Lost crews of WW2


During the Second World War, Yorkshire was home to around 40 airfields, many in the flat areas of the Vale of York. More than 18,000 airmen died flying from the Yorkshire airfields, some lost on training flights, because of weather conditions or aircraft malfunction. The memorials here are just two of many. Both these aircraft were on training flights, and both crashed within a week of one another, in February 1944.

Memorial to crew of Halifax bomber, Garrowby Hill

Garrowby Hill memorial

There’s something particularly moving about finding a memorial, by chance, in a place you wouldn’t expect. We were out in the car heading for a village off the A166. We missed the turning and had to turn round in a layby. At the edge of the layby, in front of a cornfield, was this memorial, erected by Alun Emlyn-Jones, remembering his comrades.

The inscription states that the memorial marks the location where, on 7 February 1944, at 10am, Halifax bomber DK192 from RAF Rufforth crashed in 10/10ths cloud during a training flight, killing all the crew. The driver of a milk lorry, Mr Arthur Wood Kirkby, who was passing on the road, was also killed.

Memorial to crew of Lancaster bomber, Aldborough

Aldborough memorial - click to enlarge

The villagers of Aldborough erected this memorial in 1994, to mark the 50th anniversary of another Second World War crash, which occurred on 2 February 1944.

The Lancaster bomber, of 432 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, was another bomber on a training flight. Five of the crew were from the Canadian forces, two from the RAF. Flight Sgt Kenneth Huggins was a Yorkshireman, from Bradford.

The inscription records that the plane had caught fire, and was losing height, but the pilot ‘with great skill, managed to avoid the village and instead came down on Studforth Hill, a short distance to the south.’

It is clear, as you read these details, why the memorial was erected not just ‘in memory of’, but ‘in grateful memory of’.

Click on the photo for a larger view showing the names of the crew.

This crew were based at East Moor, near Sutton-on-the-Forest. There’s a memorial to all who served at East Moor, close to the site of the former airfield.

References, links, further reading

The Air War, and British Bomber Crews, in World War Two – background information, from the BBC History pages

Yorkshire Airfields in the Second World War by Patrick Otter (Countryside Books, 1998)

www.yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk – containing information regarding the many aircraft accidents in Yorkshire.

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  1. Michael Davies

    I am trying to find details of a relative I never met who died in WW2. I am told he lost his life whilst on an RAF training flight in Yorkshire in 1941/42/43/. So far i have had no luck and don’t realy know where to start

    • What was the relatives name, I researched a ww2 training crash a while back

      • I’ve just emailed Michael on the address he left to pass on your message and to see if he made progress with his research. Thanks for offering to help

      • Michael Davies

        Hello Jim
        His name was Alexader Forsyth, a metroplolitan policeman who was in the Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve.
        According to his police records he died in 1944 on ‘active’ service but family stories suggest he was on a training flight over yorkshire.

        • Ann Hardman

          The Alexander Forsyth you are asking about was my uncle. My father was his youngest brother, Frank. He also had another brother, David. Uncle Alec’s grave is in the RAF cemetery in Harrogate. I am in touch with my cousins by Uncle David. I have a sister, Jean

          • Kevin Lynott

            Hello Ann,
            Alex Joined the Metropolitan Police on 9/3/31. He was allocated the unique Warrantt Number 120800. After the threat of invasion passed in 1941 Met police officers were release from the reserve occupation service and thousands joined the RAF. His last posting was as a Constable on L Division which in those days covered the Lambeth Borough. Regards Kevin

        • david young

          The details of the crash involving Sgt Alexander Forsyth A/G.
          ‘9th March 1944…. A Halifax V .DJ998…GG-E of 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit, took off from Sandtoft at 13-30hrs on a training flight for dual circuit,s and landing,s, but only 5 minutes had elapsed when the Halifax spun into the ground from 700ft, bursting into flames as it impacted at Belton, roughly 7 miles west-south-west from Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.Four were buried at Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery,while the other,s were conveyed to their home town,s. The pilot F/O. S. Burton DFC had flown a tour of operation,s with 625 Squadron…..the crew were;
          F/O. S. Burton DFC……………+
          P/O. E.J. Patterson. RNZAF…….+
          Sgt. G.R. Marshall……………+
          Sgt. R.G. William,s…………..+
          Sgt. J. MacMillan-Clark……..+
          Sgt. D. St.Clair……………+
          Sgt. D.R.W. Hall……………..+
          Sgt. A. Forsyth…………….+

          • Ann Hardman

            Thank you, David. This information is really helpful. I believe about 8-9000 men were lost on training flights. What a waste of life. Presumably there were mechanical problems with the planes.
            I shall pass on information to my cousins

  2. Richard Allenby’s site http://www.yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk/ would be a good place to look. It doesn’t have a search facility though as far as I can see, and it is a large site, so it might be hard to find the info if you don’t have an exact date. You can search though from Google, put this into the Google search box and put your relative’s name where I’ve used ‘Smith':

    site:yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk smith

    Hope that’s helpful, good luck with your search and I’d love to know if you do find the information you’re looking for.

