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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
27.08.1957 No. 242 OCU Dakota C4 KN649 Fl/Lt. Graham A.J. Wood DFC. AFC.

Operation: Assessment flight

Date: 27th August 1957 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 242 OCU (Operational Conversion Unit)

Type: Dakota C4

Serial: KN649

Base: RAF Dishforth

Location: South of Minskip

Pilot: Fl/Lt Grahame Arthur John Wood DFC. AFC. 150096 RAF Age 34. Killed (rated Exceptional)

Pilot 2: Ass. George Albert Marshall Ratcliffe 1214071 RAF Age 35. Killed (rated Above Average)

Nav: Fl/Lt. Norman Franklyn Green 199018 RAF Age 34. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

The pilot, Fl/Lt. Grahame Wood an extremely experienced and skilled pilot having served during the war was being Assessed by another, also very experienced pilot, George Ratcliffe.

Witnesses speak of seeing the Dakota south of the airfield with smoke and orange flame emerging from the starboard side of the aircraft, they then witnessed the engine break away from the wing.

The crew had received clearance for an emergency landing but the aircraft struck the ground in a nose down attitude and exploded on impact killing the two pilots. The navigator had baled out of the aircraft as control was lost but it was to low for the parachute to deploy fully and he was also killed.


The full story of Fl/Lt. Grahame Wood as told by Matt Wood (his son) to Aircrew Remembered - April 2016:

4 Oct 1941 Enlisted into the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) as 1397202 Aircraftman 2nd Class, Aircrafthand pilot at Euston. Nine days later, on 13th October, he reported to No.1 Aircrew Reception Centre, then located at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

8 Nov1941 - Posted to No.4 Initial Training Wing at either Bexhill or Paignton.

16 Jan 1942 - Promoted to LAC and placed under training as pilot (Group 2).

17 Mar 1942 - Having successfully completed and passed ITW, sent to No. 50 Group Pool (Flying Training Command) to await the commencement of his training as a pilot in Canada and the USA under the Arnold Scheme.

9 May 1942 - Following a long ship and rail journey he arrived at No. 31 RAF Personnel Depot, a holding centre in Moncton, Canada where all RAF cadets were processed and where he waited for three weeks to find out when and where he would commence his flying training.

1 Jun 1942 - RAF Reception Centre at Turner Field, Georgia. To help reduce the wastage rate in the Arnold Scheme, a four-week acclimatisation and familiarisation period at an American base had been introduced. This gave the British cadets time to become familiar with life in America before commencing their primary training phase. It is worth noting that the British did not take to kindly to the discipline of the American training regime.

5 Jul 1942 - Lakeland, Florida for 60 hours of Primary Flying Training on Stearman PT-17 biplane, and many long hours of ground school.

6 Sep 1942 - Having completed primary training, he moved to Gunter Field, Alabama to commence Basic Flying Training on Vultee BT-13 Valiant low wing monoplanes. This course included his first solo flight, night flying for the first time, formation flying, instrument flying, and cross-country and radio navigation. It was here he found out that he was destined to fly multi-engine bombers for the RAF.

11 Nov 1942 - Back to Turner Field for Advanced Flying Training on twin-engined Curtiss-Wright AT-9 Fledgling and Cessna AT-17 trainers. This included six-aircraft formation flying and cross-country navigation with timing.

22 Jan 1943 - Most cadets graduated as Sergeant pilots, but he was discharged on appointment to a commission for the Emergency as a Pilot Officer on probation in the RAFVR, General Duties Branch. It was here that he graduated from flying training and was awarded his wings at a large parade on his twentieth birthday on 23 January.

3 Feb 1943 - On return to the UK, he reported next to the No.7 Personnel Reception Centre in Harrogate

16 Mar 1943 - Posted to No. 6 AFU at Little Rissington to carry out more flying training on the Airspeed Oxford

23 Jul 1943 - Promoted to Flying Officer (war substantive) on probation.

17 Aug 1943 - Posted to No. 30 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hixon, near Stafford for bomber training on the Vickers Wellingtons.

