Date: 24 October 1942 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 207 R.A.F. Squadron
Type: Lancaster I
Base: Langar, Nottinghamshire
Location: Crashed in the sea off of Cabourg, France.
Pilot: F/Sgt. Lawrence Ritelli Wright, 1378917 R.A.F.V.R. Age 21 Killed
Flt/Eng: Sgt. William Bell, 953518 RAFVR Age 24 Killed
Nav: F/Sgt. Sydney Douglas Gowshall Roberts, 924483 RAFVR. Age 24 Killed
Bmr: Sgt. Lionel Horace Bell 1164373 R.A.F.V.R. Age 22 Killed
W/Op: Sgt. Albert John Victor Hunt 405489 RNZAF Age 24 Killed
WO/Gnr: F/Sgt. John Francis McCallum, R/75315 RCAF. Age 21 Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. William Clifford Colwill, R/90227 RCAF. Age 23 Killed
Air/Gnr: F/Sgt. Dennis Kilvington Potter, 628018 RAVR. Age 21 Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Walter George Woodhouse, 1436485 RAFVR. Age 20 Killed.
REASON FOR LOSS
Lancasters from 207 Squadron were detailed to be part of an 88-bomber
daylight raid on the city of Milan.
For this operation, the normal procedure where the attacking force would form up into the bomber stream at some point over the UK was not to be followed. Each crew was to make their way separately under cloud cover across the English Channel and by a direct route over France to Lake Annecy where they would rendezvous before crossing the Alps to their target 150 miles further east.
Captain Wright and crew took off from
RAF Langar at 12:41 p.m. and according to the squadron records,
nothing further was heard from the aircraft.
The MRES report of the investigation into the crash carried out in October 1945 states that the Lancaster which was on its first operation with a total of eight hours flying time, crashed on the sea front at Cabourg and indeed one crew member, Sgt. Lionel Bell is buried in the cemetery there his body being washed ashore on 30 December 1942.
Chorley (1994) however, in his Volume 3 RAF Bomber Command Losses 1942, states that the crash occurred “in the sea off Blainville sur Mer, France, and some 30km SE of Jersey in the Channel Islands” (p. 249). To this writer, it would seem rather unlikely given that all the bodies that were eventually washed up were found in the waters of the bay located between Le Harve to the east and the Contentin Peninsular to the west on the French coast, whereas, Blainville sur Mer lies some 75 miles to the west of Cabourg on the other side of the Contentin Peninsular.
The bodies of Sergeants
Colwill and Woodhouse were washed ashore at Valognes on the 16
November 1942 and originally buried in the Communal Cemetery,
Maupertus before being reinterred at Cherbourg.
Flight Sergeant Potter was found on the 17 November washed ashore at Ravenoville and was also buried at Maupertus before reinterrment at Cherbourg.
Sergeant William Bell was not found until 31 December washed ashore near Blonville sur Mer and he remains there buried in the Municipal Cemetery.
Sergeant McCallum is buried at Ouistreham on the French coast to the west of Cabourg and in all likelihood was washed ashore near there.
The remains of the other three crew members have never been found.
It will likely never be known why or where exactly the plane crashed.
F/Sgt. John Francis McCallum
was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on 2 February 1922. He was the
eldest of two sisters and a brother and worked for the Star
Phoenix newspaper until his enlistment on 22 November 1940.
Choosing to be trained as a pilot or an air gunner, John was posted to No. 2 Wireless School, Calgary, Alberta on 28 April 1941 graduating with his wireless operators badge on 14 September that year. His training was completed at No. 5 Bombing and Gunnery School at Dafoe, Saskatchewan on 13 October 1941. Posted to the UK he arrived at No.3 PRC Bournemouth on 14 November 1941 and was attached to No.14 Initial Training Wing, Hastings, and then for further training as a wireless operator, he attended No.1 Signal School at Cranwell North in Lincolnshire from 9 December 1941 to 17 February 1942. Posted to No.25 Operational Training Unit at RAF Finningley near Doncaster, South Yorkshire for training as a member of a night bomber crew.
Whilst at 25OTU, McCallum was called upon to participate in the first of the “1000 Bomber Raids” against Cologne on the night of 30/31 May 1942. After taking off and setting course for the target, the starboard engine of their Wellington failed after only 15 minutes of flying time and they were forced to land at RAF Binbrook on one engine with a full bomb load.
His next posting was to 83 Squadron on 7 July 1942 and then to No.1654 Conversion Unit. Posted to 207 Squadron 3 September.
John had successfully completed two trips prior to being lost on the trip to Milan. 13/14 September, Bremen and 16/17 September, Essen.
Sgt. William Clifford Colwill
was born in St.Thomas, Ontario on 23 September 1919. After graduating from
The St.Thomas Collegiate Institute in 1940, he was working
as a news carrier until he enlisted on 14 February 1941. Selected for
aircrew training he was posted to Elementary Flying School at
Goderich, Ontario. William however, struggled to complete his
training as a pilot and after reassignment to Composite Training
School, Trenton he was posted to No.1 Air Observers School
at London, Ontario. He was then remustered as an air gunner and
posted to the Bombing and Gunnery School at Fingal, Ontario where he
graduated with his air gunners badge on 27 April 1942.
Posted to the UK in June and sent to No.7 Air Gunners School, RAF Stormy Down, Wales, until joining 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit on 10 August 1942. Posted to 207 Squadron 3 September 1942.
William successfully completed two sorties, 16/17 September, Essen, and 17 September, Le Creusot. His third to Genoa returned early due to a fuel leak on their regular Lancaster R5908. He was lost on his next sortie to Milan.
McCallum Lake, Saskatchewan was named after F/Sgt. McCallum in 2003
Colwill Lake, Thunder Bay, Ontario was named after Sgt. Colwill in 1960
F/Sgt. Lawrence Ritelli Wright, Runnymede Memorial Panel 77. Son of Robert and Mary Wright. Husband of Margaret Joan Wright, of Boston Spa, Yorkshire.
Sgt. William Bell, Blonville sur Mer Churchyard. Son of Thomas and Mary Bell of Ardrossan, Ayrshire.
F/Sgt. Sydney Douglas Gowshall Roberts. Runnymede Memorial Panel 76. Son of Sydney Proctor Roberts and Alice Roberts, of Worthing, Sussex. Husband of Kathleen May Roberts, of Worthing.
Sgt. Lionel Horace Bell, Cabourg Communal Cemetery Mil. Plot Row 7 Grave 1. Son of Charles Harold and Daisy Victoria Bell, of Hythe, Kent.
Sgt. Albert John Victor Hunt, Runnymede Memorial Panel 117. Son of Albert Edward Hunt and of Rosa Elizabeth Hunt (Nee Coulson), of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand.
F/Sgt. John Francis McCallum, Ouistreham-Riva-Bella Communal Cemetery Calvados, France . Grave 57. Son of Andrew and Myrtle (nee Cooksley) McCallum, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Sgt. William Clifford Colwill, Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery Plot 6 Row D Grave 12. Son of William Mervin Colwill and Gladys M. (nee Lacey) Colwill, of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.
F/Sgt. Dennis Kilvington Potter, Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery Plot 6 Row D Grave 13. Son of Eric Kilvington Potter and Doris Potter, of Acomb, York.
Sgt. Walter George Woodhouse, Cherbourg Old Communal Cemetery Plot 6 Row D Grave 11. Son of Bertram and Florence Woodhouse, of Erdington, Birmingham. .
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2023 Last Modified: 24 February 2023, 18:47