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North-East Diary

Roy Ripley &
Brian Pears
© Copyright Brian Pears 1994-2011


15th September 1943 to
30th/31st March 1944

Wednesday, 15th September 1943  D1474

A Halifax bomber flying from Croft airfield, County Durham, was abandoned by the crew at 12.45 after the pilots escape hatch blew off, causing loss of control. Six of the crew baled out, one stayed with the plane and was killed when it crashed at Stillington near York.

Day 1474. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.06, begins: 19.56

Saturday, 18th September 1943  D1477

At 11.00 a Halifax bomber operating from Riccall airfield in Yorkshire was brought in for a heavy landing and a tail wheel sheared off.

At 14.34 a Halifax bomber from the same airfield force landed in a field near Lissett, after the starboard inner engine caught fire. Six of the crew were injured.

Day 1477. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.12, begins: 19.48

Saturday, 18th/Sunday, 19th September 1943  N1477

At 23.55. Two more Halifax bombers from the same airfield crashed, the first near Finningley (outside our boundaries) after both starboard engines caught fire at 17,000'. The pilot and two of the crew were killed and two others injured.

The second crashed into a row of houses at Chapel Hill, Darrington, Yorkshire (just outside our boundaries). The MOD gave the number of killed as six crew and four civilians, however an eye-witness, who owned one of the houses on which the bomber crashed, stated that eight airmen were killed. The same eye-witness was, with her very young baby, staying with her mother 50 yards away, when the plane crashed, unfortunately her baby suffered the effects of all the fumes from the wreckage and died later aged five months.

Night 1477. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.48, ends: 06.14

Tuesday, 21st September 1943  D1480

A Halifax bomber operating from Riccall airfield in Yorkshire, burst a tyre on take-off, the aircraft swung on landing and the undercarriage collapsed.

Day 1480. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.18, begins: 19.40

Tuesday, 21st/Wednesday, 22nd September 1943  N1480

A Dornier Do 217K was held in a searchlight's beam and hit the ground at Out Newton near Withernsea, Yorkshire at 01.05, the crew were all killed.

Night 1480. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.40, ends: 06.19

Wednesday, 22nd/Thursday, 23rd September 1943  N1481

The same aircrew mentioned on 3rd August this year, but with a brand new Halifax bomber and still operating from Melbourne airfield in Yorkshire started on this bombing mission to Hanover at 18.50. On its run up to the target, it was attacked by a Messerschmitt Me 110, the crew were uninjured and there was no fire, but the damage to the aircraft became apparent as the flight progressed. The pilot ordered the instant release of all the bombs, as they were still in the target area, but the bomb doors would not open. A further check revealed that the radar set was out of action, a hole 5' by 3' was found in the fuselage and a cannon shell was found embedded in the bullet proof panel behind the pilot's head.

The next problem was how to get rid of the 4,000 lb bomb and despite many attempts to get rid of it, it remained stuck. Arriving back over the airfield the CO ordered the crew to bale out. The pilot turned the aircraft towards Hull, over Patrington it circled while the crew baled out, he then set the automatic pilot, turned the plane towards the sea and baled out himself.

Local army units were alerted, the crew collected and taken back to base to be debriefed. After the rear-gunner (the airman awarded the DFM on 3rd August) baled out, he landed close to the edge of a cliff, and as it was dark , he instinctively moved away from the sea, struggling through three barbed wire fences he found himself on a country road, near to what he took to be a direction sign, only when he had read it did he realized he had just stumbled through a minefield. It read, 'DANGER - MINED LAND - KEEP OUT'.

At 00.07 a Halifax bomber flying from Croft airfield, County Durham, crashed killing all of the crew. The pilot was flying too low when it crashed on the moors near Helmsley in Yorkshire.

Night 1481. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.38, ends: 06.21

Sunday, 26th September 1943  D1485

At 10.45 a Halifax bomber on a training flight from Riccall airfield in Yorkshire, crash landed, ½ a mile N of Riccall, after a three engine overshoot.

Day 1485. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.27, begins: 19.28

Monday, 27th/Tuesday, 28th September 1943  N1486

At 20.00 a Halifax bomber operating from Riccall airfield in Yorkshire collided with a tree after take-off. The bomber landed safely.

Night 1486. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.25, ends: 06.30

Saturday, 2nd/Sunday, 3rd October 1943  N1491

During low-level evasive action, a Junkers Ju 188E, hit the water and crashed on to a mudbank, ½ mile from the Spurn Lighthouse, Spurn Head, Yorkshire at 23.40. The crew were all killed.

Night 1491. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.13, ends: 06.40

Sunday, 3rd October 1943  D1492

The minesweeping trawler 'Meror' was sunk by a mine off the Humber.

Day 1492. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.40, begins: 19.10

Wednesday, 6th October 1943  D1495

Flight Sergeant John Holden of 559 squadron based at RAF Brunton was killed when his Hurricane crashed into the sea during a training flight. The incident is described here by one of his comrades, Flight Sergeant Frederick Penrose:

"The Hurricane 2C was armed with 20 mm canon guns and could also carry bombs under the wings and were often used to spread alarm and despondency among the enemy. For practice we flew out over the sea one day and attacked a target dropped onto the sea. There were only four of us in the section flying in line astern and as we pulled away after the first attack my mate who was flying in front of me radioed he had a glyco leak and within seconds a fire had taken hold. We had pulled up to about 1,000 feet when suddenly he rolled the aircraft on to its back, and I expected him to drop out and use his chute, but he didnít and the aircraft dived straight down into the sea. After a few seconds his dinghy opened up in the centre of the huge whirlpool which had formed. The three of us left split up, one went and circled a fishing boat, and another one flew up to the air sea rescue station just up the coast. Right away there were two boats under full power coming to the wreckage. They got to the dinghy and pulled Flight Sergeant Holden out of the water and sped off to land. Unfortunately he died without gaining consciousness."

Flight Sergeant Holden, who was only 22 years of age, was buried in Burnley Cemetery.

Day 1495. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.46, begins: 19.02

Thursday, 7th/Friday, 8th October 1943  N1496

A Lancaster bomber operating from Linton on Ouse airfield near York, had to be abandoned over Hutton le Hole near Kirkbymoorside, Yorkshire, when the controls jammed. The crew jumped to safety, but a farmer was killed when the bomber crashed at Spaunton in Yorkshire and the bomb load blew up.

Night 1496. All times BST. Blackout begins: 18.59, ends: 06.50

Sunday, 17th October 1943  D1506

15.30.. Newcastle.. Barrage balloon broke away from moorings at Dunston and crashed on a row of houses in Delaval Street, Scotswood Road. One or two injured, two chimney stacks and slates etc damaged.

Day 1506. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.07, begins: 18.35

Wednesday, 20th October 1943  D1509

15.00.. Newcastle.. Rye Hill barrage balloon, which was flying, was struck by lightning. Balloon and cable fell on a house in Summerhill Street knocking down a chimney stack, making a hole in the roof and damaging one or two bedrooms. A heavy shower of rain added to the damage.

Day 1509. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.13, begins: 18.28

Thursday, 21st/Friday, 22nd October 1943  N1510

A Halifax swung and crashed into the Pyrotechnics store on take off from Croft airfield, County Durham, at 20.24.

A Halifax from Croft airfield, County Durham, crashed at 01.35 at Church House Farm, South Cowton in Yorkshire, killing the crew of five.

Night 1510. All times BST. Blackout begins: 18.26, ends: 07.17

Saturday, 23rd October 1943  D1512

'HM Harbour Defence Launch 1054' was wrecked off Hartlepool.

Day 1512. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.19, begins: 18.21

Sunday, 31st October 1943  D1520

This morning saw the return of a blockade runner from Sweden, a 1,200 mile run. A convoy consisting of the five warships turned fast freighters, 'Hopewell' (ex 'MGB 504'), 'Nonsuch' (ex 'MGB 505'), 'Gay Viking' (ex 'MGB 506'), 'Gay Corsair' (ex 'MGB 507') and 'Master Steadfast' (ex 'MGB 508'), sailed from the Humber a few days ago. The 'Gay Viking' developed engine trouble and was left behind, the others pressed on, but repeated sightings of enemy aircraft led Binney to believe the operaton had been compromised and he ordered the ships to return to the Humber. In the meantime the 'Gay Viking' unaware the her consorts had turned for home, was underway and making for the Skagerrak, by early morning her commander, Captain Whitfield brought her into Lysekil. 'Gay Viking' put to sea on the return leg on the evening of the 29th and reached home this morning.

