Whilst typing up the May Form 540, I initially came across the loss of an aircraft during daily training and then under ‘Outstanding Events – Training’ I found the following extra information regarding the incident and the apparently selfless act of its Pilot, Sergeant Leslie Wright;
“At 01.00 hours on the 17th. May 1943, Sergeant L.C.Wright was carrying out a cross country fight in Stirling Mk.1 BF398, when the starboard outer and port outer engines failed. The aircraft lost height and the Captain ordered the crew to bale out, this included a passenger AC1 BAILEY, R.G. Of the crew who baled out, all landed safely with the exception of Sergeant A.J.Francis, who was reported missing and found four days later. The Captain remained at the controls, as the aircraft was in the vicinity of the Town of STOKE-UPON-TRENT and it appears that rather than crash land over the town, he attempted to land in the nearest field, the aircraft crashed however, and he was killed. The MAYOR of STOKE-UPON-TRENT has been in communication with the Squadron, and expressed his admiration, shared also by the townspeople, for the gallantry displayed by Sergeant L.C. WRIGHT. “
I think I find this story all the more touching, given its ‘hidden’ reference at the end of the records and I’d love to find out more about the incident and Leslie – a long shot, but I send an email to the Mayoral Office of Stoke-on-Trent Council, just in case any information, or even a copy of the letter the Mayor sent to the Squadron still exists……..