Archive for the ‘WW2’ Category

First blood to the RAF.

Monday 16th October, 1939 2.30pm it’s a quiet Autumn afternoon over the Lothians, the Second World War was in it’s infancy, Scotland was still untouched by the carnage that had already seen Poland fall to Nazi Germany.

This was about to change, a flight of 9 German Junkers 88 bombers flew out from their base at Sylt on the northern most tip of German and headed over the North Sea and towards their target, the Royal Navy on the Firth of Forth.

The bombers somehow managed to evade detection, and they were only spotted as they flew up the river. An anti-aircraft battery was drilling with practice rounds and hastily reloaded with live ammunition. Their firing alerted other units and ships along the estuary.

The Luftwaffe were to sink HMS Hood if she was at anchor in the river. As it turns out she was not, several ships were in dock but the bombers were under strict instructions not to bomb them at anchor in dock to avoid civilian casualties.

Jock Kerr from Dalkeith

Jock Kerr from Dalkeith

Instead they turned their attention to the ships lying at anchor including the Cruiser HMS Southampton and the Tribal class destroyer HMS Mohawk, who’s crew included Dalkeith man ,Able Seamen Jock Kerr.  I had the pleasure of meeting Jock in the late 70’s when we worked at Rowntree’s in Edinburgh.

They were totally unprepared and the first warning of attack came as lookouts sounded the ‘Action Stations’ alarm. All hands scrambled to their positions, Jock made his way to B gun deck, the upper deck and to his horror saw a Ju88 bearing down on the ship, bomb doors open, ready to attack.

The German aircraft dropped two bombs, Jock recalled in later life that he could still see them “clear as day” , big and black,falling through the air and striking the water either side of the ship.  Although they did not hit the ship they showered her with huge chunks of shrapnel and caused terrible casualties, 16 men were killed and 44 wounded. Jock looked down from his position and described is as “horrible, there was blood and guts everywhere.” He remained very critical of the lack of warning about the attack to his dying day and felt they could have fought off the attack with adequate warning.


Their job done and now under heavy fire the Germans turned for home but got separated, 602 City of Glasgow Squadron was already in the air, and 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron were scrambled to intercept them. Both Squadrons were Auxiliaries (Reservists) and equipped with brand new Spitfires, they were desperate to engage the enemy and put them to the test.

Pilot Officer Pat Gifford 603 Squadron

Pilot Officer Pat Gifford 603 Squadron

Barely in the air 603’s Spitfires bounced three Ju88s at 4000 feet scattering them in all directions, the Spitfires latched on to one of the aircraft and chased it inland, reports from the Dalkeith Advertiser of the time describe how they arrived over Bonnyrigg without warning, (no sirens had sounded) the peace was shattered by the roar of engines and a blast of machine gun fire from the pursuing Spitfires sending spent cartridges down on to Bonnyrigg High Street.

The Ju88 weaved and turned it’s way back towards the coastline in an attempt to shake off the Spitfires, but to no avail. Taking it in turns to attack they poured hundreds of .303 rounds into her unit Pilot Officer Pat Gifford administered the ‘coup de grace’. The German bomber plunged towards the sea about 4 miles from Port Seton, a local fishing boat saw it go in and picked up the survivors. Pat Gifford is officially credited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft in WW2 in UK airspace but it was a close run thing.

602 City of Glasgow Squadron engaged the Germans at much the same time and attacked them over Fife. Flt Lt George Pinkerton and Archie McKellar pounced on the Ju88 piloted by Hauptmann Helmut Pohle, he was at a grave disadvantage, during his diving attack on the ships at anchor, he had lost his canopy, leaving the crew exposed to the elements.

Attack after attack came in until Pohle lost control, crashing into the sea off Crail, almost hitting a small ship. Pohle was the only survivor, the other three crew were killed.

