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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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431 Squadron Crest
431 Squadron Lancaster X KB813 SE-S P/O. Gordon Paul Wrigley

Operation: Training

Date: 25th October 1944 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 431 Squadron (motto: Hatiten Ronteriios - 'Warriors of the air') 6 Group

Type: Lancaster X

Serial: KB813

Code: SE-S

Base: RAF Wombleton

Location: Tingrith, Bedfordshire

Pilot: P/O. Gordon Paul Wrigley J/88632 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Frederick Arthur Smith 1621687 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: Fl/Sgt Robert Kane Gillis J/92584 RCAF Age 22. Killed (note)

Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt James Elliott Schwerdfager J/92368 RCAF Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harvey Roland Irwin R/206042 RCAF Age 20. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt Aleck Malaidack R/252096 RCAF Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harold Robert Jospeh Yerdon R/207939 RCAF Age 19. Killed


On 25th October 1944 Lancaster X KB 813 SE-S piloted by P/O Wrigley RCAF took off from Wombleton on a cross country training exercise. It crashed 11 miles SSW of Bedford near Tingrith. There were no survivors.

Note: Robert Kane Gillis - It is believed that the CWGC have inscribed his headstone incorrectly as “R.R Gillis” although of course his name may have been recorded incorrectly.

Burial details:

P/O. Gordon Paul Wrigley. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 55.G6. Son of Robert J. and Alma I. Wrigley of Hawkestone, Ontario, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “In Heavenly Love Abiding”.

Sgt. Frederick Arthur Smith. Lincoln Cemetery (Newport). Sec. G. Grave 176. Son of Frederick George and Amy Smith of Lincoln, England. Grave inscription reads: “Father, In Thy Gracious Keeping, Leave We Now, Our Loved One Sleeping”.

Fl/Sgt Robert Kane Gillis. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 55.G8. Son of Robert and Eleanor Kane Gillis of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Grave inscription reads: “You Gave Your All, My Son, Though Young In Years,The Blood And Sweat, The Tears, My Share”.

Fl/Sgt James Elliott Schwerdfager. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 55.G10. Son of Charles H and Nellie Schwerdfager of 344, Gilmour Street, Ottawa, Canada. He is also remembered on the family plot in Ottawa. Fl/Sgt. Schwerdfager RCAF was born on the 21st May 1924. He had one sister, Marjorie and four brothers, Gerald, Harold, Bruce and Charles (Assistant manager of EFTS No 13 School,St.Eugene). He was educated at Lisgar Collegiate and Technical High School. Hobbies were photography and basketball.

After completing studies, he joined the RCAF aged seventeen and a half in 1941. After basic training at Toronto and St.Eugene, he graduated and gained his wings as air bomber at Portage Le Prairie in October 1943. After being sent overseas in October 1943, attached to 431 Squadron after stops at 82 OTU and 1666 HCU. Grave inscription reads: “Even As In Adam, All Are Dying Thus Also In Christ, Shall All Be Vilified”.

Sgt. Harvey Roland Irwin. (shown left) Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 55.G7. Son of Roland Herman and Lillie Mary (née Rutter) Irwin of 79, Collier Street, Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

Sgt. Irwin is remembered on the Veterans Affairs of Canada, under Eastview Secondary School in a special tribute written by his great nephew - Jordan Mosley. Grave inscription reads: “Be Strong And Of Good Courage. Be Not Afraid,The Lord Thy God Is With Thee”.

Fl/Sgt Aleck Malaidack. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 55.G9. Son of Andrew and Anna Malaidack of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sgt. Harold Robert Jospeh Yerdon. (wedding shown above) Accrington Cemetery. Second Plot K. Grave 326. Son of Joseph and Pearl Yerdon and husband of Mildred (née Cotter) Yerdon of Accrington, England. Harold Robert Joseph Yerdon RCAF was born on the 30th April 1925 and was the foster son of Joseph( USA) and Pearl (née Fulford) Yerdon of 64 Pearl St.E. Brockville, Ontario. His foster parents changed his name from Robert Harold to Harold Robert Joseph. His peacetime job is listed as a Metal Founder. On 7th October 1944, just eighteen day’s before Harold was to lose his life, he married Mildred Cotter, a clerk at the Admiralty Stores, who was eighteen. Mildred lived at 141 Haywood Road, Accrington, Lancashire and the witnesses were Phyllis Woods, her cousin and Fl/Sgt. James Elliot Schwerdfager, the Bomb Aimer in the crew. Grave inscription reads: “Father In Thy Gracious Keeping Leave We Now Our Loved One Sleeping”.

Researched by Linda Ibrom for Aircrew Remembered - June 2017. Page dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Jo and Alan Thomas for photo's of Sergeant Yerdon, Amanda Lambert for info and photos of Fl/Sgt. Schwerdfager, Jordan Mosley for info on Sgt. Harvey Irwin. Page originally placed with Matt Lacroix running the great ‘Bomber crew website’ - now updated with further information and operation details. With thanks to Military Historian and Charlie for grave photographs. Also to Robert Dobbie for taking the photograph of the grave of Sgt. Yeardon - July 2017.

LI - 14.06.2017

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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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