Halifax L9489 (10/03/1941)

Halifax L9489 was one of seven No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the docks and shipping canal at Le Havre on 10th March 1941.

Its six-man crew comprised:

  • Peter Alexander Gilchrist (Pilot)
  • Reginald Lucas (2nd Pilot)
  • Edward Rolfe Arnold (Observer)
  • Stanley Broadhurst (WOP / AG)
  • Albert Edward Cooper (Air Gunner)
  • Ronald Godfrey Aedy (Flight Engineer)

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “On the return flight the aircraft was mistaken for an enemy machine and shot down in flames at Merrist Wood, Normandy, Surrey at 22.40 hours. The Captain, PA Gilchrist and the Flight Engineer, RG Aedy, escaped by parachute, but the remainder were killed in the crash. Gilchrist suffered only bruises and returned to duty; Aedy was admitted to the County Hospital, Guildford, with bullet injuries”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) records show the following burial details:

  • ARNOLD, EDWARD ROLFE, ‘77908’, LEATHERHEAD (SS. MARY AND NICHOLAS) CHURCHYARD Near South Boundary
  • BROADHURST, STANLEY, ‘550817’, MANSFIELD WOODHOUSE CEMETERY Sec. B. Grave 3193.
  • COOPER, ALBERT EDWARD, ‘77963’, COGGESHALL BURIAL GROUND Sec. C. Grave 243.
  • LUCAS, REGINALD, ‘741992’, MANSFIELD (NOTTINGHAM ROAD) CEMETERY Grave 1998.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 1180

The AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) shows “Shot down by British fighter. Starboard outer engine failure due to machine gun bullets. Starboard inner caught fire due to bullets. Two members of the crew unable to leave aircraft because front escape hatch failed to open”

AM Form 78

The AM Form 78 (Movement Card) shows that the aircraft was struck off charge of the squadron

P4 Casualty Branch File

The following Casualty File is available at the National Archives:

AIR 81/15372 Pilot Officer A RE Cooper, Pilot Officer E R Arnold, Sergeant R Lucas, Sergeant S Broadhurst: killed: Squadron Leader P A Gilchrist, Sergeant A G Aedy: injured; Halifax L9489, 35 Squadron, shot down by British night fighter returning from an operational flight over Le Havre, France, 10 March 1941.

Personnel

PA Gilchrist and RG Aedy did not participate in any further operational sorties with the squadron

Crew Memorial

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Memorial to the crew at the site of the crash [Courtesy of IBCC Memorial Database Project]
– read more –

Article from the Surrey Advertiser

The night a crew’s home thoughts were shot out of the sky .

They were home safe. The enemy coast and the bitterly cold English Channel were behind them. Halifax L9489 F-Freddie was on course for its base at Linton-on-Ouse near York.

The crew was more relaxed now, though still alert. As they approached the skies over Surrey, the thoughts of flight engineer Ron Aedy were probably on Kingston upon Thames, where he was born. Teddy Arnold, the Observer, may have glanced down and wondered about his family in Leatherhead, where he was brought up. Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Stan Broadhurst was another member of the crew with links with Surrey . He had been at school at Witley .

Peter Gilchrist, having handed over control of the aircraft to 2nd Pilot Reg Lucas, was enjoying a flask of coffee. The mission to Le Havre was accomplished. Soon they would be landing at their home base.

Suddenly, a devastating burst of gun fire set the starboard outer engine of the Halifax on fire. Soon the fire spread to the inner engine, engulfing the wing. The aircraft was doomed.

Gilchrist ordered the aircraft to be abandoned. It crashed in Minty’s Field in the grounds of Merrist Wood Agricultural College. Only two of the crew of six survived .

The tragedy of it all was that F-Freddie, on its first operational sortie, was not shot down by an enemy aircraft but by one of our own, possibly an RAF night fighter which had mistaken the Halifax for a He111 or a Ju88 .

The incident, blandly recorded in S/Ldr Gilchrist’s log as “Shot down by night fighter (RAF) Aldershot – Guilford area. Sgt Aedy wounded, crew killed”.

