Weightman and Ellen Weightman nee Tate. Named after his grandfather and his uncle, both mine workers, Tom Weightman began work as an Apprentice Blacksmith but in 1942 aged 18 enlisted in the RAF.
He died on 3 September 2007 and was buried at St James Parish Church at South Charlton near Alnwick, Northumberland. Service personnel from RAF Boulmer lined the route of the cortège and his coffin was draped with the RAF Ensign, an RAF Association Standard Bearer accompanying his coffin into church.
BURIAL DETAILS AND EPITAPHS
Sgt. Ian Leslie Wilkinson was buried at Nottingham Southern Cemetery - Sec. L.23 Grave 22
F/O. John Frederick Cusworth was cremated at Leeds (Lawnswood) Crematorium - Memorial ref: Screen Wall Panel 1
Sgt. George Victor Bourne was buried at Whitchurch Cemetery - Grave 780
His epitaph reads
Deep in our hearts
Your memory is kept
We loved too well
To ever forget
Sgt. Andrew Harkes Robertson was buried at Inveresk Parish Churchyard, East Lothian, Scotland - Sec. C. North Extn. Grave 80.
On behalf of Aircrew Remembered, Roy Wilcock would like to thank Jim Morgan for bringing this significant information to our attention.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for Nottingham High School and all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - April 2016
With thanks to the sources quoted below.