602 Squadron (City of Glasgow)

602 Squadron (City of Glasgow)

To this day 602 and 603 Squadrons maintain a healthy rivalry as to who shot down the first German. Pat Gifford was shot down and killed during the Battle of France in 1940.

The surviving Germans were taken to Edinburgh Castle until they recovered from their wounds, then sent to a POW camp. Their crewmates were buried with full military honours in Joppa Cemetery, Edinburgh, they were re-interned post war in the German Military Cemetery at Cannock Chase, England.

Luftwaffe crew members funeral at Joppa

Luftwaffe crew members funeral at Joppa


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On the night of 12th July, Lancaster LM311, better known as L Lizbeth, lumbered into the air from Bottlesford airfield in England. She had apparently acquired her name from the fiancée of one the crew, she served as a WAAF on the base, another version of the story is that she was named after the mum of the youngest crew member,Sgt Patrick Donlevy, a 19-year-old Wireless Operator from the small village of Pathhead near Dalkeith in Midlothian.

The aircraft although ‘Australian’  was mainly crewed by Scotsmen, the pilot Sgt Cedric Chapman was the only Aussie onboard, the others were Sgt Norman Smith, Bomb Aimer (21) from Edinburgh, Sgt Jack Greenwood, Flt Engineer (25) from Yorkshire, Sgt William Buchanan, Gunner (20) from Glasgow, Sgt Albert Edwards, Navigator (20) from Glasgow, Sgt William Bruce, Gunner (22) from Renfrewshire and Pat Donlevy.

Lancaster Liz'beth and crew (Pat Donlevy front & left)

Lancaster Liz’beth and crew (Pat Donlevy front & left)

The target for tonight was a distant one, the Italian city of Turin it was their 14th sortie with the Squadron and their first to Italy, the rest had been against heavily defended German cities such as Dusseldorf, Cologne, Dortmund and Essen.

The flight to Turin was fairly uneventful, however on the bombing run itself ‘Liz’beth’ took a direct hit from an anti-aircraft gun which caused damage to the tail section. After checks were made, the pilot decided that he could fly the damaged plane back to England. Back at Bottlesford the aircraft appeared back at base one by one, X-Ray, Able and Yorker flew back in rapid succession until all  were back bar L-Liz’beth.

Just as dawn was breaking, a voice was heard over the intercom in the Ops Room at Bottlesford, it was Cedric Chapman, “Liz’beth to Bedrock, over.” The operator responded “Liz,beth aerodrome 1,000 over”  – “Liz’beth to aerodrome, 1,000, I have no elevator control, am flying on trimmer, over”

This was a serious problem, it meant the pilot had very little control of his height. Chapman gave his crew the option to bail out, but they had already decided to stay together as a crew, it was the RAF way.

The pilot decided that despite the damage he could land the Lancaster at Bottlesford, it was really his only option anyway, as he was down to the last 15 minutes of fuel.

The tension in the control tower could be cut with a knife, Chapman asked for permission to ‘pancake’ or land.  He received the reply “Bedrock to Liz’beth , you may pancake, over” Chapman responded “Liz’beth to Bedrock, Roger thanks. Out”

It would be the last words he would utter, as the Lanc lined up on the runway Chapman went through all his pre landing drill, everything seemed fine, Wheels-check, Gyro – check, Mixture – Check, Flaps – Check. Just as the flaps lowered a shudder went through the aircraft and to their horror, they felt the tail of the plane break off, sending it into a vertical dive from a few hundred feet, a parachute was seen to come out the tail just as she struck the ground, it was too late.

L-Liz’beth struck the ground and exploded in a massive fireball. The crash alarm screamed out across the base and fire engines descended on the burning plane, sadly it was obvious no one could have survived the impact or the fire.

After the fire was doused the bodies of the men were recovered and sent home for burial.

One of those men, Patrick Donlevy, was my mum’s cousin, an only child his parents never got over his death.

Patrick was buried with full military honours in Dalkeith Cemetery where he lies at rest.

