Tag Archives: Aircraft crash

In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton

As we spend the day remembering and giving thanks to those who gave their lives in conflict, I thought it timely to share another poem that was included in my grandfather’s collection of war memorabilia.

As with the last poem I published, I am not sure of the author. It is unlikely that my grandfather was the author, as the poem makes reference to time spent in Canada and Harrogate. Broody was not stationed at either of these locations.


(In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton)

From forty one to forty three
We lived our lives as one.
We trained and talked, drank and walked.
Our lives were in the sun.

From Blackpool, Brid to Heaton Park
And Aston Down as well.
Each station brought us near our goal
‘Though some of it was hell.

Wintered in Canadian snows
Our brevets and tapes to earn.
Then back home to Harrogate
And still much more to learn.

Then the parting of the ways,
Our paths no more to cross.
From OTU to HCU
Then a crew for a squadron loss.

We flew, we fought by night and day
Our duty must be done
Without a thought for future years
Till the fight was won.

I tried to found out where you’d gone,
‘Gone missing ‘, so they said.
Then I found in later years
Your name among the dead.

Your name is now emblazoned
On Runnymede’s great wall
In letters clear of shinning gold
Your death reminds us all –

You lie in some forgotten field
Or in a watery grave.
Now I, who live, am humbled
By your young life you gave.

I’m sure you’ll agree this is a very moving piece of writing – a personal tribute from one airman to another who trained together and then went their separate ways to fight in the air war.

Some research of the CWGC database only lists one James Thornton as remembered on the Runnymede Memorial [Panel 277], a Sgt. James Dennis Thornton (1317255) of 36 Squadron.

For much of the war, 36 Squadron had been based in the Mediterranean and North African theatres, but in January 1945 the Squadron was flying Wellington Mk XIVs out of RAF Chivenor, on Anti-Submarine patrols with RAF Coastal Command.

The Squadron’s Operations Record Book for 24/i/45 reports that at 01:39, aircraft NB880 took off on patrol duty LV42. The crew for that flight were:

F/Lt Walter George Edward Becker (62695)
F/O Harry Edwin Hastings (189139)
F/Lt Stanley Walton (125847)
W/O Henry Thomas Large (1384700)
F/Sgt James Murray Smith Richie (656758)
Sgt James Dennis Thornton (1317255)

There is no “Down” time recorded in the ORB. The entry reads:

“This aircraft failed to return. F/Lt Becker and his crew are missing. Later reports state that a fire was seen at sea. P/407 sighted oil patches and wreckage (thought to be pieces of fabric) in position 5302N 0450W.”

(This is a position approximately 18 Nautical Miles SSW of RAF Valley on Anglesey)

Please spare some time today to remember, among the thousands of others, these 6 young men who have no grave except the Irish Sea and who gave their lives so we could have a better tomorrow.

15/vii/44 – Loss of F/Sgt Howard Scott & F/O Colin Duncan

After completing a Patrol in aircraft MM551 (ME-X), F/Sgt Howard Scott and F/O Colin Duncan, both New Zealanders, were killed when their aircraft crashed in woodland near Holmesley South whilst attempting to land at RAF Hurn in low cloud. There is little information available about the detail of this crash, which resulted in the first losses of the Squadron in almost 4 months.

Both men were interred in the New Zealand Section of Brookwood Military Cemetery on 19/vii/44, with Irwin Skudder and Tom MacKay in attendance representing the Squadron.

The graves of F/Sgt Howard Scott & F/O Colin Duncan. (Brookwood Military Cemetery, New Zealand Section. Plots 8.AA.5 & 8.AA.6)

The graves of F/Sgt Howard Scott & F/O Colin Duncan.
(Brookwood Military Cemetery, New Zealand Section. Plots 8.AA.5 & 8.AA.6)

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour.

19/iv/44 – Ju88 of 3KG54 crash lands at Bradwell Bay

In the early hours of the morning on 19/iv/44, while several aircraft of 488(NZ) Squadron were returning from a successful number of patrols, it was reported that a disabled Mosquito was heading for Bradwell Bay to effect a crash landing. An Emergency Team comprising fire tenders and an ambulance stood by to assist, and the squadron’s Mosquitos who had not yet landed circuited to keep the runway clear. The aircraft performed a belly landing. Much to the surprise of W/Cdr Haine, the crew who scrambled out of the burning aircraft were in fact German! Closer inspection identified the aircraft as a Junkers Ju88 (B3+PL) of 3KG54 which had been damaged by AA fire during a bombing raid on London. The 4 airmen were taken to the guard room, where one who required medical assistance was treated.

