Handley Page Halifax II – W1228 – MP-A – 76 Squadron - 8th September 1942
On the evening of the 8th September 1942 this crew based at RAF Middleton St. George took off at 1958hrs & were one of 249 Aircraft detailed to take part in an Operation to Frankfurt.
On board were:-
F/S JE Nicholson - Pilot
Sgt JT Murray – Flight Engineer
P/O A Robson - Observer
W/O AN Thompson - Pilot
Sgt LG Harvey – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
F/S RL Stevens - Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Sgt CR Rundle – Air Gunner
At 2018hrs the Aircraft crashed at Haltby, East of York due to premature ignition of the photo flash. In the last few seconds of flight an explosion occurred whilst the aircraft was at 500 feet & with a full bomb load on board the aircraft exploded resulting in the wreckage being spread over a wide area.
Follow an inquiry to examine the cause of the crash, it was later recommended that the practice of putting the photo flash flare in the bomb bay should be discontinued.
Following manufacture, the Aircraft had previously been issued to 78 squadron in July or August of 1942 & was later transferred to 76 Squadron.
Flight Sergeant John Eric Nicholson – Pilot
John Eric Nicholson was born in Chorlton in 1914 to Percy Nicholson, a Motor Fitter & Edith Blackwood, Percy & Edith had previously married in Chorlton, Lancashire in 1914.
A sister Edith would follow in 1920 & a brother Percy in 1922.
John would go on to study at Manchester University & graduated with a B.A., M.Ed. (Batchelor of Arts, Master of Education).
On completion of his education he went on to become a Geography Master at Ladybarn Senior Boys School.
John would sadly lose his father in April of 1935 aged 46 years & would continue to live with his mother & siblings at 18 Highbank Drive, East Didsbury whilst working at the Boys School which was not too far away.
He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer reserves in 1940 & was given the Service No 1023368. In July of 1940 in Barnsley, Yorkshire he married Matilda Grace Newth, an Assistant Science Teacher at a Secondary School in Loughborough.
During the war Matilda would go on to work as a Radiographer at Christie Hospital in Manchester.
John was 28 years old when he died in the crash, he left his effects to his widow Matilda. He is remembered on the war memorial at Manchester University & Nicholson Court in Pocklington is named in his honour.
Sergeant John Taylor Murray – Flight Engineer
At this stage not much is known about John Taylor Murray other than he was born circa 1916
He joined the Royal Air Force & was given the Service No 536790.
He was only 26 years old when he died in the crash & Murray Close in Pocklington would be named in his honour.
Documents are awaited which may shed more light on where John came from.
Sergeant Cecil Richard Rundle – Air Gunner
Cecil was born on the 2nd March 1912 in Ghanzi, Ngamiland, Botswana. To Frank Wallis Rundle, a Trader & Maria Petronella van Niekerk.
Brothers Wallis Daniel followed in 1914 & Eric Bernard in 1916. All of the boys were baptised at Kimberley, St Cyprian, South Africa on the 13th March 1917. A Sister Margaret Irene followed in 1919 & was also baptised in Kimberley.
Sadly, on the 8th July 1926 Frank would pass away at Victoria Hospital in Mafeking from Burns & Shock, leaving Maria to look after their young family.
At some point Maria moved with the family to Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe.
Cecil went on to work as a Handyman, living & working at Windsor Estate, Bulawayo.
Sometime after June 1940 Cecil enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteers in Rhodesia & was given the Service No 778696.
From May of 1940 the RAF had a presence in Rhodesia where the RATG (Rhodesian Air Training Group) trained aircrew for the RAF. This included men from Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, USA, New Zealand, France, Czechoslovakia & many other countries & including locals from Rhodesia. Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris had moved to Rhodesia as a teenager, worked there & served during WW1, so was keen for Aircrew to be trained in Rhodesia due to delays in launching the Commonwealth Air Training in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa & Canada.
Cecil was 31 years old when he died & Rundle Court in Pocklington would be named in his honour.
At the time of his death his father Frank was already deceased & is mother Maria was living at Queens Mine, Bulawayo a small village which was formed around a Gold Mine.
Pilot Officer Arnold Robson - Observer
Arnold Robson joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 123276. He was 26 years old when he died in the Crash. He was the son of William B & Laura Robson of Howden-le-Wear, Durham & is buried at St Marys Churchyard in Howden-le-Wear.
Warrant Officer Alfred Norman Thompson - Pilot
Alfred Norman Thompson joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 902444. He was 22 years old when he died in the Crash. He was the son of Alfred John & Mary Elizabeth Thompson of Hornsey, North London & is buried in Tottenham Cemetery.
Sergeant Laurence George Harvey – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Laurence George Harvey joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1256530. He was 22 years old when he died in the Crash. He was the son of George Alfred & Daisy Maude Harvey of Dagenham, East London & is buried at Eastbookend Cemetery in Dagenham.
Flight Sergeant Ronald Leonard Stevens - Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Ronald Leonard Stevens joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves & was given the Service No 1182379. He was only 20 years old when he died in the Crash. He was the son of William Joseph & Florence Maud Stevens of Morden, London & is buried at Morden Cemetery.
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