His story is typical of so many young Bomber Command airmen, who risked their lives night after night over occupied Europe, and died before their life had barely begun.

Patrick and the rest of his crew are remembered at Bottlesford where this picture of them hangs in in the Council Chambers.

Pat Donlevy and his crew mates

Pat Donlevy and his crew mates

Back row left to right:- Sgt. Norman C. Smith  Sgt. Jack Greenwood, Sgt. William S. Buchanan

Front row left to right:- Sgt. Patrick Donlevy,  Sgt. Albert E. Micheals, Sgt. Cedric A. Chapman, Sgt. William Bruce.

Between January 1942 and April 1945, 467 Squadron flew 3,833 sorties in Avro Lancaster heavy bombers and suffered heavy losses – 760 personnel were killed, of whom 284 were Australian, and 118 aircraft were lost.

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SAS Who dares wins

The famous SAS winged dagger cap badge.

William Dodds from Newtongrange enlisted in the Royal Engineers in World War 2, he proved to be a good soldier, and a result he was approached to join the fledgling Special Air Service (SAS), the brainchild of Scotsman David Stirling and Irishman Paddy Mayne.

Being an Engineer, William had been trained in the use of explosives and demolition, skills which were much sought after, and of good use in the type of hit and run tactics employed by the SAS.

During the evening of 7th January, 1944 William Dodds was one of a four man team (Raiding party 5)  dropped by parachute in German occupied Italy (Italy had surrendered in 1943, many anti-fascists now fought with the Allies). Leading the party was Captain John Gunston, the others were Bombardier Albert Pugh and Private Herbert Loosemore. When they landed they found to their horror that the snow was 3 or 4 feet deep.

Their mission, codenamed Operation Maple (Driftwood) was to sabotage the train line running between Urbino and Fabriano, in support of the landings up the coast at Anzio beach head, once this was done they were to evacuate by sea on the night of 25th / 26th of January.

On the evening of the 25th the Royal Navy turned up but there was no sign of the raiding parties.

The mission was running over due to the weather and other factors, in early February, Private Cook who was making good his escape from the enemy bumped into Captain Gunston near the village of  Fermo, Captain Gunston said he still had one more task to complete, then he intended evacuation by sea.

This task was subsequently carried out and on Captain Gunston and his party of 8 parachutists (they had been joined by Party 6) were seen on the 4th of February at Fermo. They had stayed in the area for far too long and the chances of capture increased by the day.

Despite this it was not until the 7th of March that an attempt at escape was made, at Porto San Giorgio, 35 miles to the South of his area. Captain Gunston and his men including William Dodds were seen borading a 22 foot boat, very small indeed, and the weather was poor, a Force 6 wind was blowing and large waves pummeled the boat as she made out to sea,

To make matters worse the Commandos did not carry wireless sets, so contact with the navy was impossible, also Hitler had decreed that any Commando captured was to be executed, Rommel had refused to carry out this order in North Africa, but there was no such reluctance on  mainland Europe.

Unbeknown to the men orders had been given to the Royal Air Force to treat any shipping in the area as hostile and to attack at will. This was not passed on to the SAS men.

Sadly this was the last time any of the men were seen alive, their fate is shrouded in mystery, some believe that the boat was swamped in heavy seas and that all drowned, another theory paints an entirely different more sinister picture. A German intelligence report was read stating that Captain Gunson, Sgt Benson (Party 6) and Private Looseman had been captured and interrogated, if this is this case they were subsequently executed and their bodies disposed off as they were never seen again.

The mission was deemed to be of limited success and ‘lessons were learned’.

William Dodds and his comrades are commemorated on the Cassino Memorial in Italy.

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June 6th , 1944 A date that most people will be aware of. Operation Overlord, the Allied campaign to liberate Nazi occupied Europe commenced.

D Day saw hundreds of thousands of young men from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and France fight their way ashore on 5 beaches.