Day 1520. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.35, begins: 18.03

Monday, 1st November 1943  D1521

'SS Tioga' (715t) was sunk by a U Boat, SE of the Farne Islands at 55°36'00"N - 01°32'00"W.

Day 1521. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.37, begins: 18.01

Tuesday, 2nd November 1943  D1522

The Humber based blockade runners first casualty occurred today, the 'Master Steadfast' commanded by Captain George Holdsworth was intercepted and captured by the German patrol vessel 'VP 1606'. Captain Holdsworth later died of wounds in Frederickshaun, Denmark, a number of the crew were made prisoners of war.

'SS Dona Isabel' (1,179t) cargo ship, Blyth to Portsmouth, was sunk by E Boats off Hastings.

'SS Foam Queen' (811t) cargo ship, Humber to Poole, also sunk by E Boats off Hastings.

Day 1522. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.39, begins: 17.59

Thursday, 4th November 1943  D1524

Northumberland.. At Sparty Lea, Swinhope, a 44 year old man was killed when a rogue barrage balloon exploded.

Day 1524. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.43, begins: 17.55

Saturday, 6th November 1943  D1526

A Hurricane fighter operating from Milfield airfield, in Northumberland crashed into a field on Milfield Desmense Farm about 1 mile W of the RAF station at 12.05. The pilot was slightly hurt.

Day 1526. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.47, begins: 17.51

Friday, 12th November 1943  D1532

A Halifax bomber based at Leeming, returning from an air raid on Cannes was running short of fuel, so the pilot made an emergency, rather rough, three-engined landing at Marston Moor airfield near York, as it was taxiing round the perimeter track, the pilot opened the bomb doors, as he did so he felt a bump. At the control tower he examined the bomb doors and found that they were badly damaged, so he decided to walk round the perimeter track where he found a live 1,000 lb bomb lying there. An aircraftsman with a rifle and fixed bayonet was put on guard and he was later seen patrolling around it, but as far away from it as possible. The plane was refuelled and was flown back to its base - after the crew had breakfasted.

Day 1532. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.00, begins: 17.40

Saturday, 13th November 1943  D1533

'SS Cormount' (2,841t) cargo ship, London to Blyth, was sunk by a mine off Harwich.

Day 1533. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.02, begins: 17.38

Monday, 22nd/Tuesday, 23rd November 1943  N1542

A Halifax bomber had just taken off from Croft airfield, County Durham, and had reached 500' when it suddenly dived into the ground at Blue Anchor Farm, Scotch Corner at 19.26. Six of the crew were killed and one was injured.

Night 1542. All times BST. Blackout begins: 17.24, ends: 08.21

Monday, 29th November 1943  D1549

A Hurricane fighter based at Brunton airfield, in Northumberland crashed in a field near The Thirlings, Wooler at about 09.30. It had developed engine trouble and was burnt out on crashing. The pilot was killed.

Day 1549. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.32, begins: 17.16

Wednesday, 1st/Thursday, 2nd December 1943  N1551

22.40 Tragedy struck the district when several bombers returning from minelaying operations off Denmark were diverted to RAF Acklington because of poor weather conditions. A Stirling from 75 Squadron based at Mepal, on its second approach, crashed into the farmhouse of Cliff House Farm, Togston near Amble, killing five children of the Robson family - Sheila, 19m, William, 3, Margery, 5, Ethel, 7, and Sylvia, 9 - and all of the aircraft's crew except the mid upper gunner, 20 year-old Sgt Kenneth Gordon Hook.

Despite serious injuries Sgt Hook was flying again two months later and by the end of the war he had flown more than 75 operational missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal at the end of 1944 and remained in the RAF until 1977 when he retired with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

Night 1551. All times BST. Blackout begins: 17.14, ends: 08.37

Thursday, 2nd/Friday, 3rd December 1943  N1552

A Halifax bomber on a training flight from Croft airfield, County Durham, crashed ½ mile south of runway No 3 at Dishforth airfield at 21.31. This was due to the steam from a nearby railway and poor visibility. Five of the crew were killed and one injured.

Night 1552. All times BST. Blackout begins: 17.13, ends: 08.38

Monday, 6th December 1943  D1556

The public were informed that on this day 'Air raid sirens will be tested at 10.00 today throughout Northumberland, The Raiders Passed signal will be sounded for one minute, then the Alert for one minute, and finally the Raiders Passed signal again. The test will not be made in any district in which an actual Alert has been sounded during the preceding fortnight.

