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Wellington Bomber crash and subsequent gallantry commendation.

by ateamwar

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Cliff Crozier,Brian Kendall,L/Bdr Beckett,Lt.Colonel Howson,Sir Frederick Pile,Nelson Raymond Rowe,James Pike,F.McCreavy,Kenneth Green Pauline King and Mary Btockway
Location of story: 
Tutoes Hills near Scotter,Gainsborough,Lincolnshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
03 July 2005

It was 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. I then set off in my Utility truck to investigate. When I was near 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 a 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 staggered towards us. I immediately sent him in the truck to the local doctor in Scotter.
It transpired later he was Flight Sergeant James Pike, the rear gunner, whose only damage was a lacerated hand.
L/Bdr Beckett from the searchlight site had joined Sergeant Kendall and me and we went deeper into the plantation, which consisted of firtrees, only some four feet in height, the torch soon lit up a crashed plane. It was 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. 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 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 last 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, a 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, that could have gone off 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 fractured 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 happened to Lt. Colonel Howson. In October 1942, Sgt Kendall, Lt/Br Beckett and myself received a Commendation for Gallantry from Sir Frederick Pile, General Officer Commanding-in Chief A.A Command: Command Order 664/42.
In the summer of 1993 whilst caravaning 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 Monday 16th August. I returned home on the Wednesday. On the Friday 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 site and through them he had obtained my telephone number.
He told me that on 1st April, 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 that they were researching crashed aircraft as they were compiling a Roll of Honour for their Squadron. 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 12th August 1942. (Sgt Kendall had been commissioned and was killed in action ten days before the war ended. I had lost touch with Lt./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 Btockway have met several times since 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. I have supplied other photographs.
Kenneth was able to obtain details about the death of Sgt. Pike in 1966. Following that information I visited his home, but his daughter, Santa had left and now lived in USA, but the present tenants directed me to a friend of Sgt. Pike 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 remained unanswered. His cousin, who was only a baby when Frank McCreavy died, visited me and 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 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 unkempt appearance. 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 distant relatives established that an ancestor, Nicholas Rowe, was Shakespeare’s earliest publisher. Nicholas was Poet Laureate from 1715 to 1718 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. When seats were installed in the Abbey for the Coronation of George VI, medieval wall paintings were discovered behind his bas-relief, which was removed to the triforium so that the wall painting can be viewed. Another of their ancestors was knighted on the battlefield. Nelson Rowe’s biography is in a book of biographies of former pupils of New Plymouth High School New Zealand, who were war casualties. It was unable to give details of the plane crash, but fortunately I have been able to supply them. The airman trapped under the plane was Flt. Sgt Rowe whom I recognised from his photograph in the biography book.
These airmen were so unlucky for not only were the firtrees in the plantation so small and Lincolnshire so flat. The area where the plane went down had two hillocks with one ten feet high and the other twenty-five feet, but adjacent. On the Ordnance Survey Map this area was so prominent in this flat land that they are marked on the map-the area is called Tuetoes Hills! It was at the base of these hills that the plane hit, with such tragic consequences.

P.S. (a)
Anti-Aircraft Command order 664/42. Act of Gallantry.
On the night of 12 August 1942, friendly aircraft crashed near a Searchlight Site. 2/Lieutenant Crozier and Sergeant Kendall went immediately to the scene of the crash where they were joined by Lance Bombardier Beckett. Incendiaries were burning fiercely a short distance away from the aircraft. The Air Gunner was found to be suffering from shock and 2/Lieutenant sent him off by truck to receive immediate attention. Of the remaining members of the crew two men were found alive and two dead. One man was pinned underneath the aircraft and he died within a few minutes of their arrival. The other, the navigator, was trapped in the fuselage. 2/Lieutenant Crosier and the two NCOs, regardless of personal risk from possible explosions extricated this officer and rendered first aid. He was severely injured, suffering from a fractured skull and fractured legs and the MO reported that 2/Lieutenant Crozier and the two NCOs by their skilled and prompt attention were largely instrumental in saving the navigator’s life.
The General Officer Commanding-in-Chief wishes to congratulate 2/Lieutenant Crozier,Sergeant Kendall and Lance Bombardier Beckett on their prompt action and courage and directs that their actions be recorded in the appropriate manner.
A memorial to this and other aircrews who died in wartime crashes in this area is being unveiled at Laughton near Gainsborough on 5 June 2005 followed by a flypast by the RAF Memorial Flight.
I have been invited to be present and to meet New Zealand relatives of Flt Sergeant Rowe, who died underneath the plane.
'This story was submitted to the People's War site by BBC Radio Merseyside's People's War team on behalf of the author, Cliff Crozier, and has been added to the site with his permission.The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.'

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