The Americans on Utah and Omaha, The Canadians on Juno and the British on Gold and along with the French on Sword Beach.

One of the units landing on Sword Beach was the 1st Special Service Brigade, famously their Commander, Brigadier Lord Simon Lovat and his piper Bill Millin came ashore wearing Tam O’Shanters with Millin playing his pipes.

This scene was immortalised in the film The Longest Day

'Lord Lovat' meets up with British Airborne at Pegasus Beach - The Longest Day

‘Lord Lovat’ meets up with British Airborne at Pegasus Beach – The Longest Day

A number of Free French Commandos also went ashore with Lovat, the beach was taken at great cost and many fine young men lost their lives that day.

One of these men was 28-year-old Able Seaman Drummond Stewart, from Polton in Midlothian.

He was aboard the LCI(S) 524 Landing Craft Infantry (Small) very similar to this one seen at Juno on D Day

LCI (S) on Juno Beach IWM Collections IWM Photo No.: B 5218

LCI (S) on Juno Beach IWM Collections IWM Photo No.: B 5218

She had beached under heavy fire and took a number of casualties after landing her Commandos. As she withdrew from the beach she received a direct hit in her petrol tanks from a German artillery round.

The thinly skinned wooden boat disintegrated instantly and became a huge fireball, her high octane fuel tanks spewed burning petrol into the sea setting it alight.

Most of the crew made it into the water  where they were picked up by a US Navy coastguard vessel.

Drummond Stewart and 7 of his shipmates were not so lucky  and perished in the cold waters of the English Channel. His body was lost at sea and he is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial,

So why am I raising this subject now, rather than on the Anniversary of D Day?

A fair question, and one I will answer here.

Six of the Normandy Tourist boards recently launched a campaign promoting a festival to commemorate the 70th anniversary next year. They created an area called the “secteur mythique” (mythical sector). This stretches from Utah in the west,
across all the other beaches where troops came ashore but stops short of Sword, at the eastern end. As well as missing out Sword completely it cuts off part of the Canadian landing beaches at Juno.

Map of the 'Mythical Sector'

Map of the ‘Mythical Sector’

It also,bizarrely, omits Pegasus Bridge, the first piece of French soil to be liberated by British Airborne troops.

The reason the French Tourist boards give for this is that 85% of tourists go to the other beaches, in a statement Loïc Jamin, president of the tourist office in Bayeux defended the campaign and said he “did not understand” the controversy.

He may well not understand the controversy but a great many veterans and local people in the landing area have been disgusted by the action of the tourist board.

The Bayeaux tourist board is wrong in my opinion to opt out of the D Day Zone, some of the fiercest fighting of the war took place around Caen where SS Divisions stubbornly held off the Allies and huge damage was done to the city. Hopefully it will reflect on it’s decision and take into account the views of the remaining veterans and those of it’s own citizens.

If your relatives went ashore on D Day I would love to hear to hear from you.

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Newtongrange war memorial in the snowIf you follow my blog on a regular basis you will be aware of the ongoing campaign to have men added to Newtongrange War memorial. A few weeks ago I sent in a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which you may have already read.

I received answers to the questions I posed today and here is what was said,along with my views on the answers given.

First off the Council have confined the answer to WW2 apparently which is not what I asked, my questions were regarding the war memorial not merely WW2.

1. Does the Council actually own the memorial or is it the Royal British Legion?

Midlothian Council         The Memorial to those who fell during the Second World War is sited on land owned by the Council.  Whether ownership transferred is not known but more than likely the local authority will have adopted it and this Council continues in that role, undertaking maintenance (as with all similar Memorials of its type in Midlothian) in terms of the Local Government (Scotland ) Act 1992. By extension, that includes consideration of any alterations to the Memorial.

John Duncan There is no separate memorial to WW2, there is a memorial erected by the British Legion and two stone tablets, one for WW1 and one for WW2 and other relevant conflicts.  I don’t dispute the ownership of the land, clearly that it owned by the council. However it seems vague whether it was previously adopted.

2. Who is responsible for repairs to the memorial?

Midlothian Council    Midlothian Council.

John Duncan   Good to know some of the lettering starting to fade a bit.

3. What criteria do the Council use for deciding who’s names appear on the memorial?

Midlothian Council     Whether the individual was killed in action or died of wounds in a theatre of war and the connection with the village eg place of domicile / residence where native, at the time of death

John Duncan    This is an interesting answer. Have the Council purposely referred to WW2 in the answer and applied these criteria to this war only, and not to WW1. If so it’s very strange and contradictory as the lists for both tablets were drawn up at the same time around 1999 / 2000.

There are men on the WW1 tablet who do not fit the above criteria, ie one that died of an accident and a number of men who died of illness on active service. Just to clarify I have always stated that these men should be on the memorial, I do not feel however that there should be a different set of rules for WW2. Why would you want to do this?

4. Who is responsible for the nomination / decision process?

Midlothian Council   Nominations are received from interested parties who may be the family of the individual or
others.  The decision process involves endeavouring to ascertain / corroborate the factors at 3 above.

John Duncan    Okay, so who is responsible for making the decision?  This does not answer the question. Is it Midlothian Council or is it the Community Council?

5. In the event of a dispute regarding a decision made regarding a nominee, what right of appeal is there?

Midlothian Council   There is no record of a dispute ever having arisen but, ultimately, it would be for the local authority to decide.

John Duncan   If the Council are making the initial decision then, clearly, it is undemocratic and unfair that they them make an appeal decision on their own decision.

Are they going to say on the one hand – “No this man can’t go on a memorial” and then on appeal say – “You know what we were wrong” and change their mind.

No chance, there should be an independent body, or the Community Council should make the initial decision and any dispute is resolved by Midlothian Council.

6. What procedures are in place for potential victims of current / future conflicts.

Midlothian Council   Currently, there is no provision for this locally, although it is known that in some instances, one or two names of those who fell during conflicts since the Second World War have been added to Memorials in other towns and villages.

The National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire records (a) those who have given their lives in the service of their country, (b) all who have served and those who have suffered as a result of conflict, and (c) others who for specific or appropriate reasons are commemorated on the site.

John Duncan  I will reserve judgement on this one, I would like to think that anyone that dies, through what ever means, in a conflict is remembered on our war memorial.

7. Does the council accept Commonwealth War Graves Commission data as evidence of eligibility?

Midlothian Council The question has never arisen but any information will be considered

John Duncan  Interesting, because it has arisen twice at least in the case of George Noble, once in 1999 and again this year by myself. You may recall the answer from Midlothian Council.

“As regards Pte Noble, I have a  record that states that he appears to have  died as the result of an accident aged 21 years on Salisbury Plains (parachute  failed to open) post the Palestine conflict. In the circumstances, a previous  request to have his name added to the Memorial was declined; and that  regrettably is the conclusion that must be reached on this occasion. I have  raised the question here about  additions in respect of post 1939 – 1945  war but have yet to obtain an outcome. Theoretically at least, the names of  those who were killed / died of wounds after WW2 in other conflicts are recorded  at the National Memorial / Arboretum.”

The Council also provided a potted history of the war memorial which I am a little bit confused by.

“In January 1934, the Memorial was unveiled in the Welfare Park – a rough silver granite pillar, to their memory – provided by the Women’s Section of the British Legion.” (This is correct)

“(In most cases, the decisions to erect or provide World War 1 memorials in public spaces were taken by the Council’s predecessor authorities; and the cost was met through public subscription; and adapted after World War 2. Unusually, in this case, the Memorial in respect of  World War 1 was in the Church and the complete rationale for the erection of the World War 2 Memorial in a public space is not currently available but it is thought likely that there would have been some form of public subscription albeit one organised by the British Legion.)”

