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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 228702
Last updated: 15 June 2020
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Date:31-MAY-1940
Time:23:30
Type:Vickers Wellington Mk 1c
Owner/operator:37 Squadron Royal Air Force (37 Sqn RAF)
Registration: L7791
C/n / msn: LF-B
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 5
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Hueringhem (Nord) 11 km South of Dunkirk, Pas De Calais -   France
Phase: Combat
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF Feltwell, Thetford, Norfolk
Destination airport:
Narrative:
Vickers Wellington Mk.Ic L7791 (LF-B) 37 Squadron, RAF: Written off (destroyed) when lost (failed to return) from combat operations on the night of 31st May-1st June 1940. Three of the crew of five were killed. According to the official Air Ministry file into the incident (File AIR 81/718): "Wellington L7911, crashed at Heuringhem, France, 31 May 1940. Leading Aircraftman E R Orland and Sergeant J L Axford: prisoners of war. Sergeant J F Brown, Pilot Officer W A Gray and Pilot Officer Sir A T Wilson: report of deaths"

Airborne at 21:35 on 31 May 1940 from RAF Feltwell, Thetford, Norfolk.The target that night was Nieuport, Belgium. Crashed near Heuringham (Nord) 11 km South of Dunkirk at 23:30 hrs, cause not established, but probably brought down by Flak/AAA. The death of one of the crew, Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson, at the age of 56, probably identifies the oldest and most decorated airman to be killed on bomber operations. Formerly a Lt Col in the 32nd Sikh Pioneers, Sir Wilson was a holder of the King's Medal and Sword of Honour, Sandhurst, and between 1933 and 1940 he represented the Hitchin (Herts) Division in the House of Westminster. He was also still the serving MP (Member of Parliament) for Hitchin, Hertfordshire, at the time of his death (possibly the only MP to be killed on active service with the RAF)

Crew of Wellington L7791:
Sergeant (Pilot) James F. Brown, RAF 565062, age 26, killed in action 31/05/1940, buried at Eringhem Churchyard, Nord Department, France
Pilot Officer (Pilot) William A. Gray, RAF 43166, AFM, age 31, killed in action 09/06/1940, buried at Cambrai (Route de Solesmes) Communal Cemetery, Nord Department, France (possibly died of injuries sustained nine days later?)
Sgt J.R. Axford; survived, captured, taken as a PoW. Was interned in PoW Camps 8B/L1/L6, as PoW No.21561. Involved in failed escapes from PoW camp Stalag Luft 1, 12 Aug 1943 and again on 6 September 1943.
LAC E.R. Orland; survived, captured, taken as a PoW. Was interned in PoW Camps 8B/L6/357, as PoW No.15872
Pilot Officer (Air Gunner) Sir Arnold T. Wilson, RAFVR 75684, KCIE, CSI, CMG, DSO, MP, age 56, killed in action 31/05/1940, buried at Eringhem Churchyard, F

As can be seen from the above, two crew were buried at Eringhem Churchyard, France, on 31 May 1940, and one at Cambrai (Route de Solesmes) Communal Cemetery, France on 9 June 1940 - different cemeteries and on different dates. It seems possible that P/O William A Gray survived the crash of Wellington L7791, only to die of his wounds nine days later.

According to some sources, the loss of Wellington L7791 was the inspiration for the 1942 Powell and Pressburger movie "One of Our Aircraft is Missing", with Sir Arnold T Wilson fictionalised as "Sir George Corbett". Certainly, "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" is about the loss of a Vickers Wellington on a mission over enemy-occupied territory, and the "Sir George Corbett" character (played by Geoffrey Tearle) is the rear gunner in the Wellington (as was Sir Arnold T Wilson).

The crash location of Heuringhem is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of France, 11 km south of Dunkirk, and 4 miles (6 km) south of Saint-Omer, at approximate Coordinates: 50°41′44″N 2°17′00″E

Sources:

1. Royal Air Force Aircraft L1000-L9999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1978 p 53
2. National Archives (PRO Kew) File Air 81/718: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14502495
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Wilson#World_War_II
4. http://francecrashes39-45.net/page_fiche_av.php?id=1938
5. http://www.epibreren.com/ww2/raf/37_squadron.html#31
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_of_Our_Aircraft_Is_Missing
7. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2276259/gray,-william-alfred/
8. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2276531/brown,-james-francis/
9. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2276532/wilson,-sir-arnold-talbot/
10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuringhem
11. http://www.oldhaltonians.co.uk/pages/rememb/ROH/23.htm
12. https://www.baaa-acro.com/crash/crash-vickers-416-wellington-ic-near-dunkerque-3-killed
13. https://75nzsquadron.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/sir-arnold-wilson-feltwell-1940/


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
02-Sep-2019 22:10 Dr. John Smith Added
02-Sep-2019 22:32 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Cn, Location, Source, Narrative]
03-Sep-2019 19:44 stehlík49 Updated [Operator]

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