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'Unaccounted' airman 29-11-1939

'Unaccounted' airman 29-11-1939
Author: Henk Welting (Guest)
Time Stamp:
14:48:32 Monday, August 27, 2007
What caused the death of AC2 (Flt.Mech) Benjamin FRANCE - 620302, 229 Sqn (Blenheims - Digby, Lincls.), according to The Times of Monday 18-12-1939 killed on active service. He lies buried Sheffield (City Road) Cem., Yorks.

Can't find a matching 229 Sqn serial number but have following Blenheim losses on file lost same date:

23 Sqn - L1452 - dived into ground near Gainsborough, Lincs, killing F/Lt (Pilot) Percy D. WALKER - 36115, and

604 Sqn - L6601 - dived into ground at night near Epping, Essex, killing F/O (Pilot) Philip C. WHEELER - 90213 and LAC (Airgunner) Vernon H. OLIVER - 804281.

Regards and thanks for your help.


RE: 'Unaccounted' airman 29-11-1939
Author: Amrit
Time Stamp:
14:58:06 Monday, August 27, 2007
B France died with P D Walker in L1452. Walker jhad been detached from 23 to 229 Squadron.

There's an article and a photo of France. Unfortunately, the original site won't connect but a cached version is available:

In case it doesn't work, here's the article:

"Did teenager flier Ben forsee wartime plane tragedy?

By Martin Dawes

ON the evening of November 19, 1939, a young airman called Ben France from Sheffield sat down to tea at RAF Digby, near Laughton in Lincolnshire, with motor transport driver John Williamson.

War had been declared just two months earlier and Ben, from Sturge Street, Heeley, was an Aircraftsman Second Class with 229 Squadron, flying Blenheim fighters.

Like Ben, who was only 19, the squadron was new, having only been reformed the previous month after existing briefly in the First World War.

Ben was nervous. He was about to go up on his first test flight later that night.

The squadron didn't yet have all its own pilots, so Flight Lieutenant Percy Don Walker was detached from 23 Squadron to help get 229 fully operational.

Why was young Ben nervous? Did he have some foreboding?

Later that evening, with Walker at the controls, Blenheim L1452 rumbled off the runway at Digby.

Back on the ground, Williamson drove a Crossley lorry and trailer out to nearby Navenby with a flashing beacon.

The pilot radioed back to base that the beacon was not working but showing a steady light.

That was the last heard from the plane. A little later it crashed at Owlet Plantation near Gainsborough, its crew blinded by the beacon. Ben and the pilot were dead. The air gunner, leading Aircraftsman C Chrystall, baled out safely.

In June Sam Marsden, of Swallownest, read in The Star that organisers of a new memorial in the village of Laughton, near Gainsborough, were holding a service for all those from or based in the parish who were killed in the Second World War. The memorial, a sundial, honours 42 airmen including Ben.

They wanted to find relatives of Ben or anyone who knew him. Sam, now 87, and Ben had grown up together in the same street and were the same age. Sam took this snap of Ben.

"He was at number 127 and I was born at 92, one of a family of 14. When Ben joined the RAF I wanted to do so as well but my father persuaded me to join the army," he says.

Dianne Millward, clerk of the parish council, tracked down Ben's sister Ida to Blackpool.

"She said the local laundry had to be closed on the day of his funeral because so many of the young girls there knew him and he was a favourite."

The Operations Record Book of 23 Squadron records simply it was "a flying accident."

Flt Lieutenant Walker had told his crew to bale out.

Ben didn't. As engineer, he stayed with the plane and paid the price. Ben's body is in City Road Cemetery, Sheffield."

From: The Star (South Yorkshire) 14 August 2006


RE: 'Unaccounted' airman 29-11-1939
Author: Henk Welting (Guest)
Time Stamp:
15:46:32 Monday, August 27, 2007
Thanks Amrit. I could open the article and see France's picture.