Crashed on training exercise 22nd October 1943, entire crew killed CREW
Pilot: P/O Ewan Taylor
Flight Engineer: Sgt Albert Rooks
Navigator: F/O Eric Williams
Bomb Aimer: Sgt John Thwaite
W/OP: Henry Thomas Green, “Tom”
Mid-Upper Gunner: Sgt Edward Stock
Rear gunner: F/Sgt Bruce Davies
Below – Left: John Thwaite, Right: Eric Williams
Including the Taylor crew on the site is a bit of a break with tradition, and yet I feel it is a perfectly valid one.
The crew were all killed whilst on a training exercise from Wigsley, 1654 HCU. 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 my father’s crew (see Thackway crew page), and also the crews of Coates, Flack, Wheble and Owen, all shortly to be posted to 97 Squadron.
The Taylor crew’s deaths. whilst still in training, serve to remind us of the other 5,320 officers and men killed in Bomber Command training units between 1939-1945 (figures Max Hastings). In other words, almost 10% of the RAF war dead were killed whilst at the training units. This includes tutors as well as pupils.
The crew also have other dramatic links with 97 Squadron, not least of these being that the aircraft they were flying had been on the famous Augsburg raid of April 1942 (see picture above). L7575 was in 97 Squadron’s second section on the raid. Its call-sign was Y-Yorker and it was flown by Ernest Deverill. Severely damaged on the 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.
Another link with 97 Squadron is that their CO at Wigsley, who authorised their last flight, was Edward Porter, who was to join 97 Squadron in 1944.
I’m close to completing a book about the fate of this trainee crew. They are of great interest to this website for the reasons Jennie Gray has given above, and in particular because L7575 was in 97 Squadron. Flown by Ernest Deverill on the Augsburg Raid, it was declared a write-off after its return, but was eventually patched up and sent to HCU 1654 Wigsley, five miles west of Lincoln.
On the evening of 22nd October 1943 it 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 the book.