I have been contacted by Mike, concerning the crash of a 76 Squadron Halifax on the 25th April 1944, in which his Uncle, Sgt. N.M. Harrison was killed. Initially, this contact might seem strangely unrelated to 75(NZ) Squadron, however Mike’s contact was because of the information above.
“I understand from Mepal station records that a fire tender, ambulance and RAF guard were sent to the scene 25th April 44.”
I dutifully opened the Form 540 for 1944 and could find nothing relating to the incident and was, to be honest a little perplexed by the information Mike seemed so sure he had. A few emails later and of course it dawned on me that what I didn’t have and what Mike was talking about was in fact not the Form 540 for 75(NZ) Squadron, but in fact the Form 540 station Log for RAF Mepal.
Last year I was very lucky to be given a full set of the handwritten Feltwell Flying Control Log Book – at the time, I queried, given the existence of those records, whether similar records existed for Newmarket and Mepal, the donor of the Feltwell log said he was unsure, but did give me the AIR reference numbers for the Newmarket and Mepal – I was tantalised, but it was coming up to Christmas and my annual trip down to London does not occur till the summer……
I must confess, when Mike sent me the 2 pages he had, I was a little aghast – it felt as if I had inadvertently opened a door in my house and discovered a completely new room I was completely ignorant of.
But I momentarily digress………
Mike is obviously keen to find out anything more he can about the crash of Halifax LK789. The detailing of the ambulance, crash tender and aircraft crash guard identifies Mepal and its personnel as being involved in events of that day, the question is if anybody out there might know anything else, however small a detail about that day.
The following is reproduced from the excellent aircrewremembered website, the full details of the crew loss can be seen here.
‘Later as the mainforce recrossed the English coast, enemy intruder aircraft were patrolling over Eastern England. Halifax LK789 was attacked by a Me410 flown by Leutnant Wolfgang Wenning of II./KG51 at a height of 1,000 mtrs, 20km NE of Cambridge. During the attack, another 76 Squadron Halifax; LK785 T-Topsy piloted by Lieutenant Carl Larsen R.N.A.F was flying on the right hand side of the bomber. The following eye witness account is by Sgt H.W Kirtland the wireless operator on board T-Topsy.
“We were within an hour from base and safety and had no idea intruders were operating. As usual, when routed ‘up England’ from the south coast, the risk of collision was our main concern; hence the Nav lights were on. From my position on the port side of the aircraft and immediately below the pilot, I had a small window which gave restricted view forward and downward on the port side. Alerted by the Skipper’s shout, I looked out and saw the Halifax curving down on fire until it hit the ground. Almost certainly it had been attacked by a night fighter with an upward firing 20mm cannon. He would have stalked the Halifax from below – our blind spot aimed to strike between the bomber’s fuselage and inner engines. We didn’t see any parachutes, which we always looked for if the gunners reported a bomber in flames. I well remember how angry Larsen was over this we all were- it could easily been us. To be told by the Squadron Intelligence officer that there was no intruder activity that night was too much”
Halifax LK789 crashed opposite Colony farm near Welney, Norfolk at 04.20 hrs. The only survivor was the rear gunner, F/S John Anderson. He was rescued by the Welney fire brigade after being trapped in his turret and taken to R.A.F. Hospital Ely, with a fractured femur and lacerations of the scalp. ‘
So, if anybody knows anything about that day and more specifically details relating to the involvement of personnel from Mepal, Mike would be very interested to hear from you.
Off the back of all of this, if anybody has all, portions, or even pages from either the Newmarket or Mepal Station logs, I would be very interested in hearing from you!
Obviously I have sent an application for an estimate to the National Archives in Kew (of course they haven’t been digitised yet……) and I keenly await the need to sell a kidney………..
Alternatively, if anybody is planning to go to Kew in the near future and has a spare day or so to kill while they are there, I’d be happy to enter into discussions regarding perhaps meeting some of your expenses…….
probably cheaper than a kidney…….