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Thread: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    I have been advised by the Gloucestershire Constabulary that no record of police involvement in the accident survives. Its reply notes that having received several queries over the years the archives team is familiar with the accident but, unfortunately, has never been able to help.

    As crew members were predominantly Canadian I'm wondering if their records might include something more than has appeared so far in the thread, but I'm unsure how to go about it.

    Brian

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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    Quote Originally Posted by Lyffe View Post
    I have been advised by the Gloucestershire Constabulary that no record of police involvement in the accident survives. Its reply notes that having received several queries over the years the archives team is familiar with the accident but, unfortunately, has never been able to help.

    As crew members were predominantly Canadian I'm wondering if their records might include something more than has appeared so far in the thread, but I'm unsure how to go about it.

    Brian
    Brian

    I have copies of the Canadian files and they add nothing further than that which has already been shared on this thread. There may be something more in the RAF files once they are released to the public.

    Regards

    Daz

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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    There is an official way to access before public release.

    The casualty files still held by the RAF ie not yet released into the publication system for review before transfer - can be accessed if conditions are met.

    The forms are specific to RAFAHB at Northolt - NOT Disclosures at Cranwell

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/request-...casualty-files

    "Note that if you are not the immediate Next of Kin or do not have the consent ofthe Next of Kin* the information that generally will be disclosed to you is:Aircraft Type, Squadron Number, Take Off details, Target, Destination or PatrolArea, Bomb Load (where applicable) any Special Equipment Carried (where notclassified), Names Of Crew, Cause Of Loss, Crash Location Details Of Burial(original burial site if not field grave and CWGC grave where applicable)"

    Ross
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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    Daz: Thank you for saving me the time and effort on something that is already in the public domain.

    Ross: Likewise, thank you. I wasn't aware of this option, and will certainly be following it. I've deduced a fair amount about the operation from what has been offered previously on this thread, together with the 78 Squadron ORB (i.e. Bomb Load (4 x 1500 lbs Mk IV mines) and historical meteorological data; whether or not the casualty file for one of the RAF crew adds anything new remains to be seen but one can live in hope. It's a pity no raid report has come to light.

    Brian

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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    "It's a pity no raid report has come to light."

    Brian, I'm coming late to this thread, have you seen AIR14/3377

    Lands End - 4830N 0530W - Brest
    i) first six attacks - 4820N 0400W - Portland Bill
    ii) last two attacks - 4810N 0450W - 4830N 0535W Portland Bill

    Ross
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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    I'd not seen the file, Ross, but I don't think it is the one. Only six aircraft were involved, the mining area being the approach to the La Rochelle U-boat pens at approximately 46.09N 01.15W. At the moment I'm assuming the route is Breighton - Lyme Regis - slightly E of S to La Rochelle.

    Brian

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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    Posted it into the gallery

    http://www.rafcommands.com/galleries/members/DSCF0312

    multiple pages to DSCF0316

    The mining operation is listed below the coastal battery mission

    As far as I can tell the mining operations used the same routing as the Coastal Battery attacks to prevent track confusion for coast approach/departure.

    Ross
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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    Thank you Ross. I'm afraid that other than DSCF0312 the text was very blurred, but I couldn't make out any reference to 'mining' or 'La Rochelle'. However, had the mining operation followed the Brest operation track it would have increased the total distance flown by some 250-300 miles. I'd assumed Portland Bill would have been avoided by virtue of it being a major naval anchorage, but my assumption was obviously in error. A southerly track from Portland Bill should have been safe as, other than the German pocket of La Rochelle, the aircraft would have been over Allied territory.

