BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

Death of a Lancastericon for Recommended story

by chris

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Evelyn and Catherine Mabel Ross
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
06 October 2005

On the night of 26th November 1943 Catherine Ross and her younger sister Evelyn set off for the dance in Pocklington, about a mile and a half from their parents home at Canal Head. Coming home in the early hours they always listened for the aircraft returning to the nearby airfield at Pocklington where their father Ernest was a night watchman.

ED 393 VN-K was a Lancaster Bomber based with 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire;they were returning to base from a raid on Berlin but were diverted to land at Pocklington and fog in the vale of York area made landing all the more hazardous.

The first landing had to be aborted so they skirted over Pocklington and then turned southward towards the small hamlet of Canal Head which staggered the main Hull to York road. As the aircraft flew south towards the canal a wing caught the tree tops to the rear of the Wellington Oak pub and sent the aircraft careering out of control, it clipped the roof of a farmhouse next to the pub before plunging into the upstairs of a house across the road.

Ramsdale Terrace was a row of 10 cottages situated at the western end of the Wellington Oak pub carpark, diagonally across the road from the canal after which the hamlet was named. At number 7 Evelyn and Cath were getting ready for bed, Evelyn had already climbed in but looked up towards her sister at the window when she heard the trinkets on the dressing table shaking. She at first assumed it was Cath applying her facecream that had caused the dresser to shake, but then Cath suddenly stood up and opened the blackout and the room lit up with the glow from outside. They were both at the window now and could see the flames had engulfed what was left of the upstairs of Mrs Bird's house which was next to the canal. As Cath tried to make out what had happened Evelyn ran to get their father who wasn't working that night.

Ernest pulled on a pair of trousers and a jacket and ran down the stairs calling back to his daughters to get into the air raid shelter in case there were any unexploded bombs.

By the time Evelyn got back to the bedroom window all she could do was scream as she watched her father run across the road and straight through the front door of Mrs Birds house. They dressed quickly and ran down the stairs and out of the front door towards the shelter which was situated at the end of the terrace near the pub. As they neared the shelter they could see their father sitting on the steps of the pub cradling a man in his arms who was obviously in great pain. Mr Blades, the Landlord, had also gone into the house to try and rescue anyone he could. The girls would later learn that 5 of the aircrew had died as a result of the crash along with Mrs Bird and her lodger Mr Hopkinson.

Days later when the crash debris had been removed little was left of the upper front of the house, but in one corner of what used to be Mrs Bird's bedroom a solitary table stood defiantly supporting a plant displayed upon it.

The full list of casualties is as follows

Pilot Officer Joseph Watson Thompson aged 20
Flight Engineer Reginald Walter Laws aged 20
Navigator Stanley Chapman aged 22
Air-Bomber John Ralph Conlon aged 21
Air-Gunner Allan Douglas Spiers aged 29
Sgt C.B.Corbett (inj)
Sgt T.A.Wyllie (inj)
Gertrude Bird aged 69
Percy Paulucy Hopkinson aged 41

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Death of a Lancaster

Posted on: 06 October 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Chris

I found your detailed story of the fate of plane ED393 VW-K, a Lancaster III of No. 50 Squadron to be of great interest.

According to 'The Times' edition of 29 November 1943, the two civilian fatalities were Mrs P Palucey (sic) aged 40, a lodger, and Mrs Gertrude Bird, aged 60, a widow.

In addition to the crew members you give, Chorley lists, in "Bomber Command Losses 1943", Sgt C.R. Corbett and Sgt T.A. Wyllie, both injured. Sgt Allan Douglas Spiers, who you mention, was a South African from Crown Mines, Johannesburg. He now lies buried in Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery.

Yours is a much fuller account than "Bomber Command Losses" records, and I have amended my copy accordingly.

Kind Regards,



Message 2 - Death of a Lancaster

Posted on: 07 October 2005 by chris

Dear Peter
Thankyou for your information,I will add it to the details already obtained.
I had an advantage in solving the mystery of 'Mrs Paulucy'.My mother and Aunt are the Evelyn and Cath in the story so I was able to say with certainty that'Mrs' was in fact a 'Mr'.The Paulucy part was the big problem ;the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site solved the mystery by listing the names of the civilian war dead.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

North Yorkshire Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy