Wellington Mk.IC L7811 / OJ-C of No.149, crashed into Lathkill Dale at Conksbury Bridge on the 12th February 1941 while returning to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk from a raid against Bremen
|Harold George Turner||Sergeant||Pilot||Survived|
|Colin Francis Campbell||Sergeant||Co-pilot||Survived|
|James Bernard McKnight||Sergeant||Observer||Survived|
|Harold George Pates||Sergeant||Wireless Operator||Survived|
|Derek Owen Piper||Sergeant||Air Gunner||Survived|
|George Rae||Sergeant||Air Gunner||Survived|
The aircraft from 149 Squadron, piloted by Sgt Turner, had taken part in a raid against the German city of Breman, home of Mercedes Benz, during the night of the 11th / 12th February 1941 along with aircraft from several other RAF squadrons. On returning to Britain the crew could not locate their base at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk due to complete cloud cover and failure of their radio. Also some of the aircraft’s blind flying instruments were not working correctly and the port wing had been damaged by anti-aircraft fire.
The aircraft ended up some 100 miles north of Mildenhall and with its fuel tanks virtually empty, having made two attempts to descend through cloud, the crew bailed out at 6,500ft, coming down close to Haddon Hall near Bakewell. With no-one at the controls the aircraft entered a dive and crashed into Lathkill Dale near Conksbury Bridge less than two miles south west of Haddon Hall. The aircraft clipped some trees on the edge of the limestone gorge before plunging into the river. During the 1980s members of M.H.A.S. had been told of airmen landing in that area by parachute but had not been able to locate where the aircraft they had been flying had crashed.
The aircraft’s crew all returned to service but were split up as a crew, their pilot was killed on the 27th July 1941 while flying Hampden P1162 of the Central Gunnery School which crashed shortly after taking off from RAF Castle Kennedy near Stranraer, he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Sgt McKnight was killed while aboard Stirling Mk.III EF232 of No.1660 Heavy Conversion Unit. The aircraft crashed at Carlton-le-Moorland near Lincoln while flying from RAF Swinderby. He is buried at Newark-on-Trent cemetery.
The poor weather conditions on returning to the UK affected many of the other aircraft that had taken part in the raid that night as a total of 16 were seriously damaged or written off in crashes with the loss of 7 lives, while none were lost to enemy action.