|10/11/1941||Catalina I||W8422&Z2141||412 Sqn RCAF||Sullom Voe|
a gale from the north causing a big swell, and these two Catalinas became
water-logged and sank at their moorings. It is thought that W8419
& AH569, also from 413 Sqn sank as well. And when these two
were refloated on 15/12/41. they were also found to be write-offs.
|11/12/1941||Blenheim IV||T1808||404 Sqn RCAF||Sumburgh|
was landing in a strong cross wind which caused it to drift. A
tyre burst, which made the aircraft swing off the runway and into a
|31/12/1941||Gladiator II||N5642||Shetland Fighter
cut while on patrol and a forced landing was made on Samphrey Island.
The aircraft ran into a bog and overturned.
the date that it was struck off charge, and not necessarily the same
as the accident. This probably relates to 30/01/40 when P/O Winter
made a forced landing on Samphrey.
|02/01/1942||Catalina 1||W8434||413 Sqn RCAF||Sullom Voe|
the middle of taking-off and landing area of Sullom Voe is the Ungam
Rock. This navigation hazard had a beacon light mounted on a mast.
was taking off for a night solo flight when it struck the beacon, causing
a loss of control. The Catalina was a write-off, but there were
F/O J.H. Baldrey RCAF
|19/01/1942||Catalina I||Z2148||240 Sqn||Castle Archdale|
Command had been asked to put up as many aircraft as possible in the
search for the Tirpitz off Norway. This Catalina was one
of these aircraft. They first flew from their base in Northern
Ireland to Invergordon, in Northern Scotland to refuel.
evening of the 18th they took-off for the long patrol.
They soon ran into severe iceing and bumpy weather, which added to the
discomfort of the crew. Then most unusual for a Catalina, one
of the engines failed. The aircraft was unable to maintain height,
so the bomb load had to be dumped. They then set course for Sullom
Voe. A message was sent to Sullom Voe informing them of their
problem, and giving a ETA. This message was received at the W/T
shack, but for some unknown reason was not passed on to the flying control.
So flying control, blissfully unaware of the Catalina, thinking they
had finished for the night, shut up shop and went to bed.
01.00 the Catalina arrived to find no reply to their calls, and no welcoming
flare path. After checking that they were in the correct part
of the world, they started to circle, making calls on the radio.
Their calls were eventually answered by Sumburgh, who in turn managed
to awaken somebody at Sullom Voe. It was a bitterly cold, pitch
black night, with snow showers. The scene can be imagined as men
were ordered from their beds in the middle of the night, to man open
boats. The flare path was laid, but then there was a shift in
the wind, and it had to be altered.
in the Catalina it was found that every time they passed over land there
was a sudden loss of height. So they circled over the sea to the
Fetlar. During the hours of circling they may have drifted into
the Colgrave Sound. Neither of the pilots or the navigator had
ever been to Sullom Voe before, and they knew that the landing on such
a dark night would not be easy.
at about 05.00, the news came that a partial flare path had been laid,
and if they wished they could now land. They reduced height and
had just set course when they were blinded by a snow shower. What
happened next is a mystery, but it is almost certain that they were
caught in a severe down draft, and may have struck the top of the hill
of Arisdale, on yell, causing a loss of control. The Catalina
then skidded across the ground, breaking up as it went. F/O Helme
the co-pilot, was propelled out through the windscreen. He was
able to pick himself up and return to the blazing Catalina and pull
clear two injured crew members before being driven back by the flames.
After making the two men as comfortable as possible, P/O Helme then
set off to get help. His boots had been left behind in the aircraft
and he had to walk bare foot through the snow. He eventually arrived
at the farm of Bruce Henderson. While Mrs Henderson tended to
the pilots injuries, Mr Henderson went to the telephone in the village
store in Hamnavoe to raise the alarm. First to reach the crash
site were the Burravoe platoon of the Home Guard. They carried
the injured men down to the pier on their first stage of their journey
of the dead crew members are buried in a communal grave in the church
yard at Hamnavoe. There is a large memorial stone near to the
foot of the grave.
was mostly destroyed in the fire, but there are still some remains at
Willa mina Hoga, at map reference 1/481852. Both engines, and
part of a wing are the most conspicuous remains.
F/L Harry Goolden (Pilot) K, F/O A.Helme (Co-Pilot) S, P/O Lyle George
Schell RCAF (Navigator) K, F/Sgt D.E.C.Lockyer (Engineer Crew Chief)
S, Sgt Sinclair Irvine (Flt Engineer) K, Sgt Alan Oscar Pitcher (Flt
Eng) K, Sgt Richmond (Airframe Fitter) S, Sgt Eugen Henowy (WOP/AG)
K, Sgt Leslie Albert Rowe (WOP/AG) K, and Sgt Albert Roland Breakspear
|30/01/1942||Blenheim IV||V5753||404 Sqn RCAF||Sumburgh|
skidded off a icebound runway at Sumburgh. The damage was considered
as uneconomic to repair and the aircraft became 3166M.
Acting S/L E.H.McHardy DFC. (He was later the Squadron CO).
|09/02/1942||Beaufighter I||T4571||235 Sgn||Dyce|
had been undergoing repairs at Sumburgh, and it now required an air-test
to see if all was well.
were passing over Sumburgh, and the flight was authorised on the proviso
that the aircraft remained within sight of the airfield and landed immediately
when ordered. But the Beaufighter, which was also carrying a member
of the ground crew, promptly disappeared from sight. When another
snow shower was seen approaching a message was sent ordering the Beau’
to land. But there was no response from the aircraft. A
few minutes later another message was sent recommending that the Beaufighter
should divert to Orkney – but again no answer.
Burgess, of Quendale Farm, told me of his memories of the accident.
He was on his way home from school when he saw the Beaufighter making
a normal approach, but as it passed over The Valley, a wing dropped
and it dived into the ground and burst into flames. The emergency
services from Sumburgh were quickly on the scene, but they could not
get near to the crash site because of the boggy ground.
investigation into the accident gives the cause as loss of control when
trying to avoid a hill (The Cleap) in a snow shower. But Mr Burgess
says that it was not snowing when the aircraft crashed, but started
soon after. The early Beaufighter with the straight tail was very
tricky to handle, and this combined with the pilots lack of experience
on the type, may be why it crashed.
crashed in a field on Quendale Farm at map reference 4/367133.
At first when the field was ploughed, parts would be uncovered, but
now there is no reminder of the accident.
Sgt John Charles Denley RAAF (Pilot) buried Lerwick. Sgt James
Gordon Cameron (Obs) buried Inverness and Sgt James Rennie Lord (Ground
|21/02/1942||Blenheim IV||V5433||F/404 Sqn RCAF||Sumburgh|
F for Freddie
had left Sumburgh early that morning for a ‘Vaaro’ patrol to the
coast of Norway. At 08.40 a SOS was received at Sumburgh from
the Blenheim. It was returning on one engine, and there were doubts
if they would be able to make it to Sumburgh. Another of 404’s
Blenheims was scrambled to escort it home.
people on the Out Skerries saw the Blenheim approaching. It was
flying very low, and as it got nearer they could see that only one engine
was working. It then became obvious that the pilot intended to
land on the island of Grunay. Just as it was about to touch down,
it suddenly veered to port, and disappeared from sight behind a low
cliff. Black smoke began to billow up as they hurried to help.
It was this smoke which attracted the crew of the Blenheim sent to provide
escort. They saw the aircraft burning on rocks on the south side
of Grunay. A small group of people were standing on a low cliff,
unable to get near because of the fire. Plainly visible on the
tail were the 404 Squadron markings.
wreckage was examined, bullet holes were found. So it appears
that Blenheim had ran into German fighters over the other side.
still remains of the aircraft on Grunay. And there is also a memorial
stone, erected by Jay Chrishison, the nephew of F/Sgt Oliver.
F/Sgt Charles Douglas Grant Brown RCAF (Pilot) buried Lerwick, F/Sgt
James Henry Oliver RCAF (Navigator) buried Lerwick, and Sgt Thomas William
Coy RAFVR (WOP/AG) buried in Cheshire.
|20/03/1942||Beauforts||L4514, L9825 & W6532||42 Sqn|
was based at Leuchars, but these three Beauforts were detached at Sumburgh
at the time.
late afternoon a message was received saying that an important enemy
naval unit had been sighted off Norway. Every available Beaufort
was to be loaded with torpedos and take off immediately. P/42
(L9825) was unserviceable with faulty brakes, but the target was so
important that this aircraft also went.
the three Beauforts took-off and headed for Norway. But they could
not find the target. So they turned about and headed back home,
still with the torpedos on board.
in loose formation, but as they got close to Shetland they lost sight
of one another in the gathering darkness and cloud. They ran into
severe iceing in the cloud which affected the carburettors.
the first to come into land, difficult to control because of the iceing.
The pilot then found that he could not stop because of the faulty brakes,
and had to swing off the runway. The Beaufort demolished a wooden
hut, and collided with a parked aircraft before coming to a stop.
This Beaufort was later repaired and put back into service.
land was D-Don (W6532) with the Squadron CO at the controls. As
he was about to touch down the aircraft lost speed and the starboard
wing dropped. The Beaufort landed hard on the right wheel, causing
the undercarriage to collapse. It then careered across the grass
and collided with the flight office. Fire broke out, and the crew
was seen to disappear rapidly into the night. Two airmen began
to fight the fire with extinguishers, but they beat a hasty retreat
when the Tannoy announced that there was a live torpedo still on board.
The Beaufort had landed at 21.35, and at 22.00 the torpedo exploded
causing considerable damage.
R-Robert (L4514) they did not even make it to Sumburgh. Unable
to maintain height because of the carburettor iceing the pilot intended
to ditch in Dales voe. But before he could get it down he found
himself over land. The aircraft carried on a short distance before
crashing into rising ground, killing three and injuring one. Fire
broke out when it came to rest. The RAF location for the crash
site is 200yds from the water at Dale, but I think it may be in the
area of the 18th green of the golf course.
not the end of 42 Sqn troubles on this day. Just a few minutes
after midnight W6472, H/42, crashed on landing at Croft, in England
again killing three and injuring one.
L9825 P/O E.Birchley RAAF. W6532 W/C M.F.D.Williams.
L4514 P/O Tom Thornley Braithwaite Stoker (Pilot) Killed.
Sgt Norman Arthur Branchflower (Navigator) killed. Sgt A.J.Wolsey
(WOP/AG) killed, and Sgt W.H.Bond (A/G) serious injuries, admitted to
Gilbert Bain Hospital.
Halifaxes were part of a force of 34 from 4 Group, supported by two
Lancasters, which were sent to bomb the Tirpitz in Aasen Fjord,
aircraft which got into difficulties there were three destroyers staged
along their route to act as guard ships. The diversionary airfield
was Sumburgh. The instructions given to Sumburgh were that the
Drem lighting on runways A and B should be lit. That the T landmark
beacon should be located 1½ miles NW of the airfield. And also
that the obstruction light on Ward Hill should be lit, but not the one
on Fitful Head. There should also be a continuous watch on the
‘Darkey’ frequency of 6440 Kcs.
was obscured by cloud and frustrated crews had to turn around and head
back for home. But not before four of their number had been shot
return journey they ran into cloud and iceing, and our two Halifaxes
became short of fuel and diverted to Sumburgh. But when they arrived
they found that Sumburgh was covered with low cloud and fog, and they
were unable to land. S/L Burdett in K/76 headed south hoping to
reach either Orkney, Wick or one of the destroyers. But after
only a few minuted the tanks ran dry, and he crashed when trying to
ditch. S/L Burdett’s body and a wheel were found 16 miles south
in H/35 decided that the crew would bale out over Sumburgh. So
parachutes were donned, and hatches opened. Approaching from the
west the auto-pilot was engaged, and the men congregated around the
hatches. At the pre-raid briefing, pilots and navigators had been
warned of the high ground around Sumburgh, but the Halifax flew headlong
into the sea cliffs of Fitful Head.
weather persisted, and although it must have been obvious what had happened
to the Halifax it was posted as missing. Then at last on the 6th
of April the weather cleared, and wreckage was seen on the cliffs.
The only way to reach it was for a volunteer to be lowered down the
cliff on the end of a rope. At 165ft above the sea he found the
body of Sgt Meredith hanging from a open parachute which had snagged
on a rock.
of P/O Usher and F/Sgt Buckley were both recovered and buried at Lerwick.
But it was considered impossible to get Sgt Meredith’s body up the
cliff. So he was wrapped in his parachute and laid between two
rocks on a ledge. The body was then covered with rocks and grit,
and marked with a wooden cross. The gallant Sumburgh Station Padre
then made the perilous trip down the cliff on the end of the rope to
carry out a service. Sgt Meredith still lies in this stormy place,
but because the grave is impossible to maintain his name is recorded
on the Runnymede Memorial, as having no known grave.
a unidentified body of a sergeant was recovered from the wreckage on
the cliff face. He is buried as a unknown airman, alongside the
other crew members at Lerwick.
It is possible
that the remains of the two missing crew members are still trapped in
the wreckage, and it is considered a war grave.
R9453 K/76 – S/L A.P.Burdett, P/O N.F.Bowsher RCAF, F/Sgt W.J.Cadger
RCAF, F/Sgt L.W.Fletcher RCAF, Sgt S.Davis, Sgt D.C.Martin and Sgt L.W.Hanson
RAAF. S/L Burdett is buried at Lerwick, all the others missing
with no known graves.
R9438 H/35 – F/Sgt Joseph Bryan Bushby, Sgt Anthony John Peach, Sgt
Geoffrey Noel Edward Powell, F/Sgt John Peter Burton Buckley (Buried
Lerwick), P/O Moses Lewis Usher RCAF (Buried Lerwick), Sgt John Allen
Wood and Sgt Ronald H.Meredith.