W/Cdr Haine tried to claim one Ju88 “captured” to add to the Squadron’s tally, but this was rejected!

The photo below, taken from Broody’s journal (including his original caption) shows the aircraft the following morning.

Ju88 at Bradwell Bay

Recent contact with Melvin Brownless of the Aircrew Remembrance Society allows me to identify the 4 German aircrew who landed at Bradwell Bay this morning as:

Pilot: Unteroffizier. Heinz Brandt. 67412/305
Observer: Unteroffizier. Maximillian Oppel. 67412/306
Radio/Op: Obergefreiter. Walter Kobusch. 67412/307
Gunner: Gefreiter. Heinz Oberwinter. 67412/308

Heinz Brandt (© Croft via Kobusch)

Heinz Brandt (© Croft via Kobusch)

Maximillian Oppel (© Brownless via Rotter)

Maximillian Oppel (© Brownless via Rotter)

Walter Kobusch pictured in Gettysburg POW camp, U.S.A. POW No. 103346 (© Croft via Kobusch)

Walter Kobusch pictured in Gettysburg POW camp, U.S.A. POW No. 103346 (© Croft via Kobusch)

Heinz Oberwinter (©Croft via Kobusch)

Heinz Oberwinter (© Croft via Kobusch)

You can read more about this aircraft, her crew, her mission and the subsequent intelligence reports on the Aircrew Remembrance Society website. This is an interesting, well researched site, and I recommend you take the time to visit.

25/iii/44 – Loss of F/O C.M. Wilson & F/O A.W. Wilson

Early in the morning of 25/iii/44, Pilot Chisholm Martyn “Chris” Wilson and his un-related namesake and Navigator, Alan William “Kiwi” Wilson went missing while on a coastal patrol in Mosquito HK222. Information from the GCI Sector Operations confirmed that they were closing in on a fleeing Luftwaffe aircraft, and as Hunt puts it, “… just as the ‘Tallyho’ was expected, the plots ceased and nothing more was heard from our crew.” 

Their last known position was off the North Foreland (near Ramsgate in Kent). The ORB later reported that there was “…no evidence available to account for the loss of this crew. A sad blow to ‘A’ Flight and to the Squadron”.

The bodies of the Wilsons, both New Zealanders, were never recovered; and so their names are recorded on the RAF Memorial at Runnymede (Panel 263).

Fg Off Chisholm Martyn "Chris" Wilson, RNZAF

Fg Off Chisholm Martyn “Chris” Wilson, RNZAF


Fg Off Alan William “Kiwi” Wilson, RNZAF

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour

(Both photos are from the “The Weekly News”sourced from http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/)

21/ii/44 – Loss of F/O Riwai & F/Sgt Clark

On the morning of 21st February, after the night time patrols had ended, a pre-dawn attack was identified and crews were scrambled to engage the enemy – several for the second time that night. Amongst those who took off were Tohunga “Ricky” Riwai, the Squadron’s only Maori aircrew, and his navigator, Ian Clark. For reasons unknown, Ricky’s aircraft crashed into the steel anti-invasion defences beyond the airfield perimeter and both men were killed instantly. Leslie Hunt recalls how several individuals ignored the threat of the adjacent minefield and ran to give assistance to both men, albeit in vain.

Riwai and Clark had only been posted to the Squadron 75 days before, but all the background information I have read about the Squadron shows the high regard in which this crew were held, especially Ricky who was an extremely popular member of the Squadron.

Hunt said: “Words cannot express the feelings of the squadron after this tragedy – we had all come to regard Rick as one of the grandest types any of us have ever known, and with his shy but equally popular navigator, made a crew which we were confident would achieve great things” [Leslie Hunt – “Defence Until Dawn”].

Riwai and Clark were in the squadron photograph taken some 3 weeks before their death. I think that Riwai, sitting on the front row in flying boots, with arms and legs crossed exudes a mass of confidence and self-assuredness!