Day 1556. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.43, begins: 17.10

Monday, 13th December 1943  D1563

The old airfield at Shipton a few miles N of York was reactivated in WW2 to house the RAF's No 60 Maintenance Unit. The purpose of this unit was to provide spares and collect crashed aircraft from the surrounding area. They were kept very busy and operated many miles from base, sometimes in arduous conditions, as this extract from the Station Records will show: "13th December 1943; Halifax Aircraft DT 578. Category 'E2' at Whernside (about twenty miles W of Ripon). Main site of crash 2,600' high, aircraft scattered over a considerable area; salvage operations handicapped by extremely bad weather and extreme cold, visibility often only 20 yards. The climb each day from billets to scene of crash took about 1½ hours. To date, salvage is almost complete and it is estimated salvage party will return to unit by 6th January 1944.

Day 1563. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.52, begins: 17.08

Tuesday, 14th December 1943  D1564

The first ballot for the selection of youths to be directed to work in the coal mines instead of the service in the Armed Forces took place.

Day 1564. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.52, begins: 17.08

Thursday, 16th/Friday, 17th December 1943  N1566

Tonight, 492 bombers were despatched to raid Berlin. All squadrons were airborne at 16.20. Twenty-five of the planes were shot down over enemy territory, but because of the adverse weather conditions encountered on their return, a further twenty-nine crashed in the UK, with the loss of one hundred and thirty-one lives. With fog covering many of the airfields, several bombers just ran out of fuel. Among those were a Lancaster that crashed at Yearsley near Thirsk, another that crashed at Northlands Farm near Knaresborough, killing five and injuring two of the crew, and a third that crashed at Murton Common near York, leaving two injured survivors. All were operating from Linton on Ouse airfield near York.

Night 1566. All times BST. Blackout begins: 17.08, ends: 08.56

Thursday, 23rd/Friday, 24th December 1943  N1573

Just before midnight a Halifax bomber broke up in the air after being abandoned by four of the crew and crashed into houses near 57 Kent Road, Harrogate, around Oakdale Golf Course and the Power Station. Three of the crew were killed.

Night 1573. All times BST. Blackout begins: 17.10, ends: 09.00

Friday, 24th December 1943  D1574

'HM Harbour Defence Launch 1388' was wrecked off Hartlepool.

Day 1574. All times BST. Blackout ends: 09.00, begins: 17.10

Saturday, 25th December 1943  D1575

Hull trawler 'Kingston Beryl' mined in the north-western approaches.

Day 1575. All times BST. Blackout ends: 09.00, begins: 17.11

Saturday, 1st January 1944  D1582

At 12.40 a Halifax bomber based at Topcliffe airfield near Thirsk, crashed after an undershoot. The pilot and co-pilot were on three engined circuits and landing practice and the pilot aimed to land short in order to avoid a contractors working party, when a gust of wind caught the aircraft, causing the accident. The crew were uninjured.

Day 1582. All times BST. Blackout ends: 09.02, begins: 17.17

Friday, 14th January 1944  D1595

A Hurricane fighter operating from Milfield airfield, in Northumberland crashed at Rosedean Farm, Wooperton, Northumberland. It was totally wrecked and the pilot was killed. The plane was flying low when the propeller hit the ground, it then hit a hedge, travelled 200 yds and crashed into some trees surrounding the farm.

Day 1595. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.54, begins: 17.36

Saturday, 15th/Sunday, 16th January 1944  N1596

A Halifax bomber based at Topcliffe airfield near Thirsk, crashed shortly after take-off at 20.58 at Catecliffe Wood near Thirsk, killing all nine on board.

Night 1596. All times BST. Blackout begins: 17.38, ends: 08.52

Tuesday, 18th January 1944  D1599

A Halifax bomber based at Topcliffe airfield near Thirsk, suffered a failure in the port outer engine, the plane subsequently overshot and crashed into some trees, _ of a mile SE of the airfield at 10.12. Of the eight man crew, two were killed and three injured.

Just a few minutes later at 10.30 another Halifax from the same airfield, flying at 1,100' in fog, crashed into a hillside at Black Hambleton near Osmotherley. All six crew were killed.

