R.A.F. Whitley Bomber Air Crash

R.A.F. Whitley Bomber Air Crash
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Whitely Bomber Air Crash Memorial PlaqueOn the 2nd June 1943 an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber, Z6639, crashed in the Cotswolds by Broadway Tower in Worcestershire. (The Airfield Research Group)

The following extract is taken from 'RAF Bomber Command Losses' Vol.7 - W R. Chorley re the above loss.

At the time of this tragedy, Broadway Tower was being used as a Royal Observer Corps post and first on the scene were two corps members, Albert Lowe and Ernest Hollington. Braving the flames, the two men pulled all five airmen clear and though four were dead, a fifth man was still alive. Taken to the shelter of the nearby tower, he died soon afterwards. In June 1998, a special commemorative event, marking the 55th anniversary of the crash, took place at Broadway Tower, during which a plaque and a specially commissioned painting by the artist Michael Barnard was unveiled in the tower's restaurant.

Michael Barnard, a 15 year old ATC Cadet at the time, has documented the incident and his writings are reproduced here courtesy of the Cotswold & Vale Magazine.

A Moment in Time by Michael Barnard

Part 1 - May 2012

Were they to return - the aircrew, airmen and WAAFs who were stationed at RAF Honeybourne and knew the crew of Whitley Z6639 that crashed on this Cotswold hillside on June 2, 1943 - they would pause at a wonderful memorial stone that was first dedicated to the Whitley crew way back in 1998.

Whitely Air Crash Broadway Tower Worcestershire by Michael BarnardToday, in 2012, the original stone is weather damaged and it is with grateful thanks to so many local people that a new stone will replace it later this summer.

Their kindness in helping to fund this replacement stone is such a wonderful gesture that will ensure that these five young airmen will never be forgotten.

My picture is one of several painted to remember these young airmen. At the time of the crash I was a 15 year-old ATC cadet who often visited RAF Honeybourne. The news of the tragedy was given to me by a young WAAF from the medical section Number 2 near to the Weston-sub-Edge crossroads.

This year's dedication ceremony will go ahead as usual on June 2 and next June 2, in 2013, a special service will be held to dedicate the new stone. We hope service dignitaries from Canada will be able to attend.

Our ceremonies every year here by Broadway Tower are cherished reunions, recalling times long ago and it is amongst these golden fields, on June's summer's day, five airmen are remembered, young hearts forever stay.


Part 2 - May 2013

On Sunday June 2, at 2pm, there will be a very special gathering near Broadway Tower to mark the installation of a replacement memorial stone to the five airmen who lost their lives on this Cotswold hillside 70 years ago.

Members of the Evesham Branch RAFA, ex members of the Royal Observer Corps, Service representatives and many friends -who have helped in many ways to make the commemoration possible - will be there to honour the two Canadians and three British Servicemen who tragically died on June 2, 1943.

The five are:

  • F/Sgt H.G Hagen (Pilot) RCAF
  • F/Sgt R.S. Phiillips (Nay.) RAF
  • Sgt D.H. Kelly (BA) RCAF
  • Sgt D.A. Marriott MOP) RAF (VR)
  • Sgt G.E. Elkins (AG) RAF (VR)

Whitely Air Crash Broadway Tower Worcestershire by Michael BarnardThe crew was flying Whitley Z6639 at the end of their training course, getting in the last few flying hours before passing out as a fully trained bomber crew.

After completing an exercise of about three hours duration they had returned to the Honeybourne circuit to find the weather had deteriorated, with rain and very low cloud base. Due to other aircraft landing, Z6639 was given a "RED" by the airfield controller to go round again.

On the second circuit, during the climb-out to turn, it crashed into the top of the hill, so near to Broadway Tower.

Mr A Lowe and Mr E Hollington, both in the Royal Observer Corps, did everything possible to rescue the crew. For this very brave act, they both were mentioned in the London Gazette and received a certificate signed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

This description is from the late Brian Kedward's brilliant book Angry Skies across the Vale. It was Brian, together with Broadway Tower owner Annetta Gorton, who way back in 2000 were instrumental in getting the original memorial stone installed.

The original stone suffered major weather damage over the passing years.

Special thanks are due to Annetta, the Evesham Branch of RAFA, ROC and the many friends who have helped to install this very fine replacement memorial.


Armstrong Whitworth Whitley in flight c1940Armstrong Whitworth Whitley c1940

Broadway Tower by Michael Ely Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseBroadway Tower, Worcestershire UK 52.0242° N, 1.8357° W

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