The loss of all the Farrant crew on 10 April 1944, the same day on which the Sloper crew also lost their lives (see NTU Lancaster fatal crash in Wales) is a salutary reminder of the hazards which Pathfinder aircrew faced even on an apparently ordinary day of training over the British isles.
The Farrant crew took off from Downham Market on a routine training exercise at just before 11 in the morning. They crashed at an unknown time near Swinehead, Boston, Lincolnshire.
In a very unusual pragmatic decision, it was decided not to recover the bodies of the six of the crew still in the aircraft, which had become deeply embedded in the ground, and they are remembered on the Runnymede memorial.
Those killed were:
F/Sgt Douglas James Farrant
Sgt R H F Malthouse
W/O R T Lord
F/O T F Wilson, RCAF
F/Sgt J B Bannan
F/Sgt A I G Hunter
Sgt J W Nixon, RCAF
As the ORB indicates, the only body recovered was that of Flying officer Thomas Ferguson Wilson, RCAF, who is thought to have parachuted out of the aircraft. He is buried at Harrogate’s Stonefall cemetery.
It was customary in the RAF for a member of the dead man’s squadron to accompany the coffin to burial, but unusually it is recorded in the ORB that bad weather made this impossible.
There is an old page on BBC News about this crew: BBC New 5 April 2014 It includes a very unusual letter from Wing Commander Cousens, the commanding officer of 635 Squadron, writing to the widow of one of the men killed and referring to the decision not to recover the bodies.