Stirling Bomber Crash
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.
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.