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Wellington Bomber Crash, 12 August 1942icon for Recommended story

by Wirral Libraries

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Wirral Libraries
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C Crozier
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
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Contributed on: 
19 August 2005

After dark on 12th August 1942, one of my searchlight sites west of Scotter, reported by wireless telephone, that an aircraft was circling and was obviously in difficulty. I passed this information on immediately by field telephone to Battery HQ in the Militia Camp, Corringham Road, Gainsborough and then with my Troop Sergeant, Brian Kendall, set off in my Utility truck to investigate.

Nearing the site we could see flames of what turned out to be incendiary bombs burning in a field on the right of the Susworth/Scotter road. We went to them but as there was no sign of a plane we returned to the road when we heard a voice coming from the Forestry Commission Plantation on the left of the road.

Climbing over the gate and heading in the direction of the voice, my torch soon illuminated its source, an airman staggering towards us. I immediately sent him in the truck to the local doctor in Scotter. It transpired later that he was Flight Sergeant James Pike, the rear gunner, whose only damage was a lacerated hand.

L/Br Beckett from the searchlight site had joined Sgt Kendall and me now and going deeper into the plantation, which consisted of fir trees only some four feet in height, the torch soon lit up a crashed plane — a Wellington bomber that had broken in two. There were groans coming from under it so I crawled under the wing from which fuel was still leaking and my torch lit up another airman whose face was covered in blood. He was trapped and sadly there was nothing I could do for him. I rejoined my colleagues and we continued our search for the other members of the crew.

In the cockpit we found another airman alive so we lifted him out and did what we could in First Aid as he appeared to have a damaged skull and broken limbs. We had also found another body underneath this man but he appeared to be dead. By this time an RAF ambulance had arrived so the situation was handed over to the Polish Medical Officer and his team who were very angry when they opened the rear doors and found that there were no lights — they had fused. Shortly after, an RAF Squadron Leader arrived to whom I explained what we had found and done. As I showed him around the plane which had broken its back when it crashed, he remarked that we had been extremely lucky as there was a flare inside which was in a precarious position which could have gone off at any time causing an immediate conflagration with the fuel still leaking.

The appearance of the RAF was obviously due to prompt action taken by Battery HQ on receiving the news of the plane in distress.

The airman to whom we gave First Aid was Pilot Officer F. McCreavy who had suffered a fractured skull and legs. He was taken to Gainsborough Hospital but I understand that treatment of a serviceman was refused so he was taken to Lincoln but he died there a week later so the only survivor of the crew of five was Flt. Sgt. Pike.

The following day I had to recount what had happened to Lt. Colonel Howson. In October 1942, Sgt. Kendall, L/Br Beckett and myself received a Commendation for Gallantry from Sir Frederick Pile, General Officer Commanding in Chief A.A. Command in A.A. Command Order 664/42.

In the summer of 1993 whilst caravanning in Clumber Park near Worksop, I went to Scotter to try and locate the site of the crash. The local Garden Centre, after I had explained the purpose of my visit and had given my credentials, directed me to a retired post lady but she could not help. After visiting what I thought might be the site (in fact it was not) I returned to Clumber- this was on Monday 16th August. I returned home on Wednesday the 18th and on Friday 20th I had a telephone call from Kenneth Green, Scotter's local historian. The post lady had mentioned my visit to a friend who visited Kenneth. He had tracked down the telephone number of the Clumber Caravan Club site and through that had obtained my telephone number.

He told me that on April 1, twelve months earlier, he had been using the microfiche machine in Gainsborough Library when two elderly ladies entered the room and watched him. After he had finished they engaged in conversation. They said they were researching crashed aircraft as they were compiling a Roll of Honour for their Squadron for they were former WAAFs.

Kenneth said jokingly, "You are not researching Scotter, are you?"

He was startled when they replied "Yes," explaining that they were from 150 Squadron, had been based at Snaith and had been friends of the pilot Derrick Beaton who had been killed.

Following this meeting, Kenneth had done twelve months research on the crash but accurate information had been difficult to obtain although he had some positive results. I was the only person left who had been there on the night of August 12th 1942. (Sgt. Kendall had been commissioned and was killed in action ten days before the war ended and I had lost touch with L/Br Beckett when the 84th Searchlight Regiment was disbanded in 1943). Since our contact in 1993, Kenneth, and the two ex WAAFs, Pauline King and Mary Bockway, have met several times and have exchanged much information.