The public war memorial was not held in the church. The memorial referred to bears the names of members of the United Free Church, including my Great Uncle Charles Gibson. This memorial was originally housed in the church at the foot of the village which is now the Masonic Hall. When the Church ceased to function as a church, the plaque was given to the Church of Scotland in the Main Street, Newtongrange for safe keeping, it remains there to this day.

When the memorial in the park was erected  in 1934, in the Welfare Park, it was intended as a place of Remembrance for all the village, not just the member of the United Free Church.

Given it was erected in 1934 it was clearly not intended as a WW2 memorial ,unless our forefathers predicted a second global conflict. The dates 1939 to 1946 were added at a later date post WW2, the memorial was designed pure and simple as a WW1 memorial which has been adapted twice as the years go by.

The tablets were added in 2000 as it was annoying most people that the inscription on the memorial read;

“To the memory of the lads from this Parish who fell in the Great War 1914 – 1918 & World War II 1939. Their name liveth for evermore.”

Finally lest it be thought I am being over critical, I think their gardeners do a magnificent job year in, year out making our memorial a fitting place to remember ‘our lads’.

Anyway we shall see what the Community Council make of this.

Newtongrange War Memorial

Newtongrange War Memorial

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Engine Articifer 4th Class Barrie Jones and his family

This is a sad tale, a story of a man that two neighbouring villages, Gorebridge and Newtongrange, apparently do not want on their war memorials. Their reasons are different but the effect is same.

His daughter Elizabeth (pictured) now approaching her 70th birthday has no place locally to commemorate her father’s memory.

Barrie was born in the village of Cockpen which lies between the much larger villages of Newtongrange and Bonnyrigg, Midlothian. The family subsequently move to Newtongrange and live at 1 then 5 the Main Street. In 1943 Barry (aged 20) marries Elizabeth Mary Paterson from Gowkshill, a stones throw from the village, in Stobhill Church, as is normal for the era, Barry and Elzabeth move in with her parents.

In 1944 they are blessed with a child Elizabeth. Barry is away from home, he in serving in the Far East with Royal Navy, when the war ends he is stationed at HMS Landswell in Singapore, his duties bring him into contact with Japanese POWS who are being held in Singapore.

On the 14th of January, 1946 he is returning to the base in an open transport lorry, the lorry hits a bump and Barrie is thrown from the vehicle onto the road, he suffers massive head injuries and quickly succumbs to them. Barrie was buried with full military honours on the 16th of January, 1946 at 11am in Bardurdari Cemetery, Singapore and a cross erected on his grave. The sad news is conveyed to his widow, his daughter is a toddler and does not understand her daddy is dead.


Barrie Jones first grave, snapped by a shipmate

In 1955 the Imperial War Graves Commission inform Elizabeth Jones that Barrie’s grave is to be relocated to Kranji War Cemetery, which subsequently occurs in 1957.

When the time came to add names to Gorebridge WW2 Memorial Barrie’s name was put forward as his wife was from the Gorebridge District, however he was declined as the panel deciding who went on the memorial, decided that Barrie was a resident of Newtongrange, not Gorebridge so should go on their memorial.

When his name was put forward to go on Newtongrange War Memorial, they decided that as he died by accident, and after the war, he was not eligible for a place on their memorial. Of the two decisions Newtongrange’s is the most shameful, their reasoning does not stand up to scrutiny,ie “Barrie died of an accident after the war was finished”.

On the WW1 memorial they already have a man who killed by a train whilst on leave, two who died from influenza, one who died from heart failure. Why is Barrie Jones so different from these men?

I do not disagree that these men should be on the memorial, on the contrary I believe that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission standards of eligibility should be applied fairly and consistently to each man, not randomly.

