On a fine evening Halifax L9576 took off from Marston Moor to perform twin engine flying training. On board were four Pilots, Flight engineer, Wireless Operator, and three members of ground crew. This was on the 14th April 1942
The aircraft started the training flight, when it was at a location west of the airfield the aircraft developed a rudder over balance something which Mk1 Halifax’s were susceptible too. Loosing height, it flew over Ruddings Farm which is located near Cowthorpe Cross Roads. The Farmer John Douthwaite recalls “The aircraft flew low over our farm very slowly. Just clearing the trees, and loosing height as it flew. It continued South towards Wetherby”
Just before 1930 Maurice Bellwood and Herbert Ridsdale were drinking coffee in the back room of South View, Wetherby, before they set out to the St Johns Ambulance First Aid class, they were watching a Halifax flying in the distance, which was quite a common occurrence, but this one seemed to be much lower than normal. As they watched, it side-slipped and crashed over the fields in front of them. Picking up their First Aid gear they started to run to the location where the Halifax had crashed. The aircraft had broken it back, there was no fire. They crawled into the fuselage, and brought out two members of the crew one who had suffered severe head injuries, both were dead. When they got out of the aircraft quite a crowd had gathered some were smoking, with the strong smell of fuel from the ruptured tanks, Maurice Bellwood remembers shouting “Put that bloody fag out”. Within in a short time an ambulance arrived and the crash party from RAF Marston Moor, the two bodies were loaded into the ambulance. The Officer in charge of the Crash Party took charge on the scene.
I remember Mr Ridsdale when I was young, never thought I would write about him in later life.
|PILOT||F/O Fredrick John Joshua||29 years||RAF +|
|FLIGHT ENGINEER||Sgt Earnest John Spencer||36 years||RAF+|
|WIRELESS OP||Sgt Gilbert Marks||20 years||RAF +|
|PILOT U/T||F/Sgt David Reid Cox||23 years||RCAF +|
|PILOT U/T||Sgt John Edward Gurney||36 years||RAF +|
|PILOT U/T||Sgt Alfred Thomas Howell||22 years||RAF +|
|OTHERS||AC2 Fredrick Stanley Goodwin||19 years||RAF +|
|AC1 Colin George Keighley||20 years||RAF +|
|AC1 Thomas Mahady||27 years||RAF +|
F/O Joshua RAFVR (87041) native of Penarth Cornwall he is buried in Penarth Cemetery.
Sgt Spencer RAFVR (903905) native of Rochester Kent he is buried in St Margaret’s Cemetery
Sgt Marks RAFVR (1169564) native of Uplyme Devon he is buried in Monkton Wyld St Andrews Churchyard.
Sgt Cox RCAF (R/65319) native of Isaacs Harbours, Nova Scotia Canada. He is buried at Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery. .
Sgt Gurney RAF (527385) native of Lidington. He is buried in St Margaret’s churchyard.
Sgt Howell RAFVR (1380271) native of Acton Green Middlesex. He is buried in Harrogate Stonefall Cemetery.
AC2 Goodwin RAFVR (1499120) native of Liverpool. He is buried in Liverpool Allerton Cemetery.
AC1 Keighley RAFVR (1333962) native of Bexley, He is buried in St Marys Churchyard.
AC1 Hahady RAFVR (1371443) native of Dundee. He was cremated at Dundee Crematorium.
The Ground Crew AC2 Goodwin was Aircraft Hand General Duties and Keighley and Mahady were Drivers.
This is a copy of the Telegram that Sgt Gurneys wife received the following day the 15th. This was the normal way of informing relatives of someone being killed in the armed services. Well before telephones were widespread and they were delivered by a Telegraph Boy on a bike. Every family who had someone serving in the forces dreaded the arrival of the telegram and a it normally contains bad news.
At the family’s request the bodies were returned home, normally sent by Goods Train and it was deemed unlucky for them to be sent by passenger train. A WAAF was often responsible for the despatch of the coffins and was kept up to date with their progress so the family could be informed as to when the coffin could be collected by their local undertaker.
Text taken from Aircraft Down 1 Air crashes around Wetherby 1939-1945 by Brian Lunn. Copyright B Lunn
Additional bit of information
Halifax L9576 was built to contract 692649/37 by Handley Page Ltd. at Radlett and was allocated to 8 MU at Little Rissington on 11th July 1941 but on testing and before delivery to the RAF it was found to be unserviceable and was returned to works for repair by S.A.S. (Service Aircraft Section). This repair appears to have taken some time to complete as it was only delivered as new to 1652 Conversion Unit at Marston Moor on 1st April 1942. As a result of the crash near Wetherby on 14th April 1942 Cat.E2/FA Burnt damage was the damage assessment and it was written off.
The Mk 1 Halifax shown has the old type fins on which caused the overbalance problems. Group Captain Cheshire tested one and only managed to regain control by standing with all his weight pressed on the rudder pedal to regain control. He said the Ministry were intent on production and were not interested in the fault until one of their test pilot was killed in a rudder overbalance accident and then the new type of fins were fitted. The problem went away.