    Brian

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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    By Afterlift
    I have studied both the RAF Forms 765 (Report on Flying Accident or Forced Landing Not Attributable to Enemy Action) and 412 which is the Proceedings of Court of Inquiry or Investigation (the completed forms are under the name Charles Maurice Howes on Ancestry.com). I will summarise the forms without commenting on a couple of evident but irrelevant administrative anomalies and without speculating on cause. I thought it might help to establish a position regarding the RAF crash investigation and also a datum position of the crash location (TBC)
    Both record that MZ311 approached the aircraft’s crash position from the north and not from the south on its intended track to return to RAF Breighton. This means that the aircraft must have passed at least some distance over the high terrain in the vicinity of Cleeve Hill summit and to the north before turning left or right to assume a southerly track over Cleeve hill plateau toward its impact point. Much of the terrain around the crash position of MZ 311 is higher than the elevation of the assumed crash position indicating that the aircraft may have been descending immediately before impact. This may seem contrary to the paragraph 10 of both the Form 765 and 412 which conclude the aircraft was flying level at impact. I propose that the aircraft may have almost recovered to level flight after its descent.
    The report does not firmly conclude why the aircraft was heading in the southerly direction and at very low altitude. A full post-crash technical inspection of the aircraft appears not to have been completed. The assessment at Paragraph 10 of Form 765 is that at least three of the four engines appeared to be “running normally” though this conclusion apparently was not drawn from a detailed inspection of the engines and propellers. Paragraph 8 of the Form 412 recorded flight controls “appeared normal”. Paragraph 10 of Form 412 records (on 10SEP44) the conclusions that at the time of the crash (given as 0214) the aircraft was serviceable and had sufficient fuel and from the Navigator’s log was heading for Pershore aerodrome. Though no intent to land at Pershore was recorded and it is likely to have been an intermediate point on the track to RAF Breighton. (Pershore is approximately 15 miles to the north of the crash position). The Form 412 records that because Pershore was covered in cloud “they seem to have been doing an erratic descent and crashed into high ground”. Paragraph 10 of Form 765 recorded that according to his log the Navigator “seemed to know his position.”
    On 30SEP44 Air Commodore H.V. Slatterly, Base Commander recorded his assessment in Form 412 that it was “most unlikely” the aircraft was attempting to penetrate cloud without some reason which “may have been engine failure”. Though he concluded the absence of a distress signal made this possibility “seem unlikely”. He noted the possible significance of the Flight Engineer not having completed his log since 0058 (his log is normally completed every 30 minutes and also in the event there is a change in fuel management, power settings or anything else of engineering note).
    The Commander of 4 Group, Air Vice Marshal C.R. Carr when signing off the report of the Court of Inquiry observed (21OCT44) that the aircraft fuel valve selection seen in the post-crash examination was problematic because it presented a risk of fuel starvation simultaneously in more than one engine because all engines were running from a single tank. He did not state the setting was causal and concluded the cause of the crash was “obscure.”
    As an aside, the post-crash position of fuel valve selectors connected by rod or cable are treated cautiously due to the possibility they may have been moved from their selected position by impact forces.
    My observations which (regrettably) include an element of speculation are as follows: I note that the Court of Inquiry appears not to have recorded the possibility of a temporary and/or partial loss of engine thrust due to fuel starvation or one of several other possible causes including battle damage unrealised by the crew. And that such an occurrence may have caused a descent and loss of altitude from which the aircraft was recovering when it impacted. The time covering onset and incipient recovery from the emergency may have been too brief to provide for a written record or transmission of a distress call. The aircraft’s turn to the south may have been deliberate in order to track the aircraft away from high ground or could also have been a consequence of asymmetric engine thrust causing a turn. The ambient wind was from the south but light and variable so not a significant factor for the pilot. The aircraft’s TR1196 HF Radio was turned off thereby limiting the aircraft’s communication capability.
    The position of crash provided by the RAF record are imprecise. Witnesses of the crash site recall several possible sites. And there is hope that in time an accurate position will be determined. My assessment of a reasonable datum of the crash position is 51d 56m 16s N and 02d 01m 25s W. From various assessments and accounts the crash is assessed to be within 200 yards of this point which is the “ring fort” feature 150degrees Malvern View B&B 337 yards visible on Google Earth.
    As is the case with local police records pertaining to the crash, local inquest records covering the crew of MZ311 are not held by local archives.
    Regards
    cris
    Last edited by afterlift; 5th November 2020 at 05:19. Reason: to include TR1196 status

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    Default Re: 78 SQN RAF Loss of Halifax III MZ311 on Cleeve Hill Gloucecstershire 26 AUG 44

    What information would a Wireless Operator record in his log? I suppose the same question applies to the Navigator. Should anyone have a copy of either type of log I'd be grateful for the sight of a page. Just thinking outside the box at the moment.

    Brian

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