7 Nov 1943 - Joined No.1667 Heavy Conversion Unit at Faldingworth, flying the Avro Lancaster.

2 Feb 1944 - Arrived at No.576 Squadron at Elsham Wolds, his first operational Squadron.

15/16 Feb 1944 - UL-T2 - LL796 - Berlin - ‘second dickie’ to Fl/Sgt. H.M. Thomas

19/20 Feb 1944 - UL-N2 - DV365 - Leipzig

20/21 Feb 1944 - UL-N2 - DV365 - Stuttgart

15/16 Mar 1944 - UL-Q2 - ND362 - Stuttgart

18/19 Mar 1944 - UL-Q2 - ND362 - Frankfurt

22/23 Mar 1944 - UL-Q2 - ND362 - Frankfurt

24/25 Mar 1944 - UL-Z2 - DV365 - Berlin

26/27 Mar 1944 - UL-Z2 - DV365 - Essen

Forced to return early as rear gunner had passed out

30/31 Mar 1944 - UL-I2 - JB460 - Nuremburg

Returned early due to unserviceable rear turret and overheating engine

30 March 1944 - Promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant

11/12 Apr 1944 - UL-R2 - ME735 - Aachen

18/19 Apr 1944 - UL-R2 - ME735 - Rouen

Attacked and damaged by an enemy intruder in the circuit to land at Elsham Wolds

20/21 Apr 1944 - UL-R2 - ME735 - Cologne

22/23 Apr 1944 - UL-R2 - ME735 - Dusseldorf

24/25 Apr 1944 - UL-R2 - ME735 - Karlsruhe

26/27 Apr 1944 - UL-R2 - ME735 - Essen

27/28 Apr 1944 - UL-R2 - ME735 - Friedrichshafen

01/02 May 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Lyon

03/04 May 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Mailly le Camp

19/20 May 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Orleans

21/22 May 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Duisberg

22/23 May 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Dortmund

24/25 May 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Aachen

27/28 May 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Aachen

02/03 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Calais

05/06 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Crisbecq

06/07 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Vire

09/10 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Flers

12/13 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Gelsenkirchen

14/15 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Le Havre

16/17 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Sterkrade

17/18 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - ND903 - Aulnoye

29 Jun 1944 - UL-R2 - JB555 - Domleger

14 Jul 1944 - Posted to No.18 (Polish) OTU at RAF Finningley as an instructor on Wellington aircraft. It was here that he appears to have wanted to return to operational flying, and transferred to Transport Command.

06 Sep - 04 Oct 44 - Course at No.3 Flying Instructors School (Advanced) at RAF Castle Combe flying Oxford MkIIs

19 Sep 1944 - Awarded the DFC for service with 576 Squadron (gazetted on 19 September 1944) whilst a Flying Officer; a citation for the award has not been found to date.

16 Oct 1944 - No. 22 Heavy Glider Conversion Unit (HGCU) at RAF Keevil in Wiltshire flying Albemarle glider tugs

23 Jan 1945 - Flight Lieutenant (war substantive)

04 - 24 Apr 1945 - No.1 Officers Advanced Training School (OATS) at RAF Digby. The OATS role was to provide training to officers destined for flight and squadron commander posts.

29 Nov 1945 - Seconded to BOAC

26 Oct 1946 - To No.100 Personnel Dispersal Centre, RAF Uxbridge, for release

01 Jan 1947 - Last day of service

1947-1950 - Uncertain but certainly flew in Nigeria, for West African Airways Corporation (WAAC) from its foundation in October 1947 flying Bristol 170 Freighters, and as pilot to Sultan Siddiq Abubaker III of Socoto. WAAC became very popular in the early 1950s for offering at least four Bristol Freighter-operated second-class services at discounted airfares, cheaper than any other mean of transportation. Two of them were the “Coastal Flyer”, that covered the 250 miles (400 km) between Accra and Lagos in 1¾ hours for £4.00 at 1951 prices, and the “Hausa Flyer” that covered the Accra-Lagos-Ibadan-Jos-Kano route, for which the Lagos-Kano leg took 4 hours, against an almost two-day journey by train, and was £3 (1951 prices) cheaper than the train.

06 Dec 1950 - Relinquished his commission and on 07 Dec was recalled for a Short Service Commission of 8 years Active and 4 years reserve service at RAF Biggin Hill as a Flight Lieutenant in the GD (P) branch of the RAF (seniority 27 Jun 1950)

27 Dec 1950 - No.1 Flying Training School (FTS) at RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire, flying Harvard T.2Bs providing refresher courses to re-entrant pilots.

20 Feb 1951 - Central Flying School (CFS), RAF Little Rissington. The primary role of CFS was to provide advanced flying training for qualified military pilots. It is not known whether he was there as an instructor or a student.

13 Jun 1951 - No.8 Flying Training School, RAF Dalcross, Lincolnshire, flying Airspeed Oxfords

05 May 1952 - No.8 Advanced Flying Training School, RAF Dalcross, Lincolnshire, flying Airspeed Oxfords as supernumerary.

26 May 1952 - RAF Al Hamra, Egypt as supernumerary, and the following day, 27 May, he found himself at the HQ Transit Wing, Middle East. He then served as a pilot at RAF Fayid, but it is not known at which unit - probably No.216 Sqn flying Valettas and Hastings as part of the Middle East Transport Wing.

