Sunday, 9 September 2012

Flying Officer J.A. Wilding & Sargent J.F.Andrew


 On the 9th September 1944 a stricken Halifax bomber from  426(Thunderbird) Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command struggled to bypass Wallingford, just after passing near the bridge the port wing folded and the bomber crashed in a field near Newnham Murren and exploded killing the Pilot and Flight Engineer.

The story starts on the 9th September 1944, the 426(Thunderbird) Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command, of the Royal Canadian Air Force left Linton-on-Ouse, York. They were to make a sortie to Le Havre but the weather made it impossible to bomb with accuracy and the attack was called off. One Halifax VII bomber, NP68I was hit by flak.
To land safely back in Linton several bombs were ditched in the English Channel, leaving ten 500lb bombs on board. The plane was engulfed in smoke and flames. The pilot, John Wilding,  gave the order to abandon the aircraft. MacKay, the rear gunner, advised that the turret was unserviceable. Wilding told him not to panic, to do the best he could to get out saying “I’ll try to hold it”. MacKay using his feet pushed until the door gave way. An explosion followed and he rolled out through a sheet of flames and landed with an injured left leg. The wireless operator, Thorb (Tommy) Thompson bailed out, as did the navigator, Ed O’Meara. The bomb aimer, Len Irving, was the last to leave by the front hatch. Quite why they did dump the other ten puzles me.
  During its last few moments the aircraft was guided between Wallingford and
Benson, when the port wing folded  It was seen to turn over on its back and spin in.
The plane came down at Newnham Murren, Crowmarsh, about 500 yards
From  the eastern boundary of Wallingford. Three tons of bombs still aboard, the aircraft exploded, the blast shaking the town’s buildings and shattering windows.
 Wilding was found a few hundred yards away from the crash crater, inexplicably lacking any trace of parachute harness or pack. Andrew was found about twenty-five yards from Wilding, firmly strapped into his parachute harness and with his pack lying unopened beside him. An investigation found that the No 7 cylinder had blown off the port outer engine and that there was considerable internal damage. This was the most common failure of the Halifax XVI Hercules engine.
    Flying Officer J.A. Wilding had completed nineteen sorties and, for his actions with No 426 Sqn, was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously. He is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery at Woking, Surrey. Sergeant J.F. Andrew, also Mentioned in Despatches posthumously, had completed fifteen sorties; he is buried in Kerry Cemetery, Powys.
That is the story of J.A.Wilding and J.F Andrew, I felt I had to look into it a bit more so went to look for their graves and the crash site. 
I checked on Where's the path for possible spots and the most likley place looks  to be either a small copse of trees which is around 500 yards away or across in an other field just a bit further.






The area has a small depression and Wallingford Bridge is around 500 yards away in the distance.







 




 The other possible site is in the field beyond the hedge but that takes the distance to over 600 yards









This is a screen print of where I think a possible crash area is, the copse is just over 500 yards from Wallingford Bridge



After looking at GE again I reassessed the position and 500 yards from the Eastern Boundary of Wallingford is around  where the line is marked, the map shows the area in 1940



 This map shows both modern day Wallingford with the Historic version, both have the possible crash site on which is around 54o yards from the Eastern boundary. The dark green area is around 35 yards across which I'd say would be around the size of crater 3 tons of bombs would make.


The photo here shows the area I think the crash happened,it would be around mid photo north the shadow from the tree on the left.


Wilding Road and Andrew Road were named in Honor of of them and on the junction a cairn was built, each year on the Sunday nearest the fateful day a service is held







Both RAF personnel and Canadian are represented at the service








 




Wreaths are laid at the base of the cairn and the Canadian flag is flown above the Town Hall.


 











 



 

 Sergeant J.F. Andrew is buried in Kerry Cemetery Powys,
Flying Officer J.A. Wilding Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.
They will never be forgotten.

11 comments:

  1. Such a sad but facinating story. There was a Halifax Bomber laiden with bombs that crashed near to were my home is now. I have photos of the small memorial at the site of the crash. I shall have to post about it.

    Thank you for joining in with my link up.

    By the way Brookwood Cemetery is privately owned and photography is not permitted, unless you have written permission from the cemetery office. You need further written permission to post any photos taken on the internet.

    Beneath Thy Feet

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    1. I had heard though I have taken a few in there I never published them apart from a machine I saw there. The War grave part is OK to take photos in and publish

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  2. I agree with Nicola: a fascinating story, engrossingly told. The images of the recent 'remembrance' are very moving, yet sad in a strange way. It tells me that as soon as the immediate people have gone, that this memory will be lost to the village.

    I do appreciate all the maps, and your trudging through fields. Thank you.

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  3. One of the reasons I wrote the blog. I need to amend the map and revisit the site as I think I may be a bit out on the crash site. Thanks for your comments

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    1. I agree with this being a reason to write local blogs, and cemetery blogs in particular. Posterity and all ...

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  4. What a wonderful piece of research! Great story. Well done.

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  5. Thanks though most of the time was finding and getting to the two grave sites.

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  6. I was an eye-witness to the aircraft passing over Wallingford. It is a very early memory: I was 3yrs3months! We lived in a bungalow on Thames Street, just east of St Leonard's church. The aircraft passed almost directly overhead, very low, and on fire (left wing). It was travelling ESE. I was protectively jumped on by my mother, so did not witness the impact. It may have clipped a line of elms opposite. Certainly, there were big branches broken off, but this may have been due to the explosion. I prefer impact point no 2 on your air photos, or somewhere a little closer to the river.
    Mike Hobart

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  7. I was an eye-witness to this, although I was only 3 at the time. The aircraft passed over our house, a bungalow on Thames Street just east of St Leonard's church. It was very low, heading ESE (approx) and the left wing was on fire. It may have clipped a line of trees opposite (still there, at right angles to the river). Certainly, at least one large branch was broken off, but perhaps by the explosion. I did not see the impact as my mother lay on top of me, which I resented at the time. I prefer the second proposed impact site, perhaps a little closer to the river, but I was not allowed to cross the river as there were hazards and, sadly, the bodies of Wilding and Andrew. I owe them my life.

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  8. John Wilding was my grandfathers cousin... Seeing these photos and reading theses comments always makes me feel so proud... No more so than now when we are remembering our war dead... Am so thankful for their sacrifice and also very proud to be a Wilding...

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  9. Hi Bill, I hope you don't mind that I've shared a link to your blog on our Facebook page Bygone Wallingford? https://www.facebook.com/groups/1537827296516484/
    Some fascinating information and eyewitness accounts too.
    Thanks
    Kay Organ.

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