A rather sad beginning has inspired retired headmaster Dennis Hoppe, who lives near Farnham, to write a book about the incident, about those who survived and those who were killed. It is a superbly researched story of a tragic accident, one of many during WWII, in which airmen died as the result of what became known as friendly fire .

In the attack on F-Freddie, Sgt Aedy was severely wounded by shrapnel. Having given the order to abandon the aircraft, S/Ldr Gilchrist left through the escape hatch above the pilot’s seat. At the same time, the injured Aedy was assisted by his fellow crew members and bundled out of the main fuselage door, ensuring his rip cord was pulled as he left.
In doing so, 2nd Pilot Sgt Lucas, Observer P/O Arnold, WOP/AG Sgt Broadhurst and Rear Gunner Sgt Cooper left it too late to save themselves and sacrificed their lives to save their crew mate.

F-Freddie hit the ground in a corner of Minty’s Field in Normandy at 22.40. Peter Gilchrist landed in a field of cattle, opposite the Duke of Normandy pub , about a quarter of a mile from the crash site. Ron Aedy’s cries for help brought rescuers to him and he was soon in hospital in Guilford. Reg Lucas was critically injured in the crash and died in Guilford Hospital the next day . His three companions perished in the crash .

The port inner engine and much of the forward section of L9489 remained in the ground until unearthed by Croydon Aviation Archaeology Society.

Today , a corner of Minty’s Field remains a shrine to the memory of those who gave their lives in the cause of freedom and peace .

A Rather Sad Beginning (The Story of Halifax L9489]

A booklet entitled “A Rather Sad Beginning (The Story of Halifax L9489)” has been produced by Dennis Hoppe

Extract from booklet produced by Dennis Hoppe
An original version of this booklet is held at Marham Aviation Heritage Centre

Halifax L9486 (30/03/1941 [Non Op])

Halifax L9486 was participating in the Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU ) trials at Duxford on 30th March 1941.

Its crew comprised:

  • EG Franklin
  • Others?

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “L9486 experienced hydraulic failure of the undercarriage and it returned to Linton-On-Ouse, making a sad but beautiful landing on the belly of the aircraft, causing only the minimum amount of damage”.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 78

The Movement Card suggests that the aircraft was off strength until 20th August 1941 (but this may have been when it was returned following a subsequent undated incident)

AM Form 1180

The Accident Card shows “Undercarriage failed to lower; landed undercarriage retracted


 

Halifax L9493 (10/03/1941)

Halifax L9493 was one of seven No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the docks and shipping canal at Le Havre on 10th March 1941.

Its six-man crew comprised:

  • Richard Vernon Warren (Pilot)
  • Stanley Desmond Greaves (2nd Pilot)
  • Clement Watt Wilson (Observer)
  • Ronald Leslie Somerville (WOP / AG)
  • Douglas Peter Hogg (WOP / AG)
  • Gordon Herbert Frank Ogden (Flight Engineer)

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “Shrapnel from a very near heavy shell-burst holed the aircraft in many places and injured the navigator. With commendable fortitude this N.C.O carried out his duties, including the aiming and releasing of the second stick of bombs. The radiator of the starboard inner engine was punctured causing over-heating of the engine, which had to be switched off: also a hydraulic failure caused the starboard undercarriage to fall. The aircraft returned to base at the time stated on three engines and with one leg down”.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 78

There are no entries on the AM Form 78 (Movement Card) relating to this incident for L9493; however the card for L9494 shows that it was damaged on 10th / 11th March 1941

AM Form 1180

There is is no AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) for this incident for either L9493 or L9494

P.4 (Cas) Casualty Branch File

The following casualty files are available at the National Archives

AIR 81/5409 “Sergeant C W Wilson: injured; aircraft hit by enemy anti aircraft fire over target, Halifax L9493, 35 Squadron, 10 March 1941. (Note: Related files: 4952, 4956”)

It contains the following information regarding his injury:

“Sgt CW Wilson admitted to hospital (Military Hospital, York). Compound comminuted left patella as a result of gunshot wounds. Left patella removed wound excised shrapnel removed from knee joint”

CW Wilson

CW Wilson did not fly operationally with the squadron after this incident