View Full Version : Vengeance crash, No.152 OTU

26th March 2013, 09:51
A Vultee Vengeance of No.152 OTU was lost on 17 February 1944 (crashed after encountering bad weather in a cross-country exercise). Documents on the service file of one of the RCAF casualties variously cite the serial as AJ629 and AJ649 - both of which were supposedly Harvard II aircraft - and AN629 (which is more likely correct, at least as to the letter-prefix). Can anyone enlighten me as to the true identity of this machine ?

26th March 2013, 10:17

Vultee Vengeance II AN629 - Control lost in turbulence, crashed, Marakpur, 16m SW of Chakwal, NWFP 17-2-1944.


26th March 2013, 16:41
Many thanks for clearing up that detail. Allow me now to share notes taken on the crash.

Warrant Officer Thomas Barlow - born Bottsford, England, 28 February 1911. Enlisted in Winnipeg, 24 January 1941. Trained as an air gunner, graduating 13 October 1941from No.7 BGS, Paulson. Arrived in UK, 14 November 1941. To Middle East, January 1942. To No.31 Squadron, 31 July 1942. India. To No.152 OTU, 9 December 1943. Killed in flying accident (both occupants killed), 17 February 1944.

The other occupant (pilot) was F/O Victor John Hillman who had 58.10 on Hurricanes and 33.30 on Vengeance at the time of the crash. Hillman had been born in Penticton, 15 March 1920, farmed and joined RCAF in Winnipeg, 19 July 1941. Graduated as a pilot from No.4 SFTS, Saskatoon, 6 November 1942. Arrived in UK, 18 December 1942. Further trained at No.17 (Pilots) AFU and No.55 OTU. Posted to India, arriving 28 November 1943. To No.152 OTU, 28 November 1943. Killed 17 February 1944. Aircraft took off from Peshwar, 1305 for cross-country flight in company with F/O Sills (leader) and P/O Gunderson.(No.2). Route was to be Peshwar-Attock-Khisman-Chakwal-Attock-Peshwar. Weather good, cloud 10/10 at 6,000 feet. Sky cleared as far as Khushab. However, on flight to Chakwal they encountered thin, then thickening cloud. This got so thick that Sills ordered a return. This was not heard on radio but No.2 saw Sills turn and followed. "Just after turning back, both F/O Sills and P/O Gunderson experienced extremely violent air currents which affected their blind flying instruments to such an extent that they were unable to keep their aircraft under complete control." After emerging from clouds they proceeded independently for Khushab but joined up and flew to Sargodna where they landed, 1450 hours.

No news of missing aircraft until 18 February when crash reported. An Indian civilian said it had been on fire. This was discounted. Aircraft had hit at 45-degree angle. However, the main electrical junction box was recovered and it looked like it had been burned in an electrical fire. "If lightning had indeed caused a failure of the junction box, all the electrical services of the aircraft - including electrical petrol pumps - would have become inoperative and the pilot would have been faced with the alternatives of either attempting to bale out or attempting a forced landing with 'dead' engine." The conclusion - "It is thought that the pilot was attempting to execute a forced landing, but owing to the bad weather and violent air currents the aircraft went out of control and low cloud base prevented control being completely regained before the aircraft struck the ground."

Much criticism of met officer, WO L.J. Powdrill, for not appreciating the route forecast and potential turbulence. The CO of No.152 OTU defended him. Wrote, "I thoroughly agree that the pupils must be warned against attempting to fly through 'heap' cloud and this is always impressed upon them at 'briefings' and Meteorological Lectures. I consider it essential, however, for pupils to be competent to fly through scattered cloud. I am of the opinion that an OTU would be failing to discharge its training obligations if crews, capable of flying only in fair weather, were passed on to operational squadrons. It is felt that it must be accepted as inevitable that, by virtue of its advanced nature, flying training at an OTU must be carried out in conditions more hazardous than those justifiable at units engaged in more elementary flying training." (report dated 3 March 1944).