Elton (All Saints) Churchyard, Bury – Sgt. John Olive RAFVR 978156

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Arriving at Elton Churchyard I was a little initially thrown to find myself at the dead end of a terrace street – more thrown, having left the car to be confronted by a rather imposing and apparently inaccessible gate with a code pad. Pausing to reassess the situation, I realised simultaneously that there another gate to it’s right and that the ‘church’ was in fact what appeared to be as series of flats.

Entering through the open gate I realised I was essentially stood in a gated plot, containing what remained of the churches graves. Right in front of me, first stone was Sgt John Olive, killed on the 10th of January 1941. The scene, to be honest felt a little sad – the stones partitioned by the church development and John’s gravestone marked with the rubber of a carelessly driven lawn mower – ignorant, or necessary maintenance simply a stipulation of property development……

John was  a consistent member of Brian McNamara’s crew from their first Op on the 14th of November 1940, through to their last Operation on the 8th of January.

BP McNamara crew Brian 4th from left aircraft

A photograph of the McNamara crew – date and location unknown, though suggestion of a ‘Dwarf’ artwork on the Wellington in the background confirms 75(NZ) Squadron and therefore Feltwell. Brian is stood 4th from the left – unfortunately, as yet the rest of the crew are unidentified.
Photograph courtesy of Wings Over Cambridge/ Dave Homewood – original image and page can be see here :
http://www.cambridgeairforce.org.nz/Brian%20Mcnamara.htm

The McNamara crews first Op saw  George Key present as 2nd Pilot. For the remainder of their Ops together, Alex Ryan took over this position. Thus the crew were:

P/O Brian Patrick McNamara, RAF 42856 – Pilot.
P/O Alexander James Ryan, RNZAF NZ391367 – 2nd Pilot..
Sgt. Hunt, RAFVR – Observer.
Sgt. John Olive, RAFVR 978156 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Matthew Roy Ritchie, RAFVR 631868 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Ronald Edward Ashby-Peckham, RNZAF NZ40714 – Rear Gunner .

After the crews 7th Op, Sgt. Hunt as Observer leaves and is replaced by Richard Elliot.

P/O Brian Patrick McNamara, RAF 42856 – Pilot.
P/O Alexander James Ryan, RNZAF NZ391367 – 2nd Pilot..
Sgt. Richard Booth Elliott, RAFVR 581379 – Observer.
Sgt. John Olive, RAFVR 978156 – Wireless Operator.
Sgt. Matthew Roy Ritchie, RAFVR 631868 – Front Gunner.
Sgt. Ronald Edward Ashby-Peckham, RNZAF NZ40714 – Rear Gunner .

On the night of 10th of January 1941 The McNamara crew took off from Feltwell on Night Flying Training (N.F.T.)

75(NZ)Squadron Form 540 January 1941
Jan.10
At 10.00 hours on 10.1.41, P/O McNamara was detailed to carry out a Night Flying Test on aircraft T.2550, Letter “L”. After the N.F.T. his instructions were to proceed to Bassingbourn, drop P/O Ryan and bring back a new Pilot who was taking P/O Ryans’s place.

Cloud base at Feltwell was 1,500 feet and P/O McNamara was warned that south and westwards the cloud base would be lower, and , if he did not like it to return to base.

Operations Room was notified of this proposed cross country flight and P/O McNamara ascertained from Operations Air Control that Bassingbourn was serviceable, and gave his approx.. time of take of as 11.30 hours. Station Signals failed to contact the aircraft after it had taken off, E.T.A. base was 13.00 hours. At 14.30 hours Control commenced taking overdue action and rang Bassingbourn on P.B.K. but did not connect until 15.25 hours when they ascertained that the aircraft had not arrived. At 16.40 hours No.3 Group informed us that the aircraft had crashed at Heath Farm, Stapleford, near Duxford, and the following personel were killed or died from injuries.

P/O B.P. McNamara (Captain) unmarried. P/O A.J. Ryan (2nd Pilot) unmarried.
Sgt. Elliot R.B. (Navigator) unmarried. Sgt. J. Olive (W/Operator) unmarried.
Sgt. M.R. Ritchie (Front Gunner) unmarried. Sgt. R.E. Ashby-Peckham (Rear Gunner) unmarried. Seriously injured and taken to Addenbrooks Hospital.

P/O Brian Patrick McNamara, RAF 42856. Killed age 26.
Buried Feltwell (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, Norfolk.

P/O Alexander James Ryan, RNZAF NZ391367. Killed age 25.
Buried Feltwell (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, Norfolk.

Sgt. Richard Booth Elliott, RAFVR 581379. Killed age 19.
Buried Feltwell (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, Norfolk.

Sgt. John Olive, RAFVR 978156. Killed age 23.
Buried Elton (All Saints) Churchyard, Bury.

Sgt. Matthew Roy Ritchie, RAFVR 631868. Killed age 19.
Buried Biggar Croft Cemetery, Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Sgt. Ronald Edward Ashby-Peckham, RNZAF NZ40714. Seriously injured

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