Please “click” on each person’s name to view their Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial “Debt of Honour” Certificate.
467 ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE SQUADRON BOTTESFORD 3RD APRIL TO 13TH JULY 1943
Back row left to right:-
Sgt. Jack Greenwood (980381 Flight Engineer – Aged 25)
Front row left to right:-
Sgt. Cedric A. Chapman (415117 Pilot – Aged 20)
Sgt. William Bruce (967187 Air Gunner – Aged 20)
26/26. 4.43 Duisburg LM311
30/4.1/5.43 Essen ED768
4/5. 5.43 Dortmund LM311
23/24.5.43 Dortmund LM311
25/26.5.43 Dusseldorf LM311
27/28.5.43 Dusseldorf LM311
188.8.131.52 Wuppertall LM311
11/12.6.43 Dusseldorf LM311
12/13.6.43 Bochum LM311
14/15.6.43 Oberhausen LM311
16/17.6.43 Cologne LM311
3/4.7.43 Cologne LM311
8/9.7.43 Cologne LM311
12/13.7.43 Turin LM311
LM311 Crashed at Bottesford on return.
3/4.7.43 Sgt. Smith V. was 2nd pilot to Cologne.
8/9. 7.43 F/S Boys A.R.T. Reg was 2nd Nav. to Cologne
P/O Chapman S. A. and crew posted to 467 Sq. 3.4.43. 15 ops to 13.7.43 KIA.
LM311 was returning from the attack on Turin damaged and in difficulties on the approach for landing at Bottesford the tail appeared to break off and all crew were killed.
8/9. 4. 43 Sgt. Chapman S. A. 2nd pilot to Duisburg with St. Cairney J. W.
13/14.4.43 Sgt. Chapman S. A. 2nd pilot to Spezia with F/O. Manifold W. G
Although 467 Squadron was formed as part of the Royal Australian Air Force, initially the majority of its members were recruited from the British Isles. Pilot Officer Chapman was from Western Australia however the rest of his crew were from Scotland. Cedric Chapman’s grave is in the Australian Air Force Cemetery in Botley, Oxford. The graves of the other crew members are near their home – towns in Scotland.
This anonymously authored eye-witness account records their final return to Bottesford:
At Bottesford we were actually quite proud or our controllers, and their prowess in getting us down alter ops at three aircraft per minute. There was an element or risk in landing before the previous machine was clear of the runway, but with all the practice we got, and the use of the correct procedure, I don’t think there was any mishap from so doing.
As a pilot, anyway, the O.C. Night Flying was there to deal with night flying problems outside the Controllers’ particular field, and on an operational station such as ours there would be practically nothing to do for maybe 8 or 9 hours while the boys were away (though at any minute somebody might come back with half his engines out and a bomb hung-up) and then there was some twenty minutes of watching the Control Officer and WAAF radio operator bring the squadron down.
They would come down in a steady procession out of the “stack” above us. “Peter” would call “Clear of runway!” almost as “George” called “Funnel! ‘” Then the girl would tell ”Harry” to pancake and bring the others down 500 feet so that there were never two aircraft at the same altitude.
On one particular night they had been to Italy. Milan or Turin took a bit over 9 hours, and the boys had come up on the radio right on time. Before the first one had touched down, they had all been given the Q.F.E. and their orbit heights: all that is who had called up. One was missing.
At the blackboard an airman was busy filling in details of each flight, entering the “Time Landed” for each aircraft as it called “Clear of Runway”. For “L” there was nothing since “Time Airborne”, and still no word from him.
I turned round to look at the clock and met the eyes of a young WAAF. She was standing just inside the control room at the top of the concrete stairs, eyes wide, lips parted, dead white.
Of course she would be there. Even if she hadn’t been on duty she would have been somewhere about, waiting. For Lucy (not her real name) drove a crew transport, and everybody knew her: knew that she was engaged to a Sergeant Pilot who flouted the phonetic alphabet to call his plane alter her, L for Lucy.
There was nothing I could say. I had a soft spot for her sergeant too, a very good fellow who had once come with us as second pilot. And now it looked as if he’d bought it. I turned away.
Through the windows the first light was creeping. Outside, the other crew transport was tailing the first aircraft into its dispersal, and beyond the second machine was still taxying along the perimeter track, its red and green nav. lights looking tawdry and unnecessary in the dewy morning. Lucy turned suddenly and disappeared down the stairs to her job.
