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Thread: Hudson loss 1/2 April 1942 Northill Bedfordshire

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    Default Hudson loss 1/2 April 1942 Northill Bedfordshire

    Hi

    My first post on the site and I have a query or seeking info about a particular event.
    On 1/2 April 1942 a Hudson crashed just south of Moggerhanger near Grove Farm, Northill, Bedfordshire . The crew of 4 were killed. In the Bedford archives it does not mention the airfield of departure or circumstances. Initially I assumed it was from Tempsford which is close by. However, someone with knowledge about the base was able to say it was unlikely. He could also not find anything in Coastal Command records, although I gather complete data is not available for 1942?
    From Hugh Verity’s book, I see that only Lysanders were operating from Tempsford at that time. The report of the loss is from the Bedfordshire Archives that includes a witness report, a boy at the time. There is no information other than type, date and location. I write occasional short articles for the Northill parish magazine and was thinking of putting something together at some point about this event. A ‘long shot’ perhaps but does anyone know of this and can provide more information? Alternatively, can anyone point me the direction where I might find more info? Any help much appreciated of course.

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    Default Re: Hudson loss 1/2 April 1942 Northill Bedfordshire

    Hello, and welcome to the Forum.

    Hudson AE558 of 1428 Hudson Conversion Flight. The rest of those on board from the IBCC website:

    https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/104313

    https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/107047

    https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/111249

    https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/114369

    And from Bill Chorley's book Bomber Command Losses, Volume 8:

    Took off from Oulton tasked for a night cross country, the route to be flown totalling 624 miles. Crashed 2235 at Beeston Fields, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, some 7 miles S of track. Eye-witnesses to the crash say the Hudson appeared to be flying normally, between 500 and a thousand feet, when the engines began ‘popping’ (thus suggesting fuel starvation). P/O Ellis, who came from Ringmer in Sussex, rests in Cardington (St Mary) Church Cemetery, Sgt Clarke is buried at Potters Bar (St Mary) Church Cemetery, Sgt Luney was taken back to Northern Ireland and interred in Belfast City Cemetery, while Sgt Horton rests in Billingham (St Cuthbert) Churchyard, Durham.

    P/O J H Ellis
    Sgt H Clarke
    Sgt W Luney
    Sgt G Horton

    See also:

    https://wartimeni.com/person/william-luney/

    https://scarletboy44.tumblr.com/post...-homfray-ellis

    Regards

    Simon
    Last edited by wwrsimon; 11th June 2020 at 16:47. Reason: Took out unnecessary detail and added link
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: Hudson loss 1/2 April 1942 Northill Bedfordshire

    the AIR81 File from National Archives. https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...ls/r/C17083854 may hold more detail. Obviously you will have to wait for them to re-open.

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    Default Re: Hudson loss 1/2 April 1942 Northill Bedfordshire

    Hi Simon

    Thank you so much. This is over and above what I was expecting. I thought it would be unlikely that I would get the detail of the crew. The fact that one is buried at Cardington, just up the road, is a real bonus. This will make a great article and an honour to the memory of those guys.
    Best regards
    Mike

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    Default Re: Hudson loss 1/2 April 1942 Northill Bedfordshire

    Mike

    Unusually for a wartime aircraft crash there was a lengthy and detailed article about the accident in the Biggleswade Chronicle of April 10th 1942, available on FindMyPast.com.

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: Hudson loss 1/2 April 1942 Northill Bedfordshire

    For the record, here's the article from the Biggleswade Chronicle in full. Note that the witness recalls that the sound of the engines suddenly cut out, and that he saw what he thought was a fire while the aircraft was still in the air before the sound of the crash.

    The Biggleswade Chronicle and Bedfordshire Gazette, Friday April 10th 1942, page 4

