Handley Page Halifax II – JB848 – DY-G – 102 Squadron - 29th March 1943

At about 2158hrs hrs on the 29th March 1943 the above aircraft took off from RAF Pocklington along with 9 other aircraft to take part in an operation to attack Berlin.

On board were: -

W/O 2nd Class WP Comrie - Pilot

Sgt WJ McGrath – Flight Engineer

F/O DWF Harper - Navigator

F/O WH Jenkins – Bomb Aimer

Sgt FW Dorrington – Wireless Operator

Sgt J King – Air Gunner

Sgt MCC Squiers – Air Gunner

 

It was reported that on take-off they tried to avoid another aircraft from RAF Melbourne, but that they stalled & crashed at 2200hrs at West Green, near to the airfield.  The Aircraft burnt out & all of the crew were killed in the accident.

 

Sergeants Comrie, Squiers & Pilot Officer Harper were all buried at Barmby Moor on the 3rd April 1943.

 

The Aircraft was relatively new & had only been delivered to the squadron a within a month of the accident.

From left to Right Sgts Squiers, Harper, Comrie, Dorrington & Jenkins

Later Recovery of parts from the Aircraft & the ‘G’ George Memorial

In 2014 whilst the location of the crash was being excavated to build a new Doctors Surgery, a Merlin Engine & various other aircraft parts from this aircraft were uncovered.

 

The engine was removed & cleaned up & restored before it was installed as a memorial to the crew.  This was unveiled on the 9th May 2015 & sits in the rear garden of the Doctors Surgery at the Beckside Centre in West Green, Pocklington.

Images of the Memorial at Pocklington

Warrant Officer 2nd Class Wilfred Phelps Comrie – Pilot

Wilfred Phelps Comrie was born on the 8th July 1915 in Fargo, North Dakota, USA to Edward Phelps Comrie, a Mechanic & Emelie Mildred Bosquett & would be known to his family & friends as ‘Bill’.   Edward & Emilie had previously married on the 16th November 1912 at Otter Tail, Minnesota.

 

A sister Virginia had been in about 1913 & a younger sister Marcia in 1919 & the family lived in Cass, Fargo, North Dakota.  As children they were lucky enough to live next door to their paternal grandparents for the early part of their lives.

 

Bill went on to attend Fargo Grade School before moving to Fargo High in 1934.  He attended College for a period of 1 year taking a course in Mechanical Engineering & on completion of this moved to Technical School which he left in 1941 to join the Air Force.

 

Even whilst studying he managed to fit in time to work as a Service Station attendant, then later a clerk.

 

In his spare-time he enjoyed Wood Carving, Hockey, Football, Boxing & Skiing & even had 65 hours solo flying experience under his belt.  He is described as 5 feet 7 inches with dark brown hair, blue eyes & a dark complexion.

 

Bill enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force at Manitoba on the 11th March 1941 & was given the Service no R/95452 & rank Aircraftman 2nd Class.

 

He carried out his initial training at No 1 training school at Eglinton, Toronto between July & August of 1941 & on completion was promoted to Leading Aircraftman.   The recommendation was for him to train as a Pilot or a as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.

 

From Toronto he moved to No 12 Elementary Flying Training school at Goderich, Ontario which he completed at the end of September.  His instructor at this stage advised that he was interested in flying & that his flying was consistently good.

 

He next attended No 5 Service Flying Training School in Brantford, Ontario, completing his training there on the 19th December when he was awarded his pilots flying badge & was promoted to Temporary Sergeant.   The report from the training school states that he was a high/average student in all phases of training & should make a good service pilot.  He was however a poor student when it came to ground training relating to navigation & armament.

 

In January 1942 Bill left for the UK & would go on to join No 1 Gliding Training unit at RAF Thame.

 

A report exists that whilst serving at RAF Thame on the 8th March 1942 Bill was piloting a Hotspur Glider BT639 as 2nd pilot to Sgt Ogilvie.  They intended to make a cross country flight & report that the tow rope was released at the tug end necessitating a forced landing.   Bill turned to the right to land down wind & made a crash landing, receiving a slight injury to his back which on examination was reported as a strain injury in the pelvis area.

 

In June of 1942 Bill was promoted to Temporary Flight Sergeant.

 

In August of 1942 he moved to No 3 Advanced Flying Unit before moving to No 10 Operational Training unit in the October.  In December he was again promoted, this time to Temporary Warrant Officer 2nd Class.

 

He married Grace Belshaw in West Kirkby on the 2nd January 1943.

