This day, 1942, was almost over when Wellington bomber BK257, on a training exercise, crashed into trees near Fordon, about six miles from Filey. All five of the crew, from 16 OTU, were killed.
Three of the men are buried in St Oswald’s churchyard:-
Sergeant (Observer) Robert George MACDONALD RAFVR No. 1380294, aged 33.
Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) Donald Roy ROBERTSON RCAF No. R/98882, aged 21.
Sergeant (Air Gunner) Bruce Harry SPARROW RCAF No. R/86211, aged 20.
It is understandable that the bodies of the two young Canadians were not repatriated but the RAF Upper Heyford website, They Gave Their Today, curiously records that Leading Aircraftman Jack Arthur FOX of the Royal Airforce Voluntary Reserve, and from Worcester Park, Surrey, is buried in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The Gas City’s Hillside Cemetery is indeed the last resting place of a man bearing this name but he died 8 months earlier, on the 13th February, and was buried three days later.
The information that Pilot John FERGUSON, of Oxted, Surrey, is buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s, Limpsfield, would appear to be reliable. The church is only a mile from Oxted Railway Station.
The graves of the three flyers in Filey Churchyard are side by side, keeping company with three Polish and two British soldiers. (There are 18 other War Graves in St Oswald’s churchyard.)
I discovered that Flight Sergeant Donald Roy ROBERTSON of Saskatoon had been honoured by having a lake in Saskatchewan named after him. I found this assuaged my sadness somewhat but when I looked on Google Earth I discovered there were two Robertson Lakes in the province. I found a number of travel and leisure references to both, with scenic photographs, but none referenced our airman.
Given this blog’s obsession, I thought about putting all five of the airmen on FamilySearch Tree but decided I should leave that to the families – of all but one of the flyers.
I did a bit of tentative searching on Find My Past and discovered that the mother of Robert George Macdonald was living in a street in The Potteries that I know well, when she was ten years old. And she was born in a Shropshire town just a couple of miles from where I lived for 25 years. Needless to say, I wanted to adopt this family immediately and was pleased to see Noah GITTINS on the World Tree. Given that his name is also GITTINGS, the family’s representation on FamilySearch isn’t straightforward but I will try to put them straight over the next few days. Any Macdonalds following after will have something a bit more substantial upon which to build Robert George’s pedigree.
The Ordnance Survey website is a good place to look for North Cotes Plantation. There doesn’t appear to be any kind of marker there to indicate the lives lost 75 years ago. I wonder how many walkers who pass that way know the story.