Day 1599. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.50, begins: 17.43

Friday, 21st January 1944  D1602

A Halifax bomber operating from Lissett airfield near Bridlington was returning from ops and was very low on fuel as he crossed the coast at Flamborough Head. The pilot afraid that he would not make it to the airfield ordered the crew to bale out, but the flight engineer refused leave. Working together, they managed a wheels down forced landing in a field 2 miles E of Lissett. Of the rest of the crew, two were killed when their parachutes didn't fully deploy and three landed unhurt.

Day 1602. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.46, begins: 17.48

Monday, 31st January 1944  D1612

'SS Emerald' (736t) cargo ship, North-East port to Poole, was sunk by E Boats, SE of Beachy Head.

Day 1612. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.31, begins: 18.09

Monday, 7th February 1944  D1619

A Halifax bomber crew from Rufforth airfield were detailed for three engined daylight exercises using the airfield at Lissett near Bridlington. After several successful landings they were again in the circuit at 600' with the starboard outer engine shut down, the undercarriage down and on the final approach, when the starboard inner engine exploded. All that, plus the obvious loss of power made the outcome dependent on the pilot's skill. The bomber hit the ground in a landing attitude, lost the undercarriage in a ditch, cut through several hedges and demolished a number of lighting poles, coming to rest 30 yards from the back door of a farmhouse at Harpham Farm, near Lissett at 12.06 - an extremely skilful landing!

The following encounter is copied, almost word for word from 'Action Stations 4.' by Bruce Barrymore Halpenny. " The farmer rushed from the house and called out, 'Is anybody hurt?' On being told the crew were shaken-up but unharmed he replied, 'What about my bloody turnips? - seven of you buggers in the last week!' Doug Bancroft, the pilot of the crashed Halifax recalls, 'Sure enough, when I looked over his fields there were six or more aircraft scattered about, either with their tails in the air or on their bellies with broken backs'. Doug hadn't made a friend and later, when they were posted to Lissett their sleeping quarters were just outside this farmers gateway. The farmer passed them many times on his way to the mess for the pig scraps but he always left them to walk the mile or so - rain, snow or sunshine. Not all their enemies were in Germany!

Day 1619. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.18, begins: 18.24

Sunday, 13th February 1944  D1625

The Free French minesweeping trawler 'Cap D'Antifer' was torpedoed by an E Boat off the Humber.

Day 1625. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.06, begins: 18.36

Tuesday, 15th February 1944  D1627

A Halifax bomber based at Leconfield airfield, near Beverley, was returning from ops when it hit high ground near Cloughton, 4 miles NW of Scarborough at 01.30. Six crew were killed.

Day 1627. All times BST. Blackout ends: 08.02, begins: 18.40

Wednesday, 16th February 1944  D1628

Another Halifax bomber based at Leconfield airfield, near Beverley, was also returning from ops and had made it back to Yorkshire despite all of his navigational aids being u/s. The visibility was poor and fuel was getting short so the pilot and crew baled out during which three were injured, one seriously. The Halifax crashed near the railway line between Sessay Wood and Coxwold, Yorkshire, some 50 miles NW of the airfield between 01.20 and 01.50.

Day 1628. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.59, begins: 18.42

Thursday, 24th February 1944  D1636

'SS Philipp M' (2,085t) cargo ship, Tyne to London with coal, was sunk by an E Boat, off Great Yarmouth.

Day 1636. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.41, begins: 18.59

Monday, 28th February 1944  D1640

A Hurricane fighter crashed in a field at Fowberry Moor Farm, Chatton, Northumberland at about 12.30. The plane was from 781 Squadron, RNAS Lee-on-Solent. At the time of the crash a heavy snow storm was in progress and the visibility was poor.

Day 1640. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.32, begins: 19.07

Friday, 3rd March 1944  D1644

A Spitfire fighter operating from Milfield airfield, in Northumberland crashed at Yeavering Farm, Kirknewton, Northumberland at about 11.50, owing to engine trouble. The pilot, a member of the Free French Air Force, was injured.

Day 1644. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.22, begins: 19.15

Friday, 10th March 1944  D1651

'SS Svava' (1,216t) a Ministry of Transport coal ship was bound for the Thames from Warkworth. When off Blyth she collided with the 'Fort Beausjour' at 55°15'12"N - 01°18'24"W and sank in 35 metres of water. She was built in 1904.