01 Jan 1954 - Awarded the AFC in a parade at Fayid (Gazetted on 1 January 1954); but no citation for this award has been found.

23 Oct 1954 - No.5 Personnel Despatch Centre at Blackpool as supernumerary

29 Dec 1954 - Transport Command Examining Unit, RAF Dishforth, Yorkshire

20 May 1957 - Transferred to a Direct Commission, Scheme B

27 Aug 1957 - The Fatal Accident

On the 27 August 1957, Master Pilot George Ratcliffe, a very experienced pilot with over 5,400 hours, was being given a routine assessment by Fl/Lt Graham Wood, a highly examiner with almost 4,700 hours; both pilots were part of the Transport Command Evaluation Unit and attached to No.242 Operational Conversion Unit. Also on board was a fully qualified navigator, Fl/Lt Norman Green. The aircraft was a Dakota Mk4, KN649, belonging to No.18 Group Communications Flight.

The aircraft took off from Dishforth airfield and the flight went without incident until around ninety minutes into the flight. Whilst flying to the south of the airfield between 2,500 and 3,000ft, smoke and orange flame were seem coming from the starboard side in the wheel bay just behind the starboard engine. Air traffic control informed the pilots and cleared them for an emergency landing at Dishforth.

Before they could do so, an explosion occurred in the wheel bay and the engine was seen to fall away from the aircraft.

Control having been lost and with a crash seemingly inevitable, the navigator attempted to bail out of the aircraft, but by the time he got clear there was no time for his parachute to open and he was killed when he struck the ground in the Ox Close area to the west of Minskip village just before lunch-time.

About one mile further on, the out-of-control aircraft then struck a tree to the south of Minskip in a nose down attitude in what was the beginning of a spin. At 16:22 the aircraft crashed into the field beyond, exploded and scattered wreckage over a wide area. The two pilots still on board would have stood no chance of survival and were killed instantly.

From the facts available the Accident Review Board found the primary cause of the accident was loss of control as a result of a small fire followed by an explosion in the rear of the starboard wheel bay. This was followed by the loss of the starboard engine due to the attachment brackets joining the nacelle burning through. The explosion occurred in the area containing pressurised hydraulic fluid and a vent return pipe from the carburettor to the fuel tank.

The whole incident was witnessed by many service-families of those stationed at Dishforth; it was common for Dishforth - based RAF airmen to have families to live in the Boroughbridge area away from the base. A large number of people then made for the crash site and arriving fire engines struggled to get to the crash site as the roads were clogged. The pilot’s wife was one of the people to see the aircraft crash from her home in Kirby Hill.

A local, Mr Harold Peacock, gave the following account:

"The Dakota crashed on 27th August 1957 at 5 p.m... I know the time as I had just finished work at our yard in Minskip and I was stood on the side of the road talking to a friend called Bill Rawling.

The Dakota was on a training flight from Dishforth and caught fire whilst over Roecliffe. I said to my friend “look up, that plane is on fire” and just then someone jumped out and landed in the Parish of Roecliffe.

The Dakota crashed inside the Parish of Minskip in a field belonging to what was Mr. Hartley’s Farm, named Lilac Farm. The field when leaving Minskip going towards Knaresborough would be the second on the left. Some of the crew’s wives were living locally and sadly witnessed what happened."

Medals: Distinguished Flying Cross - Air Force Cross - 1939/1945 Star - Aircrew Europe Star (France and Germany clasp) - Defence Medal - War Medal 1939-1945.

Webmaster note: Of the list sent by Matt Wood of the aircraft his father flew (frightening statistics):

LL796 Lost on 12th July 1944 whilst with 550 Squadron after collision with 103 Squadron Lancaster ME674.
DV365 Lost on 21st May 1944 576 Squadron - 4 killed, 3 PoW.
ND362 Lost on 27th May 1944 whilst with 103 Squadron - 7 killed.
JB460 Lost on 24th June 1944 whilst with 576 Squadron - 7 killed
ME735 Lost on 21st February 1945 whilst with 576 Squadron - 7 killed
ND903 Lost on 25th July 1944 whilst with 103 Squadron - 7 killed

Burial details:

Fl/Lt Grahame Arthur John Wood DFC. AFC. Dishforth Cemetery, Yorkshire, England.

George Albert Marshall Ratcliffe. Leeds General Cemetery, Yorkshire, England.

Fl/Lt. Norman Franklyn Green. Highcliffe on Sea Churchyard, Hampshire, England.

We are in contact with the son of the pilot Fl/Lt. Grahame Wood, Mr. Matt Wood who sent comprehensive information - April 2016. Photos of graves supplied by Julia and Keld. Researched and dedicated to the relatives of the crew with thanks to sources as quoted below:

Acknowledgements: 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', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', 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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