Flight LM311, RAAF 467 Squadron

An eye-witness account - "Lucy to Bedrock, Over!"

Crew photograph of Flight LM311, RAAF 467 Squadron, at Bottesford Airfield in 1943. No. 467 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force was formed at Scampton, Lincolnshire in the United Kingdom on 7 November 1942. On 23 November 1942 the squadron moved to Bottesford Airfield (known locally as Normanton Airfield) and commenced operations on 2 January 1943. After a year it moved to Waddington and remained there until the end of the war. Between January 1942 and April 1945, 467 Squadron flew 3,833 sorties in Avro Lancaster heavy bombers and suffered heavy losses – 760 personnel were killed, of whom 284 were Australian, and 118 aircraft were lost. The following account gives details of just one of those losses – Flight LM311. All the flight crew lost their lives as their plane crash-landed at Bottesford Airfield after returning from Turin on the 13th July 1943. These details are taken from the anonymous account and photograph that is permanently on view in Bottesford Parish Council Rooms. It was presented by former members of 467 Squadron to mark the 50th Anniversary of the end of the 2nd World War in 1995. A Eucalyptus tree was also planted with a plaque near the graves of aircrew from Bottesford Airfield who were killed in action. The caption to the photograph records the war-time service of these young men and includes details of operations flown in their four months on active service at Bottesford Airfield with 467 Squadron. It reveals the pattern of that service. Arriving on the 3rd April 1943 it would be three weeks before their first three sorties at the end of the month and early May. Three weeks later they flew four sorties between the 23rd to the 30th May. In ten days they were airborne again between the 11th to the 17th June. Then in early July they flew two sorties over Germany before their final one to Turin on Monday 12th July 1943.
Displayed in the Fuller Room, Bottesford Old School
1995 RAAF reunion at Bottesford Airfield, Normanton
Australia Remembering 1945 - 1995 commemorative lapel badge

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. Norman C. Smith (1348535 Air Bomber – Aged 21)

Sgt. Jack Greenwood (980381 Flight Engineer – Aged 25)

Sgt. William S. Buchanan (1372826 Air Gunner – Aged 20)

Front row left to right:-

Sgt. Patrick Donlevy (1369188 Wireless Op.- Aged 19)

Sgt. Albert E. Micheals (1551320 Navigator – Aged 21)

Sgt. Cedric A. Chapman (415117 Pilot – Aged 20)

Sgt. William Bruce (967187 Air Gunner – Aged 20)

Operations flown

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

29.30.5.43 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.)

This page was added on 14/11/2008.

Comments about this page

  • Many thanks for showing the photograph of the crew. It’s good to see the young aircrew who sacrificed all. Otherwise it’s really a faceless memorial. But of course they are all priceless reminders !!!

    By Airfieldsman (18/12/2008)
  • Hello

    The eye-witness account of the loss of LM311 is taken from Bill Manifold’s book `Never a Dull’. I let one of the groundcrew who attended the crash borrow my copy, and he unfortunately died not long afterwards, so I don’t have it to hand, but it was published in the early 90s in Australia.

    By Vince Holyoak (04/03/2009)
  • Thank you so much for letting us know the authorship of the account.

    We have been trying to trace people who attended the 1995 reunion in order to add further photographs and recollections of the event.

    I have really enjoyed reading your book “On the Wings of the Morning: RAF Bottesford”. Is it still in print?

    By David Middleton (05/03/2009)
  • Thanks for the kind comments. I really enjoy reading your webpages, especially because my primary motivation for beginning the research in 1988 (when I was 19) was to uncover the `forgotten’ wartime history of Bottesford/Normanton, and to raise awareness. This kind of format does it wonderfully.

    I did an initial print run of 1000 of the books in 1995, which in the event unexpectedly sold out in six weeks or so. I then did a second print run in 1995, of which I believe I still have 20 or so left.

    On the May 1995 VE Day celebrations, I’d entirely forgotten that I gave a talk on the airfield, until I read it on your website…which just goes to show how unreliable the memory can be over just a few years…

    I have four albums of photographs, most of which I didn’t use in the book, and which I would be happy for you to copy either for use on the website, or to be put in the Fuller Room (which I had not heard of before).