    FOUR KILLED IN AEROPLANE CRASH

    Gallantry of R.A.F. Men Praised

    P.s. Sandell Complimented

    The gallant action of five members of the R.A.F. who tried to save the crew of a British aircraft which crashed in flames in a field in Bedfordshire, and the efficient manner in which P.s. G. R. Sandell carried out his duties, were highly praised by the Coroner for North Beds. (Mr. R. G. Rose) at the inquest on the four members of the crew who lost their lives.
    Mr. Rose, recording a verdict of accidental death in each case, said the accident had caused considerable amount of enquiry and investigation, which had been carried out most efficiently by Bedfordshire Constabulary and by P.s. G. R. Sandell in particular, and this had been of great assistance. He would also like to mention the valuable help which was given to P.s. Sandell by the five members of the R.A.F. Perhaps the representatives of the R.A.F. who were present would see that their action was brought to proper notice. They and P.s. Sandell and the other people present performed their duties most expeditiously and bravely, although the aircraft was still burning at the time.
    The victims of the accident, which occurred on the night of Wednesday, April 1st, were:
    Pilot Officer John Homfray Ellis, (19), whose next of kin is Mrs. Gillum, of Littleham, Buxted.
    Sergt. Harry Clarke (21), whose next of in is his mother, Mrs. D. M. Clarke, of 144, Auckland Road, Potters Bar, Middlesex.
    Sergt. William Luney (21), whose next of kin is Mr. W. G. Luney, of 40, Woodvale Road, Belfast; and
    Sert. George Horton (29), whose next of kin is his wife, Mrs. Horton, of 51, Belmont Avenue, Wolverston, Billingham, Co. Durham.
    Mrs. Clarke, Mrs. Horton and Mr. George Horton (brother of Sergt. Horton) were present. Supt. J. B. Gilbody was present on behalf of Bedfordshire Constabulary.
    Medical evidence was given by Dr. T. A. Lane Connold, who said he was of the opinion that the men were dead before burning took place.
    A Squadon Leader said the aircraft left the aerodrome at 19.40 hours
    “BIG ORANGE FLOW”
    Arthur George Whiteman, a special constable, said he was on duty at about 10.40 p.m. on the night of April 1st. He heard the sound of an aircraft coming toward him from the south-west. There was nothing unusual in the sound of the engines, but suddenly the engines cut out. There was one big orange glow in the sky followed immediately by a terrible thud. He was about half a mile from the scene of the crash and immediately he went to a local farm to ask the farmer to drive him to the spot. By keeping to the road, however, they found that they were getting farther away from the scene, so they abandoned the car, crossed a ploughed field and a ditch and eventually arrived where the aircraft was ablaze.
    In answer to the Squadron Leader, Whiteman said he saw a tremendous ball of fire in the sky before he heard the thud. He had seen ordinary aircraft fighting in the sky in France and in Belgium during the last war, but this was different to that. The plane was rather low at the time. It seemed that it was just above the trees. There was no indication of fire when he first heard it.
    BODIES DISCOVERED
    P.s. George Reginald Sandell said he received information of the crash at 22.45 hours and going outside his station saw the glow of a fierce fire. He obtained transport and with other officers went at once to the field. He found the machine burning in a field. When he arrived the fire had burned down somewhat and several members of the R.A.F. and some soldiers were standing by. He enquired if any members of the crew had escaped or baled out but he could obtain no information. He enquired whether any of those present could throw any light on the accident, but apart from Whiteman no one could.
    He examined the machine and saw the charred bodies of two men near the pilot’s seat. One was in a sitting position and the other was lying across him. On further examination a third body was recovered from the centre of the aircraft. A further examination revealed a fourth body towards the end of the machine. On one of the charred remains was an identity disc bearing the name of Sergt. H. Clarke. He received most valuable assistance from five members of the R.A.F. – Sergts. Waltman, Bramley, Grimwade, and Moore, and A/C Mitchell. The aircraft was facing south west. The propellers and part of the engines were buried in the ground, which was grassland. The port engine was slightly deeper in the ground than the starboard one. On examining the scene in daylight he saw that the port side wing was suspended in the air and was not burnt as much as the starboard one. The position of the machine indicated that an attempt to land into the wind had been made. There was no evidence on the grass to show that the machine had run long before coming to rest. The machine was completely burnt out.
    Civil Defence services conveyed the bodies to the mortuary. The machine was on fire when the bodies were removed.
    In answer to the Squadron Leader, witness said he did not hear anyone else except Whiteman say they saw the machine on fire before it crashed. The R.A.F. personnel ran to give what assistance they could. Many people heard the aircraft flying low.
    Recording a verdict of accidental death in each case, the Coroner expressed his sympathy with the relatives of the four men. They died in the service of their country every bit as if they had been on operational flying.

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: Hudson loss 1/2 April 1942 Northill Bedfordshire

    Simon

    Thank you so much. That is so much useful information. Regarding the fire and thud, because sound travels slower it could be that they occured simultaneously? South-west would be the correct direction for it to approach as it would on the last leg back to Oulton from Hungerford. Thus it seems to have turned 180 to try and land unless that was the result of a stall.
    Many thanks for your help
    regards
    Mike

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