This crew flew on BLACK THURSDAY in Lancaster JB312, Z-ZEBRA – they landed at Bourn with some damage.The crew were uninjured but were lost without trace on 29 January 1944; they are commemorated at Runnymede.
LANCASTER AT TIME OF LOSS: JB353 OF-L
CREW AT TIME OF LOSS
Pilot: F/L Charles Thomas Wilson, DFC
Flight Engineer: F/S Terence Walter Smith
Navigator: F/L George Wilson Syme Borthwick, DFC
Bomb Aimer: F/L George Alfred Watling
W/Op: F/S Lawrence George Jones
Mid-Upper Gunner: F/S Geffrey Kelvin Harper
Rear Gunner: F/S Horace John Pleydell
BLACK THURSDAY: On Black Thursday, Wilson’s aircraft landed just before midnight, at ten to twelve, and seriously damaged its starboard pin and rudder on landing. The plane was too far down the runway when it touched down, but Wilson somehow managed to turn the aircraft aside just as it ran out of landing space. The Lancaster hit a transformer violently, sideways on, the point of impact being just above the tail wheel. The rear gunner, Sergeant Pleydell, narrowly escaped injury when the tail section was ripped off on the port side and twisted back at right angles to the main fuselage. By the time the aircraft had finally jolted to a halt, Pleydell had decided that enough was enough. In his hurry to get out of the Lancaster, no doubt thinking with good reason it was likely to catch fire, he used his axe to hack his way out of the gun turret.
GEORGE WILSON SYME BORTHWICK
Borthwick completed his Navigator training in Canada. He was posted to 97 Squadron at Bourn, in the rank of F/O, from No. 664 Conversion Unit, at Winthorpe, together with his pilot F/O Charles Thomas Wlison and his Bomb Aimer P/O George Alfred Watling, with effect from 4 August 1943.
He was married to Robina Borthwick, nee Rennie, and lived in Edinburgh where prior to the war he had been a Maths teacher. He was 33 years old when he died, which was old in aircrew years.
His DFC award was gazetted posthumously on 11 February 1944.
Above: Charles Wilson’s family after receiving his posthumous DFC at Buckingham Palace. The young girl on the right is his daughter, Christine, and the lady next to her is his mother, Alice. He had married a girl from Lincolnshire, possibly having met her while stationed there, but she too died young and their daughter was brought up by Alice. The lady on the left of Alice in the photo may well be Charles’ widow but the family are not 100% certain.
Charles Wilson was 33 at the time of his death, making him and the navigator atypical of the wartime RAF.