 

He then moved to 1652 Heavy conversion unit at Marston Moor in February 1943 where he received training in heavy Halifax bombers.

 

He moved to 102 Squadron at RAF Pocklington on the 8th March 1943, just 3 weeks later he would lose his life.

 

Bill was 27 years old when he died in the accident, his death notification states that he died of multiple injuries & burns.  He was awarded the 39-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal, War Medal & the Canadian Voluntary Service Medal (Award & Clasp).   Comrie Drive in Pocklington is named in his honour.  He is also named on the Canadian Bomber Command Memorial at Nanton.

Flying Officer Douglas William Francis Harper – Navigator

Douglas William Francis Harper was born in 1922 in Wolverhampton to William Francis Harper & Rosina Bowns or Davies.   William & Rosina married the previous year in Newport.

 

Rosina had previously married Benjamin Davies in Newport in 1906.

 

A younger brother Stephen followed Douglas in 1924 & his birth is registered in Newport.

 

On completion of School, Douglas went on to work as an Optical Lens Tester & by 1939 the family are living at Walcott, Leicester Road in Oadby.   Although his mother Rosina is noted as married his father William does not appear to be living with the family.

 

 

Douglas joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 127313.  

 

On the 31st January 1943 he was promoted to Flying Officer.  He was only 22 years old when he died in the crash.   Harper Close in Pocklington would be named in his honour & he is remembered on the War Memorials at Oadby & St Peters Church

St Peters Church Memorial Courtesy of Jan Bryars - Oadby - Remembering the Past Group
Oadby Memorial Courtesy David Collins

Sergeant Myles Christian Campbell Squiers – Air Gunner

Myles Christian Campbell Squiers was born on the 19th June 1923 in Kenya to Herbert Goldsmith Squiers & Ethel Marguerite Kennedy.   Herbert & Ethel had previously married in Ulverston in the Lake District (Ethels home town) in 1916.

 

Herbert was an American Citizen born in New York & named after his father also Herbert Goldsmith Squiers.   His father was a prominent figure who had been a US Diplomat, a Minister for Cuba between 1902 & 1905 & a Second Lieutenant in the US Army.   For a lot of his life the young Herbert had lived abroad with his sister.

 

Ethel had been born & grown up in the Picturesque Lake District in England & was the daughter of Myles Kennedy a Justice of the Peace & local Mine Owner.

 

After their marriage both of them apply for passports their address at this time is the Farmers Loan & Trust Company, 15 Cockspur Street, London. Their first son Herbert was born in the UK in 1917 & Myles then a younger son Arthur followed about 1924.

 

From documents found the family seemed to have moved to America before settling a few years later in Kenya where they lived at Aratoma Lodge in Gilgil.  In the years that followed they travel back & forth between Africa, New York & the UK visiting family.

 

Myles enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves at Padgate sometime after April 1941 & was given the Service No 1478651

 

Sadly, on the 25th September 1941 Myles father Herbert would pass away with Shock following Scalds at the Hospital in Nairobi he was buried at Forest Cemetery in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Myles was 20 years old when he died in the crash & was not far off his 21st Birthday.  His probate shows that he gave his address as Stone Cross, Ulverston (the home his mother had grown up in) & left his estate to Retired Lieutenant Colonel Wilfred Kennedy, his uncle.

The Squires in Pocklington is named in his honour, albeit there seems to be a variation in the spelling.

 

On the 28th January 1949 after a long illness his mother Ethel would pass away in Nairobi where she would be buried, she is also named on the family grave at Ulverston

Sergeant William J. McGrath – Flight Engineer

William McGrath was 23 years old when he died in the crash. He was the son of James & Mary McGrath of Glasgow.    He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1365664, he is buried in St Peters Cemetery, Glasgow

Flying Officer William Hugh Jenkins – Bomb Aimer

William Hugh Jenkins was 34 years old when he died in the crash. He was the son of Edgar George & Jessie Mabel Jenkins & Husband of Freda Jenkins of Streetly in the West Midlands.  He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 129161, he is commemorated at Perry Bar Crematorium in Birmingham.

Sergeant Frank William Dorrington – Wireless Operator

Frank William Dorrington was 23 years old when he died in the crash. He was the son of Henry & Alice Dorrington, of Brighton.  He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1330802, he is buried at The Downs Cemetery in Brighton.

Sergeant John King – Air Gunner

John King was 21 years old when he died in the crash. He was the son of James George & May Lilian King of Poplar in London.    He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1609738, he is buried in East London Cemetery, Plaistow.

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