In 1995 I visited Kenneth at his home in Scotter and met people who could supply some information, including the lady who had a Perspex brooch made from the crashed plane and the farmer in whose fields had been the searchlights. He also took me to the site of the crash-Tuetoes Hills. Mary and Pauline have been able to photograph and supply pictures of the graves of some of the crew and I have supplied others.

Kenneth was able to obtain details about the death of Sgt. Pike in 1966 and following that information I visited his home but his daughter, Santa, had left and now lived in the USA. The present tenants directed me to a friend of Sgt. Pike's to whom Santa had turned when James Pike became ill and was with him when he died. I visited his grave in Hereford Cemetery.

Pilot Officer McCreavy's widow had remarried and had emigrated to Canada but was widowed again. Letters to her via the Ministry of Pensions remain unanswered. His cousin, who was only a baby when Frank McCreavy died, visited me and kindly gave me photographs and a press cutting from 1942 announcing his death.

Pauline gave me details of Derrick Beaton's grave in Liss Churchyard. He thought that he was a sergeant when he was killed but had been promoted to Pilot Officer and that is on his War Grave Commission headstone. I visited his grave and was appalled by its uncared for condition. I made strong representations to both the Church and the Commission.

The research on Flight Sergeant Nelson Raymond Rowe involved both New Zealand and England. It was a complicated research but eventually it was established by distant relatives that an ancestor, Nicholas Rowe, was Shakespeare's earliest publisher, was the Poet Laureate 1715 to 1718 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. When seats were being installed in the Abbey for the Coronation of George VI, medieval wall paintings were discovered behind his bas-relief, which has now been removed to the triforium so that the wall painting can be viewed. Another ancestor was knighted on the battlefield. Nelson Rowe's biography is in a book of biographies of former pupils of New Plymouth High School N.Z. who were war casualties. It was unable to give details of the crash but fortunately I have been able to supply them. The airman trapped under the plane was Flt. Sgt. Rowe whom I recognized from his photograph in the biography book.

These airmen were so unlucky for not only were the fir trees in the plantation so small and Lincolnshire so flat but there were two hillocks, one ten feet high and the other twenty five feet, adjacent, so prominent in this flat land that they are marked on the Ordnance Survey Map- Tuetoes Hills! It was the base of the hills that the plane hit with such tragic consequences.

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Posted on: 19 August 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Mr Crozier

This is a superb story and you understate your bravery in this sad incident.

The plane was a Wellington III, code sign BJ588-JN, of No. 155 Bomber Squadron. It took off at 22.05 from RAF Snaith to bomb Mainz. It returned early and crashed while attempting to make an emergency landing.

The crew were:

Sgt Derrick John Harry Beaton - Pilot
P/O Francis McCreavy - Co-Pilot - he died of his injuries on 20 August.
F/Sgt Nelson Raymond Rowe (Royal New Zealand Air Force) - Observer.
Sgt Jess Taylor - Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.
Sgt James Pike - Rear Gunner.

Their permanent Internet memorials may be viewed here: links links links links





Posted on: 24 September 2005 by pupilMoreton

Thank you so much for your observations.
Sgt. was great young man who was killed ten days before the war finished and is buried in Hanover. When 84th Searchlight Regiment was disbanded in 1943 we were posted to other units -I to the 49th. West Yorks. Searchlight Regt. butI regret that I have no idea where L/Bdr. Beckett ended up.




Posted on: 24 September 2005 by pupilMoreton

I have reread my account and realise that events have moved on. On June 5 last a Memorial in the form of a 'globe' sundial mounted on a plinth was dedicated to the crews of several aircraft which had crashed in the vicinity of Laughton, a village of some 300 inhabitants near Scotter, Lincolnshire. I was invited by Di Millward, Clerk to the Parish Council who did a magnificent job organising the ceremony. In the church I sat next to Geoffrey Rowe, the eighty year old brother of Nelson Rowe. He had come from New Zealand with other members of the Rowe family. It was quite an emotional occasion as I am now in my ninety first year.




Posted on: 24 September 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper


Many thanks for that. In your ninety-first year? I can hardly believe it! You are an amazing man.

I wish you all the very best,




Posted on: 12 October 2005 by ritsonvaljos

Well Cliff,

Like Peter, I also think you are amazing! This is a really excellent contribution you've made to the "People's War" project.

You deserve the highest accolade!

Best wishes,

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