Day 1651. All times BST. Blackout ends: 07.05, begins: 19.29

Tuesday, 14th March 1944  D1655

A Halifax bomber returning on three engines from a raid on Le Mans railway yard, made it back to its destination, Burn airfield near Selby, but it attempted to overshoot and crashed near Stainer Hall. The crew escaped unhurt.

Day 1655. All times BST. Blackout ends: 06.54, begins: 19.38

Wednesday, 15th/Thursday, 16th March 1944  N1656

A Halifax bomber crashed near Selby Brickworks at 03.20 on returning to Burn Airfield near Selby, from operations near Stuttgart. The crew were all killed.

Night 1656. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.39, ends: 06.49

Sunday, 19th/Monday, 20th March 1944  N1660

Hull.. In an attack that was part reprisal for the devastation of German cities by the RAF and USAAF Hull was selected for 131 bomber sorties by the Luftwaffe. Something like 92 tonnes of bombs were dropped, but mainly because of late and inaccurate target marking, none of them fell on Hull as intended. This was probably due to poor estimation of wind velocity, flares were dropped too far to the south and almost all of the bombs intended for Hull, fell S of the Humber, in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. One of the aircraft participating, a Junkers Ju 88 was shot down near the Humber Lightship.

Night 1660. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.47, ends: 06.39

Thursday, 23rd/Friday, 24th March 1944  N1664

A Halifax bomber operating from Leeming airfield ran into trouble in the Kiel Canal area, hit several times by flak, then attacked by an enemy night fighter, the crew 'live' jettisoned their bombs and headed for home, which proved uneventful until they were rolling down the runway at Leeming when the pilot discovered there was no brake pressure. The bomber rolled off the runway and came to rest in a sea of mud. Within minutes the Squadron Engineering Officer pulled up in a Jeep and demanded to know why the hell they were blocking the runway and what they were doing back so early. After a heated exchange of words with the pilot, they were towed out of the mud and back to dispersal.

The next night the same bomber - patched up - was back on ops. Just after take off an engine overheated, and had to be shut down. For four hours the bomber cruised up and down the Ouse Valley at 800' to use up fuel, because with only three engines it couldn't gain enough height to get to the jettison area in the North Sea just off Flamborough Head. The pilot eventually made a perfect three point landing, with a full bomb load at Leeming airfield.

Night 1664. All times BST. Blackout begins: 19.54, ends: 06.30

Thursday, 30th/Friday, 31st March 1944  N1671

A Halifax bomber from 578 Squadron, Burn Airfield (south of Selby), was despatched with eleven others to bomb Nuremburg, about 70 miles from the target it was attacked by a Junkers Ju 88. The Halifax's guns and intercom were put out of action. A Messerschmitt Me 210 joined in the attack, unable to contact the rest of their crew, the navigator, bomb-aimer and wireless operator baled out. Despite his perilous situation - the starboard inner engine badly damaged, three of his crew missing, no guns and the rest of his crew unable to reach each other or him by intercom - Pilot Officer Barton, the aircraft's captain, carried on to the target, carried out the attack, releasing the bombs himself. As he was turning away from the target area the damaged engine's propeller flew off.

Barton headed for home, encountering extremely strong headwinds, and not having available any navigational aids he eventually crossed the English coast near Sunderland, 90 miles north of Burn Airfield. Barton then turned out to sea to avoid the balloon barrage. He was now low on petrol because two of his tanks had been punctured during the attack, and due to this shortage both of the port engines stopped. Now on one engine and flying too low to bale out, the three remaining crew members took up crash landing positions. Height, power and time ran out for the pilot at 05.50 when the aircraft hit the end of a row of houses and came to rest in Ryhope Colliery Yard, near Sunderland, County Durham, hitting two miners reporting for the morning shift, killing one and injuring the other.

Pilot Officer Barton, aged twenty-two, died 30 minutes later. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the only one awarded to a Halifax crew member throughout the war. The flight engineer, who was seriously injured when an accumulator burst near his head, received an immediate DFM and the two slightly injured air gunners each received the DFM sometime later. In 1985 a plaque was erected on Ryhope's war memorial in honour of PO Barton's bravery.

Night 1671. All times BST. Blackout begins: 20.09, ends: 06.11
Public Alert: 05.26, All-Clear: 05.43

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