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Handley Page Halifax V – DG419 – ‘H’ – 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit - 5th May 1943

On the 5th May 1943 at 1900hrs the crew of the above aircraft took off from Rufforth on a training flight to practice feathering.   This procedure means that in the event of engine failure the propeller blades are turned so that they are aligned with the airflow & therefore will prevent air resistance or drag.  


On board were:-


Sgt VE Betterton - Pilot

Sgt J Chisnell – Flight Engineer

Sgt FH Brown – RNZAF - Navigator

Sgt R Deacon – Bomb Aimer/Navigator

Sgt H Rowbottom – Air Gunner

Sgt AW Oakley – Air Gunner


At about 1958hrs whilst closing down the port outer Merlin engine the aircraft lost control & spiralled into the ground near to Fridaythorpe & caught fire.  All of the crew were killed in the accident, Sgts Betterton & Brown were buried in Barmby Moor on the 10th May with military honours.


The Aircraft has been manufactured & delivered to the training unit in about April of the same year

Sergeant Victor Edward Betterton – Pilot

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Victor Edward Betterton was born on the 5th December 1910 in Bristol to George Edward Betterton, a Hairdresser & Emily Bailey.   George & Emily had married in Knowle on the 22nd April 1908.


Victor was baptised on the 29th January 1911 at St Martins in Knowle, Bristol.


During the 1911 Census the family lived at 10 Ryde Road, Knowle.


A Daughter Kathleen Georgina Betterton had been born in 1908 & a son Leonard Francis Jesse Betterton followed in 1913.  By 1913 George has changed his occupation from being a Hairdresser to a Commercial Traveller.


Victors father George enlisted in June of 1916 serving with the Royal Marine Light Infantry for the duration of the war, leaving Emily to take care of their young family.


By the late 1920s the family have moved to Wandsworth in Southwest London & are living at 76 Clonmore Street where they would stay for some years.


Victor went on to train as a Quantity Surveyor & in 1937 married Joyce Kathleen Roberts in Wandsworth.


When the 1939 register was taken Victor is living at St Mary at Hill in the City of London in what looks like temporary accommodation likely so that he can carry out his job as a Surveyor.   Joyce is living with family in Wandsworth & is working as a Gown Saleswoman.


Victor joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1387742 & after initial training he would have carried out the training required to become a pilot.


He was training with 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit where attendees were training in 4 engine bombers which were being brought in to replace the earlier twin engine bombers.  He was 32 years old when he died & left his effects to his wife Joyce.

Sergeant Francis Henry Brown – RNZAF – Navigator

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Francis Henry Brown was born in Martinborough, Wellington, New Zealand in 1916 to Samuel Adam Brown & Jessie Grant.  Samuel a Native Kincraigy, County Donegal, Ireland had moved to New Zealand between 1901 &  1907, joined the New Zealand Police Force & married Jessie in 1907.


Siblings Ruby McClure Brown had been born in 1908, William James Brown in 1910, Gordon Samuel Brown in 1912 & Grant Wallace Brown in 1914.   A sibling Nancy is also mentioned within a newspaper article.


By 1929 the family have moved to 1 Garfield Street in Auckland East & Samuel is now a Police Sergeant.   By 1935 they have moved again to Queen Street, Onehunga a suburb of Auckland.

Since Francis is named on the Otahuhu Railway Workshops it seems probable that he would have worked there.   The Workshops where a  rolling stock construction, repair & maintenance facility which was operated by New Zealand Railways & at the time would have employed somewhere in the region of 900 people.


Francis joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force & was given the Service No NZ39740 he carried out is initial training in New Zealand before boarding the ship Orcades for his outward travel to Canada where he would carry out his training.


He trained at No 4 Air Observer School in London, Ontario graduating on the 11th September 1942.


Following his training in Canada he was transferred to the UK. 


He was 27 years old when died in the accident, he is named on the Auckland War Memorial Museum WW2 Hall of Memories, Auckland Grammer School War Memorial & Otahuhu Railway Workshops War Memorial.

Sergeant James Chisnell – Flight Engineer

James Chisnell was 22 years old when he died in the crash.  He was the son of James & Mary Chisnell of St Helens.   He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1530103 & is buried in St Helens Cemetery.

Sergeant Robert Deacon – Bomb Aimer/Navigator

Robert Deacon was just 19 years old when he died in the crash.  He was the son of Robert William & Eliza Jane Deacon of Barnard Castle.  He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1049243 & is buried in St Marys Church Cemetery in Barnard Castle.

Sergeant Harold Rowbottom – Air Gunner

Harold Rowbottom was 20 years old when he died in the crash.  He was the son of Frank & Ada Rowbottom of New Wortley, Leeds.   He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1094047 & is buried in New Wortley Cemetery in Leeds.

Sergeant Alfred Warner Oakley – Air Gunner

Alfred Oakley was 22 years old when he died in the crash.  He was the son of Alfred & Isabella Brougham Oakley of Dundee.  He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 757915 & is commemorated on the war memorial at Dundee Crematorium.

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