They kept coming down. “Yorker” and “Able” and “X-ray” and others, each protesting the sudden closure of its throttles with a cannonade of back-fires and a screech of rubber on the tarmac. The engines revved singly, first one side and then the other as they worked their separate ways into dispersals and finally shut down. I drank the silence with the crews who so richly deserved it. The landing beam transmitter clicking away in the corner of the control room suddenly sounded unbearably loud. Someone produced a cup of tea.
And then he came up clear as daylight: “Lucy to Bedrock, Over”.
The operator could have kissed him. “Lucy, aerodrome 1,000 Over.”
“Lucy aerodrome 1,000. I have no elevator control. Am flying an the trimmer, Over.”
The Controller and I looked at each other, stunned, then he was on the telephone getting the Wingco, Engineer Officer and Station Station Commander and I was I trying to get the picture over the radio. Yes, the main elevator control had cut out over the target: there dldn’t seem to be any structural damage: the flight engineer could find nothing amiss with the control rod up to the point where it disappeared into the tail plane. They had practised approaches, as though landing on clouds on the way home and the pilot was quite confident that he could get down on our long runway, which was then in use. Could he please come in now as he had only about 15 minutes of fuel.
By this time the control room seemed full of people respectfully eavesdropping while the Wingco and Group Captain tried to reach a decision. There were three courses open to them: to let him land right away; to have him head the machine out to sea and bale out; or to send him over to the special mile-long runway at Woodbridge which was designed for these difficult landings.
Flying an aircraft on its trimmer is not really so much out of the ordinary. Alter all, it is there for setting the machine to fly “Hands off” by means of what might be called an elevator’s elevator – a way of using the slipstream to operate the main elevator without recourse to any force through the control rod. It is a bit cumbersome. but quite feasible, like steering a boat with an oar instead of the rudder, or steering a tractor by the steering brakes alone. But the degree of difficulty in using this method to land a large aircraft was something we could only guess. If the pilot of Lucy made so little of it, and had flown from Italy that way, who were we to say he could not finish the job?
The real question was the extent of the damage. Was the whole thing hanging by a thread? Or was there merely a break in the control rod? Here again, the machine had come all this way home safely, and it seemed reasonable to suppose that had the structure been weakened it would have collapsed long since. For that reason too, it seemed unnecessary to recommend a landing without flaps, which would have meant diverting to Woodbridge with practically no fuel. Time in fact had already removed this option during the discussion, and probably the second option too since that meant climbing to at least 2,000 feet.
Anyway it seemed that Lucy had been sufficiently tested by her long flight home. We had all caught a bit of the pilot’s optimism by now, and the whole thing began to look dead easy. The die was cast.
“Bedrock to Lucy, you may pancake. over.”
“Lucy to Bedrock. Roger. Thanks. Out.
We all tensed up as he swung across from the far side of the circuit letting the wheels down, just as he normally would. He flew well out to get a long straight approach and in my mind I followed him through his drill. Wheels, Normal, Supercharger, Pitch, Fuel, Flaps, Gyro. There wasn’t a sign of anything wrong to critical eyes following him from below. He was coming in beautifully until it happened.
Something suddenly flew out behind him. Over and over it went, and we saw with horror that this was the complete tail plane. The fuselage swung up high above the wings until it was vertical a flash of white silk streamed from the rear turret just as the nose hit , and then it was all a raging fire and a pall of black smoke.
I wanted to swallow but couldn’t. Someone said “The Crash Bell”, and I leant over on it for a long time though there seemed no point. The fire truck had gone immediately, but anyway nobody could be alive in that inferno.
The crowd has all gone, and there, standing where I had just seen her, was Lucy. There were no tears, nothing. She just stood there as if the life seemed to drain out of her, until another girl led her gently away.
The Control Officer switched off the remaining lights and we collected our coats. As we pedaled up to the Mess we met the airmen coming down for the day’s work. They looked particularly grim.
(The framed presentation in the Fuller Rooms at Bottesford does not give any details of the author of the above account. The author mentions that Cedric Chapman flew as 2nd Pilot with him. Either J.W. Cairney or W.G. Manifold could have written the above account because they are listed as the Pilot Officers with whom he flew. Please do contact us if you know who the author is or have any further details of the commemorative reunion of 467 Squadron held in 1995.)