Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.V EB338 of No.81 OTU crashed near Alsop-en-le-Dale, Ashbourne at 18:35 on the 13th May 1943 whilst on an evening cross country flight from Whitchurch Heath


Ernest James Bull Flying Officer Pilot (I) Injured
Norman James Prime RNZAF Sergeant Pilot (U/T) Injured
Timothy Kennedy Sergeant Navigator Injured
Gordon Belec RCAF Sergeant Bomb Aimer Killed
Spencer Otty Sergeant Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Injured
Edwin Fuller Harris Sergeant Air Gunner Injured


Only half an hour in the flight, which was routed as Base – Lincoln – Peterborough – Base, the port engine failed, it was successfully re-started and it ran at full power, however after only 3 to 4 minutes this engine failed again. The Instructor took over the controls and ordered the crew to take up crash positions, however Sgt Belec was unable to leave the nose as the aircraft was fitted with dual controls which blocked his escape route. He then attempted a forced landing in one of the fields near Alsop, but found that none of the fields was large enough to land in. The aircraft touched down and ran the width of one field before it struck the boundary wall on the eastern side of the Buxton to Ashbourne railway (now the Tissington Trail) travelled across the line tearing up the track and came to rest part way down an adjoining field. Shortly before the crash a train travelling towards Ashbourne had passed by the site, had either the train been late or accident occurred a few minutes earlier the outcome could have been very different.

The more seriously injured crew members were taken to hospital in Derby while the remainder were taken to the station sick quarters at RAF Ashbourne before being transferred to their parent unit.

Flying Officer Bull (later Flight Lieutenant) was killed on the 15th April 1944 while flying Wellington Mk.X HE465 of 30 OTU when it crashed near Hixon.

Sergeant Otty was also killed in latter service. He was killed on the 3rd October 1943 while flying in Lancaster Mk.III JB346 of 103 Sqn, the aircraft, which was on an air test, crashed shortly after take off from Elsham Wolds.

After completing his training Sergeant Harris went on to serve as an Air Gunner with No.12 Squadron, he was with this unit when he was killed during the night of the 31st August / 1st September 1943 as part of the crew of Lancaster Mk.III DV185. The aircraft was on a sortie against Berlin when it was downed near Zerbst to the SW of Berlin. Fifty aircraft were lost during this raid against Berlin with the loss of 240 lives, 101 aircrew became prisoners while 3 evaded capture.

Sergeant Kennedy went on to receive a commission and by the time he retired from the RAF in the early 1970s had become a Wing Commader, having received the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as being made an MBE. After the crash of EB338 he remained with No.81 OTU until he completed the course in August 1943, from there he went to No.1656 HCU before being posted to operational flying with No.166 Sqn. After flying with No.166 Sqn he moved to No.156 Sqn, and was with them when he received his DFC in March 1945. After WWII he continued flying onboard Lancasters, he was with No.35 Sqn when they carried out Operation Goodwill in 1946, for before transferring to Shackletons and then Staff positions.

Crash site of Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.V EB338 at Alsop-en-le-Dale near Ashbourne, Derbyshire
A view of the field in which EB338 crashed, this photo was taken from close to where the aircraft struck the railway.
Grave of Sergeant Gordon Belec at Ashbourne Cemetery, killed in Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.V EB338 at Alsop-en-le-Dale near Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Sergeant Belec was buried at Ashbourne Cemetery, above is his grave.
Grave of Sergeant Edwin Fuller Harris at Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, killed onboard Lancaster DV185
After being killed later in the war Sergeant Harris was buried at the Berlin War Cemetery.