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

    My first post. I know that there is a 78SQN expert (78SqnHistory Daz) Dont know how to address the post.
    Six aircraft took part in this minelaying operation off La Rochelle. Five returned to RAF Breighton but not MZ311 which impacted Cleeve Hill. All crew killed. Aircraft Captain FLTLT Charles Maurice Howes J 2597778. Is anything known of the crew's service on 78?I have their names, service number , country of origin and burial details. I would like just a little information to fill out their story a little if that is available. Very little is recorded locally on their loss and i am trying to rectify that.
    cris

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

    Hi Cris,

    Im sure Daz will be able to answer your questions, he has an excellent knowledge of this Sqn.

    Cheers,

    John.

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

    Thanks John. Yes indeed. His knowledge is impressive.
    cris

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

    Cris

    Ancestry.co.uk has the Service Files for the Canadian crew members.

    Howes' file records include Form 765, which has the following:

    Report by S/Ldr. Harris E. N. No. 3 G.T.S. who visited the scene of the crash.
    The aircraft crashed at 02.20 hours into a grass bank at the egde of a quarry on a hill about 1,000 feet high. At the time, the top of the hill was ocvered by low stratus cloud, but it is not thought that this cloud was general. The aircraft approached the hill from the North. From the appearance of the engines (the reduction gear casing on at least three engines had sheared) it would appear that they were running normally. The Navigator's log shows an entry at 02.03 hours and he seemed to know his position. The aircraft was then flying North North East according to the log. The Wireless Operator's logo is completed up to 02.10 hrs. No mention is made in either log of any trouble. It is considered that the aircraft was flying level at the time of the crash.


    It also includes excerpts from Form 412 (Proceeds of Court of Inquiry or Investigation). F/Lt. Howes flying experience is recorded as:
    No. 11 E.F.T.S. Cap. Nad.
    No 5 S.F.T.S.
    No 18 (P) A.F.U.
    No. 23 O.T.U.
    1666 H.C.U.
    To 78 Sqn April 4th 1944

    The crash site is recorded as 51 57' N 02 03' W (approx). The report also has:

    From the Navigator's logo book they appear to have been heading for Pershore aerodrome and as this place was covered by cloud, they seem to have been doing an erratic descent and to have crashed into high ground.

    Remarks by Group Commander [C. R. Carr, AVM]
    The cause of the accident remains obscure. It is noticed that all the petrol tank balance cocks were in the 'On' position. Thus, if all engine were being run off one tank and this ran dry, a cutting of the engines would have resulted.

    Remarks by Station Commander [H. V. Satterly, A/Cdre]
    Owing to the limited evidence, ay suggestion of the cause of the accident must be surmise. The crew was above average, and it seems most unlikely that they attempted to break the low cloud without some reason. It may have been engine failure, but the absence of distress signals makes this seem unlikely, althought the fact that the Flight Engineer's log finishes at 00.58 may have some significance. Similarly the apparent error in the Navigator's log [not included in the report] are difficult to explain unless one assumes the crew were in difficulty. To sum up, I consider the cause of the accident must inevitably remain obscure.


    Regards

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

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

    Firstly John, Cris thank you for your kind comments. For completeness the crew which was lost are as follows:

    Pilot Flt C M Howes RCAF Arrived from 1666 CU 28.04.44
    F Eng Sgt J McArdle RAFVR Arrived from 1663 CU 27.03.44
    Nav FO E E Freeman RCAF Arrived from 1666 CU 28.04.44
    BA PO G W McCartney RCAF Arrived from 1666 CU 38.04.44
    WOp Sgt E H Harris RAFVR Arrived from 41 Base 30.04.44
    AG FSgt H B Hamilton RCAF Arrived from 61 Base 28.04.44
    AG FO J A Glenn RCAF Arrived from 1666 CU 28.04.44

    It is most likely that the crew’s original WOp was FSgt H T Alsop RCAF and that the F Eng was Sgt A Cracknell RAFVR both of whom return to 44 Base in June 1944.

    So the crew that were lost on this operation were not the original crew, which arrived in April 1944. There were a number of changes throughout their time on the Squadron; these changes routinely involved the Wireless Operator and the Flight Engineer and on one occasion the Navigator. The constants were Howes McCartney and the two Air Gunners, Hamilton and Glenn.

    If we use these 4 as the stable line the crew were lost on their 25th operation, although the 19th and 24th operations were both aborted.

    The full list of operations is as follows:

    19.05.44 BOULOUGNE
    22.05.44 ORLEANS
    27.05.44 BOURG LEOPOLD
    07.06.44 JUVISY
    27.06.44 MONT CANDON
    28.06.44 BLAINVILLE
    01.07.44 ST MARTIN L’HORTIER
    04.07.44 ST MARTIN L’HORTIER
    05/06.07.44 ST MARTIN L’HORTIER
    09.07.44 CHATEAU BERNEPRE
    12.07.44 THIVERNY
    15/16.07.44 NUCORT
    18.07.44 CAEN H2
    18/19.07.44 ACQUET
    20/21.07.44 BOTTROP
    23/24.07.44 KIEL
    24/25.07.44 STUTTGART
    28.07.44 FORET DU NIEPPE
    01.08.44 PROUVILLE – ABORTED
    02.08.44 FORET DU NIEPPE
    03.08.44 FORET DU NIEPPE
    05.08.44 FORET DU NIEPPE
    16/17.08.44 GARDENING KIEL BAY
    18/19.08.44 STERKRADE – ABORTED UNDERCARRIGE WOULDN’T RETRACT
    25.08.44 LA ROCHELLE – CRASHED ON RETURN TO UK

    The detail provided by Simon covers the post crash investigation and as the report suggests, this was an experienced crew who were in the majority nearing the end of their first tour. This aircraft was coded EY-M.

    HTH Daz

    PS If anyone has any further detail on Alsop or Cracknell I would be most interested
    Last edited by 78SqnHistory; 30th September 2020 at 05:24. Reason: additional information

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

    Daz,

    As no one came up with Alsop's Christian names in your last exercise, I'd like to suggest that it was this fellow.

    https://vancouversunandprovince.reme...sop-1065320197

    He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a radio operator from 1942 to 1945.
    Regards,

    Dave

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

    Dave,
    Many thanks for the suggestion, I have found a family tree with him in on Ancestry and have sent the owner a message to see if they can add any detail. My only concern is that he is constantly referred to as H T Alsop in the Squadron ORB. He joins the Squadron the moves to 44 Base and then returns again a month later.
    Regards
    Daz

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

    Daz

    Newspapers.com has an H T Alsop, from Dundas, ON graduating from No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School, Jarvis, ON as a 'wireless air gunner' on 20th August 1943 but I cannot find out anymore about him.

    Chris

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

    Excellent body of information Simon. Thank you. It all makes sense except the report's finding that the aircraft approached the hill from the north. The aircraft was returning from the Bay of Biscay. And home plate was RAF Breighton. So the NNE heading is about right given that the intended track was unlikely to have been a straight line. I accept the intent to make for Pershore though we dont know the reason for that. Very interesting and exactly what i was after.
    Regards
    cris

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

    Daz, This comprehensive overview and detail completes the picture presented by Simon's post. Far more than i was expecting. This will allow me to put together almost the full story of what happened if not the why. My aim was to provide local historians the names of the brave young men, the details of their unit and what they were about so that hopefully they will be appropriately remembered and their story is passed on. Presently there is very little indeed.
    i am overwhelmed by the assistance you, Simon and other responders have provided me. Thank you.
    cris

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