Stirling Bomber Crash 1942 - Cliffe History

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Stirling Bomber Crash
 
Rye Street
 
 
The Stirling bomber W7628 OJ-B was commanded by Flight Sergeant (Pilot), 22 year old Adolph Siwak, of Angusville, Manitoba, Canada. The aircraft took off from R.A.F. Lakenheath, Suffolk at 18:36 hours on 23 October 1942 on a bombing mission to Genoa, Italy.
 
112 Lancasters of 5 Group and the Pathfinders were dispatched in a mixed bomber force to re-commence the campaign against Italy, which was timed to coincide with the opening of the British Eighth Army offensive at El Alamein, Egypt. It was a perfectly clear moonlit night and the Pathfinder marking was described as being both prompt and accurate. The bombing by this comparatively small force of aircraft, carrying only 180 tons of bombs, could hardly have been carried out under more ideal conditions.
 

A number of aircraft were lost on this raid but none reportedly due to enemy action. Some crashed on landing, other losses were due to mechanical failure, and others being low or completely out of fuel after their long haul to Italy over the Alps, where Bomber Command had been called upon to attack Northern Italian ports in support of the Allied Landings on North Africa - Operation Torch.


 Rye Street - as it was before Stirling bomber crash.

On the return leg of the mission the Stirling ran out of fuel and crashed at 0300 hours into a row of four cottages and a farmhouse at Rye Street, Cliffe-at-Hoo, on the Hoo Peninsular five miles north of Rochester, Kent, killing the seven crew of the bomber. There was a civilian casualty, a 21 year old Lilian May McPherson, who had recently given birth to a baby girl, died of exposure before help could get to her. The baby survived.


Newspaper report on the tragedy.
Repoert of the Stirling Bomber crash at Cliffe 1942


This is an extract from the Bomber Command losses book of 1942:
 
"Aware that the crew were in difficulties, a local searchlight battery switched on its lights directing the beams towards nearby marshes, but to no avail. At least two cottages bore the brunt of the impact; Miss Delia Batchelor woke to find pieces from her bedroom ceiling on her bed and was then shocked to discover that the outside wall of the room had disappeared. Already, local inhabitants were trying to help but for Mrs Lilian May McPherson, just 21 and the mother of a two-month old baby girl, Diana, it was already too late. Taken from what was left of 3 Rye Street Cottages, to an army medical facility at Cooling Castle she was pronounced dead soon after being admitted. Miraculously, her little girl was found in an alcove, still in her crib, and completely unscathed. Both Canadians were taken to Brookwood Military Cemetery, as was Sgt Blake, their four companions being claimed by their next of kin."

 

Another reason put forward for the crash was that a searchlight crew half a mile away had been unable to make radio contact with the plane, and they illuminated the houses for the pilot to see as there were open fields all around. The pilot appears to have thought they were showing him a way down and flew down the beam. Certainly it was reported that it appeared to be in some trouble as it made several circuits. The aircraft ended up in the field opposite. Two Canadians and another crew member are interred in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, and the other four were laid to rest in their respective home town or village cemeteries.
 
Sirling Bomber Memorial at Cliffe, Kent
After a great deal of work and research into this tragedy had been conducted by a group of local villagers, which is far more detailed than produced here, and together they unveiled a Memorial Stone in memory of those killed in the crash.

Those who lost their lives were:

SIWAK, ADOLPH ANTONIO
Service No: R/86398  Rank: Flight Sergeant Trade: Pilot Date of Death: 24/10/1942
Age: 22,  Royal Canadian Air Force 149 (R.A.F.) Sqdn  .
BROOKWOOD MILITARY CEMETERY Grave Reference 33. E. 10

RANDALL, FRANK KINDER
Service No: 116536  Rank: Flying Officer Trade: Nav. Date of Death: 24/10/1942
Age: 33 Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 149 Sqdn.
GUILDFORD CEMETERY Grave Reference Block C. Grave 462.
Additional Information: Son of Harry and Helena Randall, of Guildford.

BLAKE, REGINALD ALFRED
Service No: 1284072  Rank: Sergeant Trade: W.Op./Air Gnr. Date of Death: 24/10/1942 Age: 27 Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 149 Sqdn.  
BROOKWOOD MILITARY CEMETERY Grave Reference 23. A. 15.
Additional Information: Son of Henry Albert and Jennie Blake; husband of Dorothy Violet Blake, of st. Mary Cray, Kent

BARNARD, LEONARD JOSEPH
Service No: 117579 Rank: Sergeant Date of Death: 24/10/1942 Royal Canadian Air Force 149 (R.A.F.) Sqdn  
BROOKWOOD MILITARY CEMETERY Grave Reference 33. E. 9.

BOWDEN, DOUGLAS JOSEPH
Service No: 1291430 Rank: Sergeant Trade: W.Op./Air Gnr. Date of Death: 24/10/1942 Age: 22  Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 149 Sqdn. BOURNEMOUTH (WIMBORNE ROAD) CEMETERY Grave Reference Sec. U.6. Grave 60.S.
Additional Information: Son of John and Lucy Bowden, of Winton, Bournemouth.

TAYLOR, SIDNEY FREDERICK
Service No: 1383375 Rank: Sergeant Trade: Air Gnr. Date of Death: 24/10/1942
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 149 Sqdn.
EAST LONDON CEMETERY, PLAISTOW Grave Reference Grave 17544. (Screen Wall, Panel 14).

HOLMES, ERNEST EDWARD CHARLES
Service No: 903163 Rank: Sergeant Trade: Flt. Engr. Date of Death: 24/10/1942 Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 149 Sqdn.
HINXHILL (ST. MARY) CHURCHYARD

McPHERSON, LILIAN MAY
Civilian  Date of Death: 24/10/1942 Age: 21 Civilian War Dead Reporting Authority STROOD, RURAL DISTRICT  Additional Information: of 3 Rye Street Cottages, Cliffe. Wife of Bennie McPherson. Died at 3 Rye Street Cottages.


© April 2015, D. Green - Cliffe History


 
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