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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 141374
Last updated: 28 September 2020
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Date:18-DEC-1939
Time:15:05 LT
Type:Vickers Wellington Mk IA
Owner/operator:149 Squadron Royal Air Force (149 Sqn RAF)
Registration: N2961
C/n / msn: OJ-P
Fatalities:Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:North Sea 40 miles East of Cromer, Norfolk -   United Kingdom
Phase: Combat
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Mildenhall, Suffolk
Destination airport:
Narrative:
Vickers Wellington Mk.Ia N2961 ("OJ-P") of 149 Squadron, RAF: Took off from RAF Mildenhall at 09:27 LT. Crippled by enemy fighters and ditched at 15:05 LT some 40 to 60 miles east of Cromer, Norfolk. As the bomber hit the sea, it turned 90 degrees to starboard with the waves breaking over the fuselage. At least three airmen were seen clinging to the dinghy, but despite an extensive search by the Cromer lifeboat, no survivors were ever found, though two bodies were eventually washed ashore. All six crew killed:

Crew (149 Squadron):
Flying Officer Michael Franklin Briden (pilot, aged 22, Service Number 39706)
Pilot Officer William Stanley Francis Brown (2nd pilot, aged 21, Service Number 70794) - body washed ashore
Sgt Valentine Henry Garner Richardson (Service Number 564063)
AC.2 Isaac Davidson Leighton (aged 19, Service Number 547262)
AC.1 Peter John Warren (Service Number 547949)
AC.2 A. G. Foster (Wireless Op/Air gunner, Service Number 621741) -body washed ashore

According to the following published source, which gives details of the raid (see link #10):

"N2961, which after taking off from Mildenhall airfield was detailed to attack German Shipping at Wilhelmshaven . Twenty-Four Wellingtons were dispatched and ordered not to attack at less than 10,000 feet to enable them to avoid the worst of the flak/AAA. Twenty-Two aircraft reached the target and several German ships, that were seen off of Wilhelmshaven, were bombed. Weather conditions were cloudless and visibility was perfect.

This was the first time during the war that German Fighters were directed to the Bomber force by a ground controller. Information was being relayed from an experimental " Freya" radar station situated on the nearby island of Wangerooge. The radar station had detected the Wellingtons when they were some 70 miles out on their approach flight. Flak then caused the formation to open out and this enabled the Fighters of 4/JG 2 to come in and Twelve of the bombers were shot down.

During the attack the port wing tanks on Briden's aircraft were damaged by a Fighter and he asked the leader to take the shortest route home as he was losing fuel. When they were between 40-60 miles off of the coast between Cromer and Sheringham the engines spluttered and the aircraft dropped back. It then glided down and landed in the sea, turning 90 degrees to Starboard as it did so with waves breaking over the fuselage, the time by now was 15.05pm.

The aircraft remained afloat for five minutes with it's nose down in the water. The dinghy was inflated and was seen by the nose of the aircraft with three of the crew around it. When the aircraft went down the dinghy was seen to be on end with three of the crew hanging on to it. That, despite an extensive search by the Cromer lifeboat, H.F.Bailey, was the last anyone ever saw of them. No survivors were ever found but the bodies of P/O William Brown and AC.2 Alan Foster were eventually washed ashore, William Brown is buried in Norwich cemetery.

The loss of such a large part of the formation had a major effect on the policy of the British Bomber Commanders. The validity of the self-defending Bomber formation was, it seemed, placed in serious doubt.

12 out of 22 Wellingtons shot down on this mission. The body of Pilot Officer William Stanley Francis Brown was washed ashore, and he was buried at Norwich Cemetery, Norwich, Norfolk. The body of AC.2 Alan Foster was also washed ashore, and was buried at St. Catherine's Churchyard, Leconfield, Yorkshire.

Sources:

1. Air Britain: RAF Aircraft L1000-N9999, published 1991
2. https://www.baaa-acro.com/crash/crash-vickers-408-wellington-ia-north-sea-6-killed
3. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1530406/briden,-michael-franklin/
4. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2764148/brown,-william-stanley-francis/
5. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2940214/richardson,-valentine-henry-garner/
6. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1803296/leighton,-isaac-davidson/
7. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1809681/warren,-peter-john/
8. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2408312/foster,-alan-gordon/
9. https://www.flickr.com/photos/43688219@N00/2753362874
10. http://www.stevenageatwar.com/WW2.html


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
02-Jan-2012 11:04 Uli Elch Added
30-Apr-2018 00:26 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Cn, Operator, Other fatalities, Location, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
30-Apr-2018 00:26 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
17-Oct-2018 18:02 stehlik49 Updated [Operator]

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