    • c jenkins

      The yorkshire air museum has records of all air crashes in yorkshire and these can be viewed at the museum…I would suggest using the commonwealth war graves records to obtain a date for your relatives death and refer to the yorkshire records for crashes near that date

  3. hi Micheal
    think this is the right one, hope it helps, with date and service number it should help a bit more with your search,
    Trade:Air Gnr.
    Service No:1894970
    Date of Death:09/03/1944
    Regiment/Service:Royal Air Force Volunteer Cemetery:HARROGATE CEMETERY
    Son of Alexander and Isabella Forsyth; husband of Zena Forsyth, of Monks Orchard, Surrey.

    • Thank you for this Mark, I’ve let Michael know there’s a message for him,

    • Michael Davies

      Excellent information Mark,thank you very much.My next quest is to find out what type of aircraft they were in and where the crash happened.My understanding is they were on a training flight. Any advice you can give on where I should start looking would be appreciated

  4. Talk to Yorkshire Air Museum & Allied Air Forces Memorial, Elvington. York YO41 4AU. 01904 608595.

  5. Linda Grant

    I don’t know if anyone can help…my uncle John Joseph Westland became a Navigator on a Halifax aircraft, having trained in Yorkshire and was apparently shot down in a raid on Kiel on 26 / 27 Feb 1942. I would love to know more about his history.

    • david young

      Hello Linda…
      26-27 February 1942.

      10 squadron.
      Halifax II V9986 ZA-M
      Op. Kiel..took off from RAF Leeming at 18-23hrs.

      Sgt. J A. Bissett RCAF +
      F/S. E V H. Wieland +
      Sgt. J H. Jeffries +
      Sgt. J J. Westland +
      Sgt. W A I. Glanville +
      Sgt. E H. Simmons +
      Sgt. C F. Darwin +

      Took off 1823 hrs Lemming. lost without trace. All are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.


      The Kiel raid of 26/27 February 1942

      49 aircraft – 33 Wellingtons, 10 Hampdens, 6 Halifaxes – to attack the floating dock. 2 Wellingtons and 1 Halifax lost.
      Crews claimed good results in clear weather with bombs close to the floating dock. A high-explosive bomb scored a direct hit on the bows of the Gneisenau, causing severe damage and killing 116 men in the crew. This proved to be the end of Gneisenau as a fighting unit. Bombing in the town of Kiel destroyed several houses and killed 16 people.

      I hope this is of some use to you…..David Young

      • Linda Grant

        Thank you so much for this information. I am collating everything and writing his story to keep his memory alive. I am indebted to you.
        Kind regards

  6. Dave Donaghy

    Hi Linda, your uncle, Sgt JJ Westland, took off in a Halifax MKII, serial V9986, ZA-M,OF 10 Sqn, RAF Leeming, at 18-23 hrs on 26/2/42, bound for ops to Kiel. I will investigate further and post anything I find that is of significance, hope this helps, regards, Dave

    • Linda Grant

      Thank you very much indeed for responding. It means a lot that I can compile his story.
      Kind regards

  7. Kevin Lynott

    hello Michael Davis
    Your uncle Joined the Met Police on 9/3/31. He was issued with the unique once only use Warrant Number 120800. This is signed for by the officer in a ledger on his day of joining. It is never reissued or reused. Your uncle last served a a constable on L Division which is the lambeth area. Incidentally the other air gunner on the aircraft Douglas Robert Hall was also a Metropolitan Policeman from north London. I have no information that the men knew one another. Regards Kevin

    • Thank you Kevin for adding this information. As it’s been a while since Michael added his query I will email him on the address he gave then and hope to reach him.
      Thanks again, Lisa

    • Ann Hardman

      Thank you for the information regarding my uncle, Alec Forsyth. I have also been following up various leads.
      It was very kind of you to post the information, Kevin.

  8. Andy Bradwell

    Hi, I’ve just picked up this thread after researching the crash of a Halifax V, in a field I own at Belton near Doncaster. This may have been the plane your relative was training in

  9. Ian Marshall

    Please pass my e-mail to Ann Hardman and Michael Davies. They are both relatives of mine, and I can tell them about Alex Forsyth’s cousin Ian Forsyth who was shot down in 1941. He was based in Suffolk, so probably not relevant here.

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