    By Vince Holyoak (05/03/2009)
  • We really appreciate your most kind offer to allow access to your photograph collection and will be in touch in the very near future by email.

    By David Middleton (06/03/2009)
  • Thanks for posting up the tale & the incredibly evocative eye-witness account. I’ve popped a link to this page from the Lancaster LM658 page as I’m sure it’ll be of interest to many. (http://www.lancaster-lm658.co.uk)

    By Dunc (19/03/2012)
  • Thank you for your interest and linking this page to the Lancaster LM658 website. Vincent Holyoak’s history of RAF Bottesford is also available here. (http://www.bottesfordhistory.org.uk/category_id__95.aspx)

    By David Middleton (19/03/2012)
  • Thank you for getting in touch. A tree has been planted commemorating the crew near to the place north of the airfield where their plane crashed. There is also a memorial plaque naming each crew member. I will add a photograph of this memorial as soon as I have one.

    By David Middleton (06/07/2012)
  • My mum’s cousin was Patrick Donlevy from Pathhead, Midlothian. I’ve never seen his picture before but knew of his tragic death from when I was little. His grave is in my home town in Midlothian. Brave young men. Pauline.

    By Pauline morgan (06/07/2012)
  • Pat Donlevy was also my mum’s cousin. He was an only child and it’s lovely to see Pat’s photo with rest of his crew. He lies at rest in Dalkeith Cemetery and I sometimes visit his grave and pay my respects.

    By John Duncan (09/10/2012)
  • Pat Donlevy’s name will be read out in St Mary’s Church Pathhead, Midlothian, on Sunday 11 November 2012. In addition, members of the Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association (2 of whom live in Pathhead) will lay a remembrance poppy on his grave in Dalkeith.

    By Bob Bertram (08/11/2012)
  • It just so happens that I am Vice Chairman of the Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders Branch of the Royal Air Forces Association and actually live directly next door to St Mary’s Church in Pathhead. In fact it was my wife who was researching any wartime deaths from St Mary’s for Remembrance Sunday; who found out about Pat Donlevy from his cousin Mrs Molly Lusk who lives in the village. Myself and David Prior our Branch Treasurer will visit Pat’s grave in Dalkeith on Sunday afternoon and lay a Poppy in his memory. PER ARDUA ADASTRA

    By Bob Bertram (09/11/2012)
  • Hi,  re Pat Donlevy. 

    I thought for those who are interested. Pat’s mum and my granny were sisters called Keegan. Their dad was called Pat. I’m not sure of any Duncans in the family. Molly Lusk is my cousin once removed. If anyone wants to know let me know. Pat’s mum was Elizabeth and his dad was John. He looked after the church and built the nativity which I saw when I was little.

    By Pauline morgan (11/03/2013)
  • Pauline My mum is Jessie Donlevy ex Gorebridge, my Uncle John stays in Dalkeith and Mary in Gorebridge.

    By John Duncan (29/07/2013)
  • Cedric Chapman was my dad’s brother, and my dad spoke of Cedric all the time. This is the first time I have seen this site but I would love to know who Lucy was? and say how pleased we are to have found it and hear the eye witness account of that morning when LM311 crashed. RIP uncle Ced.

    By paul chapman (12/11/2017)
  • Many thanks for your kind comment Paul. Further details of the Cedric Chapman’s and his crew’s loss can be found in Chapter 12 of Vince Holyoak’s book ‘On the Wings of the Morning’ on this website – please see

    http://www.bottesfordhistory.org.uk/content/topics/on-the-wings-of-the-morning-by-vincent-holyoak/chapter-12-on-the-other-side-of-the-hill

    Details of ‘Lisabeth’ are also given in that chapter.

    We hope to visit Cedric Chapman’s CWGC grave at Botley near Oxford in the near future. Should you wish any family members’ names to be entered into the memorial book please do let us know. Kind regards, David

    By David Middleton (23/11/2017)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share this
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone