Whitley Mk.V T4234 of No.10 Squadron RAF crashed on Widdale Fell in the Yorkshire Dales in the early hours of the 23rd August 1941
|Kenneth William Liebeck||Pilot Officer RCAF||Pilot||Killed|
|Gordon Flectcher||Sergeant||2nd Pilot||Killed|
|Lionel Raymond Silver||Sergeant RCAF||Navigator||Injured|
|John Murray McLaughlin||Sergeant RCAF||Wireless Operator||Injured|
|Richard Norwood Speer||Sergeant RCAF||Air Gunner||Injured|
The crew were returning to RAF Leeming near Northallerton from a raid against Le Harve, which had been their first as a crew and first sortie for more than one member of the crew, when the aircraft flew into Widdale Fell above the village of Dent in the Yorkshire Dales. The return leg across England had been done with complete cloud cover and a slight change in wind speed and direction had led to a westward drift in the aircraft’s course.
The two pilots had been in the process of changing seats shortly before the crash and were flung from the cockpit as the aircraft impacted the top of the hill. Sgt McLaughlin was in the process of winding in the aircraft’s trailing aerial, he was lying down with his feet facing forward and remembered seeing “millions of stars” and then came around in the wrecked fuselage. He found one of the pilots in the nose of the aircraft and the other outside on the moor. Sgt Speer was relatively unhurt but was trapped in his upturned turret, after releasing him the pair located Sgt Silver who, like the two pilots had been flung out of the aircraft but survived, he was sitting where he had come to rest and couldn’t see due to blood and peat covering his face so was calling out in the darkness for help. The three of them made their way off the hill around sunrise towards where they had heard the sound of a train during the night, this led them to the Settle & Carlisle railway line. On reaching the railway they followed it the short distance to Dent Station from where they were transferred to hospital in Kendal.
A full account of the crash, and his Air Force career can be found in Last of the Gladiators: A World War II Bomber Navigator’s Story by Lionel Ray Silver.
We are also indebted to Michael McLaughlin for John McLaughlin’s account of the crash.