The Taylor crew were not members of the Pathfinders, they were a sprog crew killed on a training exercise from 1654 HCU at Wigsley. What happened to them serves as a reminder of the large pre-operational death toll in Bomber Command. Well over 5,000 officers and men (including instructors) were killed in Bomber Command training units between 1939-1945. In other words, almost 10% of the Bomber Command war dead died in training exercises.
Had this crew lived, they might well have been posted to 97 Squadron or one of the other PFF squadrons. They were at Wigsley at the same time as the following future 97 Squadron crews: Thackway, Coates, Flack, Wheble, and Owen.
Another link with 97 Squadron is that the Taylor crew’s CO at Wigsley, who authorised their last flight, was Edward Porter, who was to join 97 Squadron in 1944.
But most dramatic of all, the Lancaster they were flying in was Ernest Deverill’s old aircraft – see Ernest Deverill – Y-York after Augsburg. Severely damaged on the Augsburg raid, L7575 was patched up afterwards and used in the training units. This often happened to Lancasters deemed no longer fit for the extreme stresses of operational flying.
Below: Y-Yorker, after its return from the Augsburg raid.
The Final Moments of Lancaster L7575 by Harry Green
On the evening of 22nd October 1943, Lancaster L7575 was allotted to Ewan Taylor and crew on their final ‘Command Bullseye’ exercise. The weather was atrocious: thunder storms in the afternoon, and in the evening, low cloud and misty rain. Infra-red bombing and fighter affiliation were cancelled due to bad weather and only searchlight cooperation possible.
The crew took off at 1855 hrs. Meanwhile, eighteen Luftwaffe aircraft crossed the south-east coast for targets in the London area. L7575’s scheduled route is unknown but evidence from the inquest implied a turning point in the Watford-St Albans area.
L7575 arrived in the area at about 1955 hrs just when the air raid alert was on. It crashed on Colney Heath, killing all the crew. According to the official report, the accident was due to loss of control through icing and turbulence when the aircraft broke up during the subsequent dive. The report goes on to say that it caught fire after structural break-up due to causes unknown.
Witnesses disagree. They saw it on fire prior to structural break-up. L7575 took tremendous punishment before she finally started to disintegrate. Gunfire was heard on three occasions, but because of low cloud level little could be seen from the ground. Ewan did his best to keep flying until the loss of wing tips and control made it impossible.
The full story is in my book Lost in Training: The Final Hours of Lancaster L7575, Woodfield Publishing.