To finish I will repeat the criteria laid down by the CWGC for eligibility, Midlothian Council,Newtongrange please get your act together, do the right thing, you are beginning to make me ashamed of my village, something I thought I would never say as a proud Nitten man.

Second World War – 3rd September 1939 to 31st December 1947

The location of their death and the cause of death are immaterial to their qualification. They could have been killed in action, died of wounds, died of illness or by accident, died due to suicide or homicide or suffered judicial execution. CWGC treats all casualties equally and all must be commemorated under the terms of their Royal Charter.

Edited 18th April

I have now received official documentary evidence that Barrie Jones resided at 1 Main Street, Newtongrange at the time of his marriage, and that he was ‘currently on active service’. This vindicates the decision of the Gorebridge Committee,in that he resided in Newtongrange, hopefully now this and the other facts listed above, will convince Midlothian Council and the Community Council that their decision was wrong, and they change their minds.

I will keep you posted.

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William Currie was born in 1913 in Cockpen, a very small village, near to Newtongrange. In 1939 he married and settled in Newtongrange, living with his wife at 41 Eighth Street. When war was declared William was called up and joined the RAF, following his training he was promoted to Leading Aircraftman and sent to 228 Squadron, Coastal Command which flew Short Sunderland flying boats on Convoy protection. In 1942 the Squadron moved to Oban on the west coast of Scotland to patrol the North West approaches.

Sunderland Flying boat in wartime camoflague

Sunderland Flying boat in wartime camoflague

In August, 1942 a mysterious and tragic accident occurred when a Sunderland on a classified mission to Iceland crashed into a mountain in the extreme north of Scotland killing all onboard, bar the rear gunner who was thrown clear on impact inside the tail unit. Amongst the dead was the Duke of Kent, the first member of the Royal Family to die on active service for nearly 500 years.

The reason the aircraft was on it’s way to Iceland has never been revealed and many alternative theories exist including that Rudolf Hess was on board and the aircraft going to Sweden. What ever the reason there was great interest in the accident.

Two weeks later on, the 5th of September, 1942 Sunderland W4032 took off from Oban on a convoy protection mission, onboard were were 10 crew and a journalist Fred NanCarrow from the Glasgow Herald, much has been made of NanCarrow’s presence and some say he was investigating the death of the Duke of Kent. NanCarrow was mad keen on aircraft and had only recently written a book celebrating the work of 602 City of Glasgow Squadron, his family stated he wanted to join the RAF but was rejected as unsuitable.

After several hours at sea the giant flying boat turned around for home, but it became apparent that there was insufficient fuel to make it back to Oban. The Pilot Flying Officer F J Fife of the Royal Canadian Air Force decided there was no other option than to put down in the water, on the face of it not a major problem for a flying boat, and take on more fuel. At 8.40pm the Sunderland set down in Vane Bay but hit a rock which ripped the bottom out of the aircraft causing it to start sinking.

An SOS signal was sent out and in response the Tobermory lifeboat set out to assist the airmen, however on reaching the last known position of the Sunderland, all that was found was clothing floating on the surface.

A full scale search was launched and an RAF Hudson spotted a dinghy with one man in it off the north coast of Coll. The lifeboat was directed in, however when it got there the only people still alive were Flying Officer M E Russell, the co-pilot and Flight Sgt R B H Scroggs. The Pilot Mr Fife, William Henderson and William Currie were recovered from the water having drowned, the bodies of Charles Castle (Gunner), Victor Ames (Flt Sgt), Kenneth Page (Gunner), Edward Cowan (Radio operator) were recovered later on having died of exposure.


The massive cockpit of a Sunderland designed for cross Continent flying

The bodies of Pilot Officer Robert Hicks and Fred NanCarrow were never recovered.

The men are buried the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.



William Currie was buried with full military honours in Newbattle Cemetery.

Although he is remembered on Bonnyrigg war memorial, he is not recorded on Newtongrange War memorial despite  living in the village and being married to a woman from Newtongrange. He is another man unfortunately missed out  in putting the names on the memorial some 50 odd years after his death.

