General interestCrew of wartime bomber to be commemorated
At 16:00 hrs on Friday 18th May 2007, the crew of a wartime bomber will be commemorated at a memorial service at the Church of St Botolph in Stoke Albany, Northamptonshire UK.
The bomber, a United States built Boeing Fortress I, an early version of the legendary B17 was in service with the then top secret, high altitude bombing squadron based at Polebrook Northamptonshire. 90 Squadron (RAF) was specially reformed to take delivery of 20 of these aircraft supplied under the lend-lease agreement in the early summer of 1941. The crews were hand picked individuals who were exceptionally fit and had undergone special tests to ensure they could withstand the harsh conditions met at high altitude in unpressurised aircraft.
The aircraft were hastily pushed into service despite a number of operational problems that the Americans were as keen to iron out as the RAF. Each aircraft was crewed with six RAF men and a USAAC “Advisor”. A sensitive issue at the time as America was still a neutral country.
The crew to be commemorated at Stoke Albany are those of aircraft WP-E “Easy” AN534 which crashed vertically at high speed into a field just outside the village, killing all seven men on board. An RAF board of enquiry blamed the crash on pilot error. These aircraft were known to suffer instability problems if the auto-pilot was engaged when the gyros weren’t correctly synchronised. However they were also known to “ice up” seriously at the 32,000 feet they were expected to operate at. Icing could affect all control surfaces and in some cases cause the aircraft to drop like a stone. An eyewitness to the crash remembers the deafening noise and seeing the aircraft break apart just before the impact that killed the seven men:-
Flt. Sgt. Reginald G Bradley RAFVR aged 28:
Flt. Sgt. Hubert CG Brook RAFVR aged 25:
Sgt. Robert Henderson RAFVR aged 23:
1st Lt. Laird W Hendricks USAAC aged 25:
Flt. Sgt. Ronald CA Muir RAF aged 20:
Sgt. Philip S Pugh RAFVR aged 23:
Sgt. Roy Smith RAFVR aged 28:
Attempts to contact any family members of the crew have been going on for some months with limited success. The daughter and grandson of RG Bradley who now live in Canada will attend along with some other members of his family who still reside in the UK. Any other family members that can be traced are obviously invited to attend the service (as too are any other interested parties); at which it is hoped that a plaque in memory of the crew will also be unveiled.
For further information, please contact me at the above email address.
Desborough and the Great War 1914-1919