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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 225783
Last updated: 4 June 2019
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Date:17-OCT-1939
Time:night
Type:Armstrong Whitworth Whitley B.Mk III
Owner/operator:77 Squadron Royal Air Force (77 Sqn RAF)
Registration: K8947
C/n / msn: AWA.1400
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 5
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Geinsheim, 17 km West of Darmstadt, Rhineland-Palatinate -   Germany
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Villeneuve-les-Vertus, France
Destination airport:RAF Driffield, North Yorkshire
Narrative:
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.III K8947 (KN-Q) of 77 Squadron, RAF: Written off (damaged beyond repair) 17 October 1939. Aircraft left Villeneuve-les-Vertus at 18:50 Local Time on 16 October 1939 bound for Munich. En route, the aircraft went off course and was overflying Frankfurt by night when it was shot down by German Flak. Crew attempted to make an emergency landing in a field at Geinsheim, 17 km West of Darmstadt, but the aircraft crashed. One of the crew of five was killed, the other four were captured and taken as POWs. According to the official history of 77 Squadron, RAF (see link#3):

"The Squadron lost its first aircraft of World War II, Whitley III, K8947 (KN-Q), on the night of 16-17 October 1939 when four aircraft, operating from a forward base in France took off in severe weather to drop leaflets over Germany. They met little opposition but one of the Whitley aircraft failed to return. The aircraft’s pilot was Flight Lieutenant Roland Williams, a short service commissioned RAF officer aged 23 years.

The aircraft was shot down by a light ack-ack unit near Darmstadt in Germany. The body of the Pilot was found beneath one of the Whitley’s engines. He lies in Durnbach cemetery. The remaining crew members, Flying Officer J.Tilsley, Sergeant J.W.Lambert, Corporals A.R.Gunton and R.Fletcher, survived to become Prisoners of War. In fact the operation had been cancelled but the wireless message was not received by the crew. Ron Gunton escaped three times from prison camp; the third time he broke back in for shelter when it began to snow!"

Crew of Whitley K8947:
Flying Officer Roland Williams (Pilot, Service Number 37141, aged 23) - killed in action
LAC Reginald Enrath Fletcher - POW #516632
Corporal Alfred Ronald "Ron" Gunton - POW #533731
Sgt James William Lambert - POW #520517
Flying Officer John Tilsley - POW # 39401

Geinsheim is a village in the town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße in the Anterior Palatinate in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, at approximate coordinates: 49°18′16″N 08°15′22″E.

When last heard on W/T, it was assumed that the bomber was on course for RAF Driffield, North Yorkshire. Corporal Alfred "Ron" Gunton appears to have been the last survivor of the crew of Whitley K8947; he died in Northumberland in September 2000, aged 72.

Sources:

1. Royal Air Force Aircraft K1000-K9999 (James J. Halley, Air Britain, 1976 p 74)
2. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AIR 81/30
3. https://77squadron.org.uk/history/77-squadron-history-1937-1945/
4. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2103548/williams,-roland/
5. https://www.baaa-acro.com/crash/crash-armstrong-whitworth-aw38-whitley-iv-frankfurt-1-killed
6. http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?15099-Cpl-A-R-Gunston-533731-POW-Whitley-K8947-of-77-Sqn-October-15-16-1939
7. https://www.plane-crashes-heidelberg.de/de_DE/1939/10/16/nr-01-armstrong-whitworth-whitley-pilot-f-l-r-williams-absturz-15-16-10-1939-bei-geinsheim-77-squadron/ (German text)
8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geinsheim_(Neustadt)


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
03-Jun-2019 17:10 Dr. John Smith Added
04-Jun-2019 04:12 stehlik49 Updated [Operator]

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