LOST HEROES OF EASTLEACH

This is the story so far, as published in CHEQS, however I have been in touch with the writer, Peter Crossley who has since spoken to more locals and we will publish an update soon …………..

On Sunday 8th Feb 1942 at around 15:10 hrs a Wellington Bomber flying on a training exercise to locate homing beacons, struck a tree over Macaroni woods, narrowly missed Eastleach Downs house and farm and crashed into a field near to cottages alongside the farms access road (GL7 3PX). The aircraft was burnt out in 15minutes. Five of the crew were killed; the pilot survived, injured. I discovered this story whilst searching for evidence as to what happened to my Uncle, Sgt Joe Crossley, the Radio Operator.

After a considerable amount of searching I came up with the RAF report and the inquest report into the accident.

Wellington Bomber

After a chance meeting with Susie Walker, the present resident of Eastleach House, she managed to find an eye witness of the crash, Allen Lane, who was 7 years old at the time and saw the aftermath and recovery.

The Wellington T2608 took off from Moreton-in-Marsh and flew for 20 minutes and then swapped pilots. The first pilot went back to the tail gunner’s seat at the rear. The crash was described by Isobel Nicholson, 20yrs (Land Girl) as being a loud explosion like a bomb with the plane rising and flying round the back of the farm, rolling over and crashing into the ground and bursting into flames. She hurried to give assistance. Pilot Sgt Albert Gibb was pulled from the flames along with another airman who turned out to be dead.

Moreton-in-Marsh Airfield

Who were the local heroes who went straight into a burning conflagration of exploding petrol tanks, oxygen bottles, oil tanks and possibly ammunition?

Sgt Gibb was rescued unconscious with a broken leg, his evidence describes a loud bang and seeing damage to the tail plane along with identifying the tree they had hit; he remembered nothing after that.

L.A.C’s Williamson and Clark (RAF Southrop) arrived with their fire engine and donned their scarves around their faces and went into the flames to drag someone clear, only to find he was dead.

Pill Box – RAF Southrop

Was Isobel Nicholson the unrecognised heroine who got the pilot clear from the gun turret, and who were the other locals mentioned in the inquest report?

One thing is clear: there were some very brave civilians on the Downs that afternoon.

Read the full report here.

The inquest report can be located in the Oxford History Centre, ref Joe Crossley.  A full copy of my report can be found in the Gloucestershire Archives under Eastleach files.

Peter Crossley