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Thread: Mystery of Wellington crash in the wrong place

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    Default Mystery of Wellington crash in the wrong place

    An aircraft flying from RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire, via Bridport in Dorset, to attack Le Havre was apparently shot down by flak ships 40 kilometres SW of Texel in the Netherlands. This seems totally ridiculous. The aircraft in question was a Polish Wellington Mk 1c bomber R1443 which was lost without trace on 6th May 1941. It should have returned the same way it came. The white area referred to in the text is the part of the English Channel between the English and French coasts in a straight line between Syerston and Le Havre.

    Would anyone please criticise the text below (as severely as you like!) and offer any possible solutions to the problem. Many thanks.

    This is very odd! It seems like everyone has accepted a theory that it was shot down 40Km from Texel by flak ships of the Kriegsmarine but there is no explanation of why it was in that area in the first place. All my sources say it was shot down near Texel but none of them say what it was doing in that area. The only possibility that I can think of is that it was running from a night fighter. There was plenty of cloud cover that night at 3,000 - 5,000 feet and therefore plenty of scope to get away from its apparent pursuer.

    Leon Hempel was in the water for about 5 weeks and came ashore in Sussex; Sobieralski was in the water for about 4 months and came ashore in the Netherlands. Both of these suggest a very slow drift towards the North Sea from the English Channel - which supports your theory that it would have been shot down in the English Channel.

    Even where Hempel was washed ashore (Eastbourne) was a long way from where they should have been. The planned route was to cross the coast line at Bridport in Dorset then make a left turn and fly up the Channel towards Le Havre make the attack and return by the same route. If he was running from a fighter in thick cloud he could have become disoriented and gone off in the wrong direction - towards the Netherlands. This is not very likely unless his instruments had been hit by flak or gunfire but would support the idea of them being in the wrong place -Texel.

    I don't think that the plane would have come down in the white area because it would never have entered that area in normal flight because the line you have drawn from Syerston to Le Havre was not the planned route. They should not have flown in a straight line like that but should have flown south west from Syerston to Bridport then flown up the English Channel and bombed Le Havre which would have kept them south west of the white area on your plan.

    Even so, to be in the Texel area would mean flying at maximum speed for over an hour in the wrong direction. If they were lost they would be flying at a lower speed to conserve fuel. Unfortunately, the wreckage has never been found (or identified) so it is impossible to know the real truth.

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    I think the first question, Archivist, is where and when was the account of the loss of R1443 first published? I have found that erroneous stories can be repeated so often that they become the 'truth'. It is sometimes possible, from the date of publication of each account, to trace a story back to the original version.

    Brian

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    My initial information came from the notes of Mrs Betty Clements which were attached to the Polish War Graves website. These notes did also say that the target was Le Havre in France. I had put the crash location down to a possible pursuit by a night fighter or that they could not find the primary target in the dense cloud and went to bomb a secondary target. Several other sites mentioned the location of the crash as 40 Km from Texel and no one seemed the least surprised about it. Some even mentioned the aircraft was shot down by flak ships. However, my mission is not to allocate blame but to find out the truth but I have found no evidence of the aircraft crashing anywhere else.

    Zolnowski was buried in Newark but I don't know when or where his body washed up. The other two bodies were also found a long way from where the aircraft should have been but both were in the water for a long time.

    Neville

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    Neville

    The part of your first post on which you are asking for comments/criticism appears to be a reply to something which has been posted on another forum; as we have not seen this it makes it very difficult to write a constructive reply.

    However, your answer to me prompts the next questions - who is Mrs Betty Clements and do her notes provide any references for her statement? If not one must treat them with great suspicion. It appears the other sites making the same claim appear to be simply repeating the same source without checking the facts. Have you asked the authors for their source(s)?

    Has anyone actually accessed the KTBs of flack-ships in the assumed area of the 'loss'? Were any claims made that night, or were they even in action?
    Did any German night-fighters report any contacts/action over/near Le Havre that night? If not then all the statements about the cause of the loss remain little more than unfounded supposition.

    You say the aircraft was lost on 6 May - is that during the hours before dawn or during the following evening, not that it really matters as cloud and visibility were similar. Were other aircraft involved in the attack on Le Havre - did they report any fighter activity?

    Your first post refers to two bodies, your second to three. I would imagine there is a death certificate for Zolnowski somewhere (not my area of expertise) which would indicate where he was found.

    Brian

    PS. There's no indication throughout the thread as to which squadron was involved or if anyone has checked its ORB
    Last edited by Lyffe; 5th October 2017 at 21:00. Reason: PS for further thoughts

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    Hello Brian,

    I have no idea who she was but the basics of the story appeared on a very reliable website and at the time I wrote my original story, I was very green about sources and I should have checked it more closely. The person who drew my attention to it says the wording on some sites is exactly the same as mine! A cut and paste job! I, at least, asked the site owner for permission to use his material.

    The story I originally typed here was my response to the man who drew it to my attention and has not been on any other forum. I have not had time to do much further research because the matter only cropped up last night. However, I fully intend to do more research into it and rewrite the story when I have done that. I will try to find a loss card for the bomber as an initial step.

    Regards
    Neville

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    There are no details on the Loss Card regarding the location of the loss, nor any information regarding the recovery of the bodies.

    WR Chorley records "Crashed in the Sea", so no further details can be found from that source (although I note that a different answer has been provided to your enquiry on FB, so I may have an out of date version)

    Regards

    Pete
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Hi Neville,

    Do you know where "it should have returned the same way" comes from?

    The Loss Card shows no routes. But I have yet to see an NRR showing an aircraft returning via the same route it went in on.

    Regards,

    Dave

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    Hello Dave,

    The ORB gives the route as Base - Cottesmore - Bridport - Le Havre and return. But your point about not returning via the same route is interesting! There are several places on the Internet which state it came down near Texel and one or two say it was shot down by flak ships but I have seen no evidence of that. The ORB also says "Nothing known"

    Regards
    Neville

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    Thank you for that information. The ORB gives the outward route "and return" but bombing Le Havre makes Texel seem unlikely although not impossible. I have seen the loss card and it gives the target simply as Invasion Ports. It seems that it was a bit too far for a secondary target.

    Regards
    Neville

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    Thanks for the information PeteT,

    I have seen the crash card but the ORB states "nothing known" so it is difficult to be really sure of anything.

    Regards
    Neville

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