Crew: Reilly

Anthony Reilly, his mother and great nephew Michael Home
Anthony Reilly, his mother and great nephew Michael Home

Pilot: Sgt Anthony Reilly
F/E: Sgt R Gibson
Nav: Sgt N McFarlane
B/A: F/O R J Hopps
W/OP: Sgt R Home
M/G: Sgt R L Griffiths
R/G: Sgt F Fisher


Crashed at Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, 5th May 1943

Anthony Reilly was the first aircrew fatality after 97 Squadron moved to Bourn. The crash was due to bad weather, 97 Squadron’s perennial enemy.
Reilly was 25 years old. He had come direct from the training units, in this case 1661 CU, on 8 March 1943. Though he was the pilot and captain of the aircraft, he was still only a sergeant; this was before the edict came down from on high that all pilots must be officers. He is buried at Cambridge City Cemetery.

The touching photograph of Reilly with his family shows that – contrary to general public opinion – many of the aircrew came from quite poor families – note the dilapitude of the house in the background.


4.5.43        10 Lancasters detailed to raid Dortmund.  All successfully bombed target or target area.  Aircraft were diverted owing to bad weather on return.  Lancaster ED880, Sgt Reilly, crashed at Waterbeach.  The crash was due to overshoot in bad weather, the aircraft eventually colliding with a dispersed Stirling aircraft.  Sgt Reilly was killed.  Sgt Gibson, Sgt MacFarlane and F/O Hopps were transferred to Ely suffering from multiple injuries.  The remainder of the aircrew only suffered minor injuries and shock.


4/5 May 1943 Dortmund – Bomb Load 1 x 4000lb, 4 x 1000lb, 6 x 500lb, 2 x 250lb – ED880N  Sgts A.Reilly, R.Gibson, M.MacFarlane, F/O R.J.Hopps, Sgts H.Horne, R.L.Griffiths, F.Fisher.  Up 2216  Down 0410.  Dortmund  20,000′ clear.  Bombed on red TI markers.  Aircraft crashed on landing at Waterbeach after receiving diversion instructions from base.  Sgt Reilly (Capt) killed and three other members of the crew injured.


Extract from Bomber Command Losses – 4/5.5.43

Lancaster III  ED880  OF – N.  Op Dortmund.  T/O 2216 Bourn.  On return the crew were ordered to divert in Waterbeach, Cambs.  Here the Lancaster overshot the runway and collided with Stirling I BF393 belonging to 1651 CU, both aircraft being totally wrecked.  Sgt Reilly is buried in Cambridge City Cemetery.  This was the Squadron’s first loss since moving to Bourn on 18 April and taking up PFF duties.

Sgt A.Reilly(+), Sgt R.Gibson(inj), Sgt N.McFarlane(inj), F/O R.J.Hopps(inj), Sgt R.Horne, Sgt R.L.Griffiths, Sgt F.Fisher.


Arthur Spencer Recollections, January 2009

I was interested in your piece on the Reilly crew. We flew on that trip too, of course, our first in PFF. I wondered why he was diverted to Waterbeach, which, after all isn’t that far from Bourn.

Most of us went to High Ercall in Shropshire (the W/Op. had received a message when we were about half way back across the North Sea); I still remember how impressed I was that this comparatively small station coped so well with the influx of fifty or sixty Lancasters at short notice; debriefed us fully; fed us with a proper post-operational meal; housed us; and even found toilet kit so that we could have a wash – and a shave! – before we flew back to Bourn the next morning.