Hi all,

Here's a double-whammy headache I've been working on for some time. I've been doing some research into the crash of 99 Sqn Wellington II W5436 LN-X which crashed at 0200 on 29 Sept 1941 near Manor Lane, Horringer, Suffolk. This has been for relatives of 98 year-old Ron Gill, who was WOp aboard the aircraft that night, on his 48th operation of his second tour. Bill Chorley's excellent 1941 loss book lists the crew, with three including pilot P/O K H N Rumbo being killed in the crash, and three injured. We've already established that Sgt W Paxton died from injuries on 1 Oct 1941. Ron believed that the 6th man, Sgt Cooke also died from his injuries later, leaving him as the sole survivor. However after trawling for some time, the only Cooke we've found who might fit is Sgt Alexander Cooke whose date of death is given as 12 Aug 1942?

Now here's the REALLY interesting thing. One of Ron's relatives has a cutting from the 'Southern Daily Echo' on Ron's miraculous survival. It states that he and another crewman, a Sgt Observer Smith, a Canadian, were thrown out of the aircraft at 1,000 ft without parachutes and that their fall was cushioned by a flax field. Ron had no recollection of the crash itself, his last memory being of sending an SOS on his radio as they searched for an airfield in fog. I am at a loss as to what happened to W5436. It has been suggested that a collision occurred with 99 Sqn Wellington IC Z8869, which crashed at Great Finborough, Suffolk while returning from the same operation. However, 12 miles and 65 minutes separated the two crashes so I think it unlikely. Ron's injuries included a fractured pelvis and a broken jaw, along with facial injuries which required plastic surgery to heal. Sgt Observer Smith RCAF's injuries were more serious and included a fractured skull, an injured eye and his legs broken in 12 places. This 'Sgt Smith' is the real puzzle as he does not appear in the crew-list of either of the two 99 Sqn crashes in Suffolk that night?

Can any 99 Sqn or RAF Bomber command gen persons help me sort this mess out?


Bob C