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Details supplied by Alan Pring Copyright © Alan Pring 2018

The record book for 20 OTU recorded a different serial,

July 22nd 1944, SSQ, “Wellington aircraft No.X HZ262 crashed into sea ½ mile N.E. of Lossiemouth. Cause: - Starboard main plane, engine and inner plane became detached in the air during fighter evasion exercise.

AUS427901 F/Sgt Grigg Pilot Killed.
AUS429200 Sgt O’Dwyer Navigator Killed.
AUS428291 F/Sgt Barry Wop/AG Killed.
154310 P/O Sunter Air/Bomber Killed.
913891 Sgt Pring Air/Gunner Killed.
1827419 Sgt Kirk Air Gunner Killed.”

30th January 2014, 01:38

As a thirteen-year old aviation enthusiast on holiday in 1944 at the seaside town of Lossiemouth, Scotland, a major part of my day was spent walking along the beach to check for washed-up "souvenirs" from aircraft that had crashed in the north sea. Sadly, there was plenty available during the war. I would head back home to Carvel St where I dumped them in the backyard to the chagrin of my dad. Mostly they were pieces of yellow rudder or fuselage and likely from the Operational Training Unit where advanced bomber training took place. Occasionally I would discover a way through the barbed-wire fence and sneak a look inside the aircraft.

The loss of aircraft from "Lossie| was staggering. A few years ago when I visited the base I had a look at some of the hangars still riddled with bullet holes from early wartime days when the odd Focke Wulfe 190 would make a flying visit. the RAF PR man who showed me around the base said that rigorous operational procedures led to a great loss of life during training. Incredibly, amounting to a staggering 65-70 per cent.

At our holiday home on Carvel Street, close to the beach, my parents did a lot of entertaining for the airmen from the base. RAF aircrews were greatly admired by both visitors as well as the locals. I remember those parties well. During the afternoon a huge 60-foot trailer would stop at our door. Down from the cab would jump the driver. In a loud Irish brogue Corporal Paddy would greet me as I helped unload several crates of beer!

In the evening our living room was filled with airmen from the aerodrome. I would stare at them with wonder admiring the brevets on their tunics. Pilots, navigator, bomb-aimer, wireless operator,air-gunner, with officers and sergeants from all parts of the commonwealth. The brevet on their shoulders indicated; Canadian, Australian, New Zealanders, South Africa, Norwegian, even an occasional American. The camaraderie as they packed into the room was obvious. The lucky ones had seats while others made do by crouching on the floor. One particular evening, a guest in posh civilian clothes made an appearance. My mom found a seat for him, albeit his arrival seemed to put a damper on conversation. However, things relaxed as he joined in the singing of popular war songs and accepted a mug of beer. Later, one of the airmen fold my dad that the visitor was no less than the commanding officer of the base, a knighted individual! His presence at the sing-song strongly attested to the camaraderie of the wartime aircrews.

The following day, I made my way down the hill to start my trek along the beach. Halfway down the pathway I heard the loud roar of engines as an aircraft headed down the runway. Striving for height, it finally cleared the last of the tarmac and started its climb. I recognised the large tail instantly as a Wellington bomber, its powerful engines lifting it rapidly skyward while creating an ear-splitting noise. Suddenly, when it reached about 200 feet there was a dramatic silence. Incredulously, as I stared in shock as the entire starboard wing broke away from the fuselage. This was accompanied by numerous bits and pieces of debris which followed the wing and landed on the golf course. Simultaneously, the aircraft went into a rapid spin heading towards the sea. Moments later, it passed over the long row of cement blocks designed to stop enemy tanks and, with a great splash crashed into the sea.

Racing towards the beach I gazed outwards and could see clearly that about one-third of the upper part of the fuselage was out of the water. As I stood contemplating the distance to the wreck, I felt I had to do something to help the crew. Suddenly, I kicked off my shoes and swam towards the plane. At first I was able to make good progress, but about halfway I started to feel giddy and my strokes became slower. The pungent aroma of gasoline from smashed tanks surrounded me. My head reeled. Gasping for breath, I gulped huge quantities of the gas-tainted water. Retching violently, I started to sink beneath the waves. Suddenly, I felt an arm round my neck. At first I thought it was a rescue attempt. However, the person attempting this actually was throttling me and pulling me under. I reasoned that I would rather take my chances and remember kicking out. There was a gasp as the person let go and swam off. I recognised then it was a woman.

As I continued to struggle, all of a sudden I felt someone placing their hand around my chin and gently pulling me backwards towards the beach. I could now breath again and felt my rescuer was a professional swimmer. I passed out but woke up later lying on the beach where my mom and dad were expressing their thanks for my rescuer. The ambulance took me over to the RAF hospital where I spent a few days as they checked me out.

Later, I learned that the individual who saved me was an airman; an RAF air gunner, called John O'Toole from Liverpool. Johnny, as we later called him, was in the Bass Pub when he heard the crash and had run down to the beach. Later, my mother corresponded with him and used to knit him socks and scarfs. Sadly, the Wellington he was in was shot down over Germany while on a raid. donaldson

10th March 2009, 10:59
20 OTU Wellington HZ262

the facts are more or less as indicated above .

Cpl M Lucas WAAF certainly deserves mention - a nursing orderly who happened to be visiting the Stotfield Hotel and witnessed the a/c hit the sea about 250 yds from the shore . she swam out to the site , fully clothed , despite danger to herself , and was the first rescuer to reach the a/c . then she turned her attentions to aid a civilian . Chorley indicates Cpl Lucas was recommended for the British Empire Medal.

Last updated 14 November, 2018

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