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Thread: Gordon Crawford 18 Squadron, Italy Jan 1944, Boston 111 shot down by Beaufighter

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    Default Gordon Crawford 18 Squadron, Italy Jan 1944, Boston 111 shot down by Beaufighter

    George Dean was a Canadian pilot flying for the RAF. I, Gordon Crawfords son, found this on a website paying tribute to Canadian baseball players who served their country during WW2.

    source: http://www.baseballsgreatestsacrific....1mFFyzXk.dpuf

    The following is from a letter sent to Dean's mother on June 18, 1945, from Gordon Crawford, a member of Dean's crew, who spent the balance of the war in a POW camp.

    Dear Mrs. Dean,

    I expect you have been waiting patiently to hear from me to know exactly what happened to your son George. Well Mrs. Dean I feel it my duty to tell you the truth, as I’m sure you would want me to do, no matter how cruel it may seem.

    In the first place we were shot down in very unfortunate circumstances. You may find it hard to believe but an American fighter mistook us for the enemy and although we recognized him, he failed to identify us and fired upon us and we burst into flames.

    All the electrical equipment in our aircraft was shattered leaving us no form of communication with other members of the crew as in our particular aircraft each man has his own isolated cockpit affording no movement whatsoever.

    I know for a fact that George tried to bale out but whether we were too low, as we were losing height rapidly, or whether his parachute had been improperly packed I cannot say, but when he was found his chute was only half opened. I am rather inclined to believe the former. I think he left it too late, to make sure we got out safely, doing what was in his power to keep the aircraft in the air as long as possible. Knowing your son as I did I feel sure that’s what happened. I can say this truly, that I owe my life to him and I shall never forget that. I know you must be very proud of him as we all were to have him as our “skipper”. We enjoyed every minute of his company and he was a great flyer, because he loved his job. His heart and soul were in everything he did and he was very popular with everyone on the squadron.

    Now Mrs. Dean accept my heartfelt sympathy for your great loss, and if there is anything you would like to know or if there is anything I can do to lighten your burden please let me know and I will do all in my power to help you.
    - See more at:

    An extract from Gordon Crawford's own story of the incident, which took the lives of all his crew mates. He managed to bail out but the sight of seeing his own plane and crew crashing in flames to the ground followed him through the rest of his life.

    "Just at that time Wally shouted through the intercom that he had spotted a Beaufighter aircraft just below us. Ronnie had also seen it. I looked down through the glass floor panel in my cockpit and I also saw this British Beaufighter with American markings. It was very easy to see what it was because of the moonlight. Dixie (our pilot) flashed them the recognition Signal on our lights and then we decided to carry on with our mission. I was guiding Dixie over our target when all of a sudden Ronnie shouted over the intercom. “That Beaufighter is right on our tail”. As he said this there was an almighty noise of gunfire hitting our plane and cannon shells exploding".

    Gordon Crawford was my father. He lived a good life and died aged 80, 2002. I would like to know if there are any records of this terrible incident and whether there was a tribunal set up to look into the matter.

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    The date of this loss was actually 7-8 Feb 44. The Boston was W8367. The crew were:

    P/O G. Dean, RCAF +
    F/Sgt G. R. Crawford pow
    Sgt R. S. Conroy +
    Sgt S. W. Clarke +

    They failed to return after taking off from Pomigliano on an armed recce of roads in the Rome area. It was their first mission with the squadron. The dead are buried in the Beach Head Cemetery, Anzio.

    (From draft of Gunby and Temple's Volume Two of 'RAF Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean'.

    Errol

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    Thanks. Draft will be emended.

    David

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    Thank you for the information provided. Regarding crew members this coincides with my father's own story. However I still wonder about the consequences for the American Beaufighter crew. At the same time I understand the difficulties under such conditions of war, flying at night, the threat of the enemy etc etc. Was this something that one had to live with as an aspect of war?

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    No doubt a search on here and on the internet more widely would uncover many more friendly fire incidents in the course of the war - for example I remember reading somewhere about the "Battle of Barking Creek" which involved Hurricanes and Spitfires, I believe. 12 O'Clock High forum has a thread devoted to blue-on-blue incidents, and it runs to 50+ pages. Such deaths somehow seem particularly sad, but I suppose the enormous scale (and violence) of the air war made this kind of thing inevitable. I'm very glad to hear that your father, at least, survived and lived to a good age.

    As one example from my own area of interest, 148 (SD) Squadron Balkan Air Force, in late 1944 the squadron lost a Lysander to a US Mustang (on 22.11.44 over Italy). The Lysander, piloted by F/O Rayns, was outbound from Brindisi carrying agents for an SOE operation when it was bounced and shot down with the loss of all on board. There was an escort of RAAF Spitfires, but I suppose they can't have been expecting an attack from an Allied aircraft (which believed the Lysander to be a Henschel 123, apparently). It is thought, but not documented as far as I know, that the Mustang pilot was probably court-martialled though with what result is not known. I would imagine any reported RAF friendly fire incident would be formally investigated, given the thoroughness of e.g. accident investigation, and no doubt the same was true of other air forces.


    Cheers, Pat.

    PS Just Googled the Battle of Barking Creek and found this which confirms the aircraft types involved; I expect there's much more detail and discussion elsewhere, quite possibly on this forum.

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