Lancaster DS780 14 September 1943

Lancaster Mk II - DS780 KO-Z

T/O little Snoring - Crew trails of new a/c and bombing practice. Crashed 1115 hours on to a railway embankment between Magdalen Station and Magdalen Fen, N of Downham Market, Norfolk.

Errol Martyn writes: both starboard engines were closed down during feathering practice, but could not be restarted. During an attempted emergency landing in a 300 yard field near Magdalan the aircraft bounced, caught fire and then became airborne again before crashing on a railway embankment on the east bank of the Great Ouse river at 11:15 hrs.

The investigation concluded that the engines could not be restarted as the master fuel cock was closed.*

6 Killed, 2 injured.

Source: 115 Squadron Roll of Honour by D. Bruce, W. R. Chorley, J. G. J. de Haan. - More info on Aircrew Remembered*

Left to right:

F/Sgt Jack Williamson NZ, Wireless Operator - seriously injured, survived.
F/O Colin Morse NZ, Navigator - killed.
F/Sgt Rex Griffiths NZ, Rear Gunner - killed. My Uncle.
F/Sgt Bert Bradford NZ, Pilot - Killed.
F/Sgt Fred Jones UK, Mid Upper Gunner - Killed.
F/Sgt Mick Read UK, Bombardier - seriously injured, survived.
F/Sgt Nobby Clark Uk Flight Engineer. Not in crash as replaced due to air sickness.

Photo send by Garry Taylor, thanks

Bradford Edward Albert John Bradford Edward Albert John "Bert" - Pilot

F/S - Service No 415742

Age: 23


Son of John William and Lottie Florence Bradford, of Norsewood, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.

Cambridge City Cemetery - Grave 13539.

Source: CWGC - photo Auckland War Memorial Museum

Fearn John Murdoch Fearn John Murdoch - FE

Sgt - Service No 1570056

Age: 19


Son of John and Catherine G. Fearn, of Inverness, Scotland.

Iverness (Tomnahurich) Cemetery - Sec. L.2. Class 1. Grave 233.

Source: CWGC - photo and info Gordonstoun Schools

Morse Colin Rutherford Morse Colin Rutherford - Nav

F/O - Service No 422306

Age: 21


Son of Percy Morse and of Mary Leslie Rutherford of Hanmer Springs, Canterbury, New Zealand.

Cambridge City Cemetery - Grave 13938.

Source: CWGC - photo Auckland War Memorial Museum

Williamson L Williamson Ivan John - WOP

F/S - Service No 416675

Age: 21 - seriously injured


Son of Emma and James Williamson.
Husband of Mrs. I.L. Williamson of 76 Cook Street, Auckland, New Zealand.

Left the service on the 07th July 1946 as a F/O. Awarded the DFC on the 20th July 1945.
Passed away on the 23rd March 1981 age 69.

Source: Aircrew Remembered

Read M Read M. "Mick" - BA

Sgt - Service No

Age: - seriously injured

Son of

Source: 115 Squadron Roll of Honour by D. Bruce, W. R. Chorley, J. G. J. de Haan.

Jones Frederick Jones Frederick "Fred" - MUG

Sgt - Service No 842484

Age: 34

Aux AF

Son of Walter and Rosina Jones.
Husband of Violet Ellen Jones, of North Cheam.

Carshalton (All Saints) Churchyard, Surrey - grave Sec. U. Grave 323.

Source: CWGC - photo via Aircrew Remembered

Griffiths Rex Vernon Griffiths Rex Vernon - RG

F/S - Service No 415077

Age: 20


Son of Edmund Harold Griffiths and of Olive Mary Parker, of Penrose, Auckland, New Zealand.

Cambridge City Cemetery - Grave 13738.

Source: CWGC - photo Auckland War Memorial Museum

Ashwin Harold James Bowen Ashwin Harold James Bowen - FE

Sgt - Service No 1870675 - was attached to 1678 Conversion Unit.

Age: 34


Son of Frank Harold Bowen Ashwin and Irene Stewart Beaney Ashwin.
Husband of Dora Wesley Ashwin, of Kilburn.

Golders Green Crematorium, Hendon, Middlesex - panel 1.

Source: CWGC - 115 Squadron Roll of Honour by D. Bruce, W. R. Chorley, J. G. J. de Haan.

On 14 September, the crew had been allocated a new aircraft, serial DS780 and at 10:53 took off from their base at RAF Little Snoring in Norfolk to carry out air tests on their new charge.

In addition to the regular crew of seven, the Lancaster was carrying an additional crew member, Sgt. Harold Ashwin, a Flight Engineer who was on detachment from 1678 Conversion Flight but serving as a member of 115 Squadron.

All seemed to have been going well until the operation of levelling and calibrating the bomb sight, at which point the Air Bomber, Sgt. M Read, requested the pilot, F/Sgt. Bradford RNZAF to maintain a height of 2,000 feet to ensure that the bomb sight would not jam but it soon became apparent that something was wrong and the pilot advised that he was unable to maintain height.
F/Sgt. Bradford ordered the crew to their crash stations but shortly afterwards, the aircraft ploughed into a railway embankment at Magdalan, about four miles north of the RAF airfield at Downham Market.

There were only two survivors, the Wireless Operator, Flight Sergeant Williamson and the Air Bomber, Sgt. Read. The investigation revealed that the two starboard engines had been feathered as part of the air test but could not be restarted due to the master fuel cock having been closed.

With the exception of Sgt. Ashwin, who was not a regular member, this was an experienced crew which had completed thirteen operational missions, with Flight Sergeant Bradford having logged a total of 743 flying hours, since he joined the squadron on 14 July 1943 from 1678 Conversion Flight.

Of the survivors, the Wireless Operator, F/Sgt. Ivan Williamson RNZAF went on to complete two operational tours with 115 and 75 Squadrons, and left the service in 1946 as a Flying Officer. He died in his native New Zealand, aged 69 in 1981.

Incidentally, 115 Squadron was one of the 'original' Bomber Command squadrons, active at the outbreak of war and apart from a very short spell where they were attached to Coastal Command, served continuously with Bomber Command right through to the end of the war in Europe.

They dropped the second greatest tonnage of bombs - approximately 23,000 tons - of any RAF Squadron during the war as well as participating in the third highest number of raids.

As a counterpoint to these fine achievements and undoubtedly as a direct result of their almost continuous availability, 115 Squadron suffered the highest losses of any squadron within Bomber Command and were indeed, the only squadron to lose more than 200 aircraft in the war.