RAF Accident Reports: Parlato and Orchard

Header image: Norman Henry Orchard’s grave to the left of Sid Parlato’s in Cambridge City Cemetery. Courtesy of Pete McGraw.

On our page about Sid Parlato (Sid Parlato, Mosquito Pilot), we gave brief details of the training accident in which he was killed. Sid was buried in Cambridge City Cemetery, as were other victims from the same training accident, including the pilot of the Lancaster, Norman Henry Orchard, RAAF.

The extraordinarily generous and open attitude to their records of the Australian National Archives allows one to easily see what was written about this training accident, details of which appear in Orchard’s personnel file.

The accident report was a standard RAF form: note the large number of organisations on the Distribution List, amongst which is the OTU or HCU where the pilot or crew were trained.

This report is not only of great interest because of the men involved in this particular accident, but also because it shows us the type of report which was compiled on flying accidents by the RAF. Unfortunately, due to the post-war ‘slash and burn’ attitude of the British towards their RAF records, this type of information is extraordinarily hard to obtain on RAF aircrew and it is usually only by going to the Dominion records (if a Dominion airman was on that crew) that one can get information on what happened.

accident report orchard and parlato
Australian National Archives, personnel file for Norman Henry Orchard, ref: NAA A705 166/31/337

The accident report concluded that there was ‘not sufficient knowledge of accident to judge what happened’.

The accident report also states that the Lancaster crash involved a fire. Unfortunately this happened more often than not with crashed Lancaster aircraft. A cypher message about the subsequent funerals at Cambridge noted:

funeral at Camrdge CC
Australian National Archives, personnel file for Norman Henry Orchard, ref: NAA A705 166/31/337

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show five of the aircrew involved in the accident – one RAAF, one NZAF, and three RAF (all of whom handwritten notes say are Australian) –  being interred at consecutive graves in Cambridge City Cemetery.

What a story lies behind the immaculate gravestones in the photograph at the top of this page.

cambridge cc report
Commonwealth War Graves Commission records