I feel he is entitled to a place on the memorial.

The crew of Sunderland W4032


FRAME, ROBERT HICKS Rank:Pilot OfficerService No:J/10326Date of Death:05/09/1942Age:27Regiment/Service:Royal Canadian Air Force 228 Sqdn. Panel ReferencePanel 100.MemorialRUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL Additional Information:

Son of David and Evelyn Frame, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.


CASTLE, CHARLES FREDERICK Rank:SergeantTrade:Air Gnr.Service No:1386747Date of Death:05/09/1942Age:27Regiment/Service:Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 228 Sqdn. Grave ReferencePlot N. Row G. Class B. Grave 22.CemeteryTWICKENHAM CEMETERY Additional Information:

Son of William John and Maud Castle, of Hounslow.

Ham and eggs in the galley of a Sunderland.

Ham and eggs in the galley of a Sunderland.


HENDERSON, WILLIAM HENRY Rank:Flight SergeantTrade:Air Gnr.Service No:638920Date of Death:05/09/1942Age:20Regiment/Service:Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 228 Sqdn. Grave ReferencePlot D. Grave 38C.CemeteryCHEPSTOW CEMETERY Additional Information:

Son of Robert William Henderson and Ada Mary Henderson, of Chepstow


CURRIE, WILLIAM Rank:Leading AircraftmanService No:990932Date of Death:05/09/1942Age:28Regiment/Service:Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 228 Sqdn. Grave ReferenceSec. H. Grave 316.CemeteryNEWBATTLE CEMETERY Additional Information:

Son of William and Nellie Greenfield Currie; husband of Mary Currie, of Newtongrange.


AMES, VICTOR ETHELBERT Rank:Flight SergeantService No:905470Date of Death:05/09/1942Age:26Regiment/Service:Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 228 Sqdn. Grave ReferencePlot X.M. Grave 143.CemeteryCANTERBURY CEMETERY, KENT Additional Information:

Son of Llewellyn Herbert Spencer Ames and Esther Ames; husband of Dorothy May Ames, of Canterbury.


BARBER, KENNETH PAGE Rank:Flight SergeantTrade:Air Gnr.Service No:572527Date of Death:05/09/1942Age:20Regiment/Service:Royal Air Force 228 Sqdn. Grave ReferenceCon. Sec. Grave 3915.CemeteryWESTON-SUPER-MARE CEMETERY Additional Information:

Son of Hugh Alister Barber and Nell Page Barber, of Weston-super-Mare.


COWAN, EDWARD Rank:SergeantTrade:W.Op./Air Gnr.Service No:1255347Date of Death:05/09/1942Age:21Regiment/Service:Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 228 Sqdn. Grave ReferenceSec. I. Grave 16.CemeteryOBAN (PENNYFUIR) CEMETERY Additional Information:

Son of Braham and Eva May Allcroft Cowan, of Aldershot, Hampshire.


FIFE, FREDERICK JAMES Rank:Flying OfficerTrade:PilotService No:J/4747Date of Death:05/09/1942Age:27Regiment/Service:Royal Canadian Air Force 228 (R.A.F.) Sqdn Grave ReferenceSec. I. Grave 17.CemeteryOBAN (PENNYFUIR) CEMETERY Additional Information:

Son of Frederick James Fife and Eleanor Anderson Fife, of Young’s Point, Ontario, Canada. B.A. Clerk in Holy Orders.


NANCARROW, FRED GEORGE Rank:ReporterDate of Death:05/09/1942Age:29Regiment/Service:War Correspondent The Glasgow Herald Panel ReferencePanel 292.MemorialRUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL Additional Information:

Son of Fred J. Nancarrow and Marie Nancarrow; husband of Frances Craig Nancarrow, of Goftfoot, Glasgow. Author of “Glasgow’s Fighter Squadron”.

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