Crew: Mackenzie

F-Freddy Mackenzie (2)This crew flew on Black Thursday in Lancaster JB119-OF-F, F-Freddy. Fog caused the aircraft to crashed on the edge of Bourn airfield and it at once caught fire.  Three of the crew, including Mackenzie, the pilot, were killed.


Pilot: Squadron Leader Donald Forbes Mackenzie, killed, buried in Cambridge City Cemetery

Flight Engineer: P/O John Towler Pratt, killed, buried in Clitheroe Cemetery

Navigator: F/S Robert Marshall, seriously injured

Bomb Aimer: F/L William Alfred Colson, killed, buried in Willesden New Cemetery

W/Op: F/S Anthony (known as Tony) Hunter, injured

Mid-Upper Gunner: F/S William Robert Lang, injured

Rear Gunner: F/S Keith Kirby, seriously injured


DETAILS Just before quarter to one in the morning, Mackenzie’s aircraft crashed on the northern perimeter of Bourn airfield and immediately caught fire. Squadron Leader Mackenzie, a small reserved Scottish man of 27 years old, was killed immediately, as were his flight engineer, John Towler Pratt, and his bomb aimer, William Alfred Colson, both of whom were probably with Mackenzie in the front section of the plane.

Billy Colson
Billy Colson, Courtesy of Wyn Harrison.

Billy Colson was standing in for Ivor Glynn Stephens, the crew’s usual bomb aimer, who was not flying on Black Thursday and thus escaped death or serious injury.

F-Freddy Keith Kirby (2)
Keith Kirby

There were four survivors, all of whom got out of the wreck or were dragged clear before any of them suffered serious burns. The survivors were immediately taken to Station Sick Quarters. The Medical Officer diagnosed that Marshall, the navigator, had a fractured tibia and fibula, and shock, and Keith Kirby, the rear gunner, had internal injuries and shock. Hunter had lacerations of the scalp and Lang abrasions and lacerations of the face. The fractures were splinted and the burns and lacerations dressed, but as soon as possible Lang, Marshall and Hunter were sent onto Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in one of the station’s ambulances. Kirby, because of his injuries, was taken to the specialist RAF hospital at Ely, where he was discovered to be suffering from a fractured spine.

This crew was the subject of Henry Pedersen’s book, Skidthøgen, Beretningen om tre engelske flyvere, der meldte sig til R.A.F., written in Danish and published by Odense University Press in 1995. Our thanks to Henry Pedersen for supplying the crew photographs with the exception of that of Billy Colson which came from Wyn Harrison – her mother was Billy Colson’s cousin.