Tohunga "Ricky" Riwai (sitting) and Ian Clark (standing) photographed on 02/ii/44

Tohunga “Ricky” Riwai (sitting) and Ian Clark (standing) photographed on 02/ii/44

The graves of F/O Riwai & F/Sgt Clark. Brookwood Military Cemetery

The graves of F/O Riwai & F/Sgt Clark.
Brookwood Military Cemetery (Plots 2.K.2 & 2.K.1B)

“Ricky” Riwai and Ian Clark were interred in the New Zealand Section of Brookwood Military Cemetery, next to the graves of their mates “Snowy” Watson and Ernest Edwards.

The photo below shows the graves of 4 airmen of 488(NZ) squadron side by side – 4 brave Kiwis who came to England to fight for the freedom of the British Empire, and now lie many thousands of miles from home.

4 graves

The graves of F/O Riwai, F/Sgt Clark, F/Sgt Edwards & F/Sgt Watson.
4 Aircrew of 488(NZ) Squadron who were killed in February 1944.

As part of my research for this blog, I visited Brookwood and gave my thanks to these men for their sacrifices so that I could bring up my children in a free world. With each loss I record, the more and more of the reality of war is revealed to me. I feel a sense of huge sadness each time an anniversary is reached, and cannot even begin to imagine how these losses impacted on the members of the squadron who survived each clash with the enemy as they saw their friends die.

The loss of Riwai and Clark takes to 14 the total number of aircrew who have given their lives since the start of Broody’s tour in September 1943. Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour.

3/ii/44 – Loss of F/Sgt Watson & F/Sgt Edwards

At 01:45 on the morning of 3rd February, Keith “Snowy” Watson (Pilot) and his Navigator Ernest Edwards, flying Mosquito HK363, were killed in a tragic accident whilst taking part in a searchlight exercise. It was recorded in the ORB that Watson most was most likely blinded temporarily by the searchlight and lost control. The ORB goes on to say:

“This was a most promising crew and a great loss to “B” Flight and the Squadron”

Just hours after these 2 young men were photographed side by side, they took to the air and died together. They were buried side by side in the New Zealand Section of Brookwood Military Cemetery.

F/Sgt Ernest Edwards and F/Sgt Keith "Snowy White"  2nd February 1944, just hours before they were killed during a searchlight exercise

F/Sgt Ernest Edwards and F/Sgt Keith “Snowy” Watson
2nd February 1944, just hours before they were killed during a searchlight exercise


The graves of F/Sgt Edwards and F/Sgt Watson at Brookwood Military Cemetery
(Plots 2.K.1 and 2.K.1A)

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour

25/xi/43 – Loss of S/Ldr Hobbis & P/O Hills

On 25/xi/43, S/Ldr Dudley Hobbis, the Commander of “A” Flight and his Navigator P/O Oliver Hills were killed when after their Port engine caught fire during a Patrol. Hobbis ordered Hills to bail out, and tried to nurse the damaged aircraft back to base. Unfortunately the Starboard engine also failed. The last radio message to control was from Hobbis who said he was also bailing out. Despite an Air Sea Rescue search, neither man was found, and were therefore presumed killed.

The body of P/O Hills was found some eight months later, and he was laid to rest in Epsom Cemetery. The body of S/Ldr Hobbis was never recovered, and his name is recorded on the Runnymede Memorial.

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour

16/x/43 – Loss of P/O Green & F/Sgt Creek

On 16/x/43, P/O Green and F/Sgt Creek were killed when their aircraft crashed into the River Blackwater near Bradwell Bay.

P/O Green was buried in his hometown of Boston, Lincs on 22/x/43 with members of the Squadron in attendance. The body of F/Sgt Creek was never recovered, and his name is recorded on the Runnymede Memorial.

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour

09/x/43 – Loss of F/Lt Ball & F/O Kemp

09/x/43 saw the third and fourth casualties of Broody’s tour. Edward “Cecil” Ball of Kinsdale, Ireland and his navigator and best friend, scotsman William “Jock” Kemp were killed after their aircraft crashed onto trees near Tiptree in Essex having developed engine trouble while returning from a patrol. Ball was the Squadron’s most experienced pilot, and he was serving his second tour with 488. He had also completed two tours with bomber squadrons, the second with No.75 Squadron. Kemp had also completed previous tours with night-fighter and bomber squadrons.

Kemp and Ball were interred at Maldon Cemetery with military honours on 13/x/43

Their names are duly recorded in the Roll of Honour