• Antony Sherlock

Lancaster Bomber Crash - 75th Anniversary

Lancaster Bomber, Balavil, RAF Crash site

With the 75th anniversary of the crash of the Lancaster PD 259 J-OG on 31st August 1944 looming it is always a time to remember the wartime sacrifices made. As the bomber crashed in the hills behind Croftcarnoch farmhouse - it is a remote crash site that has been part of our history for many years. The death of these 7 airmen who flew with 463 Squadron out of RAF Waddington on a training run in WWII are remembered here forever even though they were far away from home, with 6 of them being Australian.

PD 259 J-OG, RAAF, Balavil Bomber

The Royal Australian Air Force crew who died were pilot, Flying Officer Robert Beddoe (21), from Elsterwick, near Victoria; navigator, Flight Sergeant Frederic Walker (32), St Ives, New South Wales; mid-upper gunner, Flight Sergeant Stanley Abbott (21), Cottesloe, West Australia; wireless operator, Flight Sergeant Terrence Dent (21), Walkeston, Queensland; rear gunner, Flight Sergeant Bevil Glover (23), Malvern, Victoria, and bomb aimer David Ryan (30), of Fairfield, Victoria. Also on board was Glaswegian RAF flight engineer, Warrant Officer George Middleton (37).

PD 259 J-OG, Balavil Bomber,

For 50 years the crash site remained unaltered with debris scattered across the hillside. It had remained so because the site was remote and so far away from any roads that it was not readily accessible to the public. It was not until 1994 that the RAF first took a single propeller away to form as a memorial.

PD 259 J-OG, Balavil Bomber, Lancaster crash

Prior to 2009 when the RAF took the larger bigger pieces away you could still see tyres, painted fuselage, engines and propellers. Looking at one of inflated tyres at the crash site I recall discussing with the RAF how amazing it was that it was still inflated after 65 years. However the tyres like the rest of the plane had only ever had 57 hours flying time which explained the lack of tread missing.

Balavil Bomber, RAF crash site, RAAF, Balavil

PD259 had continuous service with 463 Squadron RAAF under the control of Bomber Command and No 5 Group, RAF, from her delivery up until her tragic loss on the night of August 31. It was involved in only 6 operational missions before crashing, all flown from RAF Waddington. Her first mission was to Gilze Rijen a Luftwaffe night fighter airfield in the Netherlands on the night of August 15, 1944, skippered by Flt Lt Bill Purdy DFC. Her final mission before the tragedy the next night was under F/O J. McKern DFC to Koningsberg in East Prussia.

In 2008 the RAF removed one of the propeller blades from PD259 at the crash site and created a permanent memorial site locally in the private graveyard on Balavil Estate where anyone can pay their respects. Easily accessible from the B9152 it is a moving tribute to these brave airmen and a tangible physical reminder of the Lancaster bomber that has been part of the fabric of this area for these last 75 years.

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