Sergeant Charles W Auld RCAF
23:05 on Tuesday 14th July 1942, a Vickers Wellington 1c bomber
took off from RAF Pershore, Worcs, on a night cross country training
flight. The aircraft, DV700, was part of 23 Operational Training
Unit (OTU), which was one of several units set up to train Canadian
airmen on Wellingtons for night bombing missions.
On this flight, DV700 was piloted by Sgt Robert Frederick Shirley
RAFVR (1330958), with navigator Sgt C.L. Morton RCAF (R101074) and
a second navigator Sgt J.R. Martin RCAF (R90393). The crew was completed
with wireless operator/air gunner Sgt C.S. Coburn RCAF (R83906),
air bomber Sgt S.M. Keon RCAF (R90710) and rear air gunner F/Sgt
Charles W. Auld RCAF (R98159). Both Sgt Morton and F/Sgt Auld were
formerly Americans, now serving in the RCAF. The aircraft was carrying
4 practice bombs and a flare.
Less than 3 hours later, whilst flying from east to west over Northants,
the starboard engine carburettor iced up and failed, leaving the
pilot unable to maintain altitude at 5,000ft. At 3,000ft he ordered
the crew to bail out, which they commenced at 2,000ft before he
attempted an emergency landing at 01:45 on Wednesday 15th July.
The aircraft came down one mile north of Old village (approx 8 miles
north of Northampton), but hit a tree in a hedge line and burst
into flames, killing the pilot, Sgt Shirley. The aircraft subsequently
completely burnt out. F/Sgt Auld, the last crewman out, was found
nearby to the east as his chute did not have time to fully deploy.
The remains of Sgt Shirley and F/Sgt Auld were taken to the Royal
Oak Inn, Walgrave, overnight until their bodies could be collected
in the morning, whilst the injured crew were hospitalised at RAF
Chelveston. The remains of the Wellington were eventually removed
by 65 Maintenance Unit from RAF Blaby Wharfe, Liecs.
Sgt Robert Shirley (19) is buried at square E, grave 818, Eastbrookend
Cemetery at Dagenham. He was the son of Robert Amos & Lillian
Nora Shirley of Dagenham. According to his brother, Robert was the
first ATC cadet to gain his pilot wings and was presented with a
wristwatch by the Mayor of Dagenham in 1941.
F/Sgt Charles Auld (23) is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in
the churchyard. He is presumed to have crossed the border into Canada
and enlisted in the RCAF, forgoing his American citizenship and
has therefore not been moved to the US forces cemetery at Madingley,
Cambs, nor repatriated to his homeland. He was the son of Charles
& Delia Auld of Chicago, Illinois. The church registers show
that he was buried on Saturday 18th July 1942 by a catholic priest,
Fr Bainbridge from Our Lady of the Scared Heart RC Church, Wellingborough.
The flower vase in front of his grave was donated by the Chelveston
WI in remembrance of F/Sgt Auld.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, RAF Air Historical Branch, BBC
WW2 People’s War Archive (Stanley Shirley),
Northamptonshire Records Office, Northamptonshire Airfields &
Aircraft Research Group and Rob Davis’s Bomber Command 1939-
1.2 (Nov 2010)