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Author Topic: Lancaster Mk I (W4890) crash, Thorney Island, February 1945  (Read 1629 times)
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John
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« on: October 27, 2011, 19:18:52 PM »

Lancaster W4890 plunged out of the sky above Thorney Island on the afternoon of 10th February 1945, killing the entire crew who were from No.1667 Conversion Unit, RAF Santoft. The crew of this Lancaster were undergoing conversion from medium to heavy bombers, and had been briefed to fly a course between Santoft, Loftus, Royston, Gillingham, Hailsham, Ashford, Bagshot and back to base at a height of 20,000 feet. They took off at 12.25 and set course accordingly and at 13.56 a message was received at Santoft indicating that W4890 was in the vicinity of Royston. About an hour later, eye witnesses at Hayling Island and Thorney Island saw the aircraft through gaps in the clouds - it was at a great height and diving at considerable speed. During the dive pieces of the structure broke away, these included the outer mainplanes, wing tips, port outer engine, rear end of the fuselage and the tail unit. The main part of the Lancaster fell into a tidal creek 300 yards beyond the north-east perimeter track of RAF Thorney Island, it disintegrated and partially submerged on impact and was then ravaged by fire.

Portions of the airframe fell at varying distances from the main wreckage, many of them in the water. Part of an outer engine nacelle fell in Bosham, and a mile west of the village major portions of the tail unit and port wing tip were found on land. One engine was found 400 yards from the main wreckage but the three other engines weren't found. The pilot and wireless operator fell from the Lancaster as it broke up in the air and their bodies were found a few hundred yards away from the main site. The other four members of the crew were listed as missing.

The probable cause of the crash was given as loss of control when flying in cloud, resulting in a high speed dive leading to failure of the airframe and wings due to negative G and torsion. The investigators noted that; "This is another example of the many previous accidents associated with the known diving conditions of Lancasters at high speed following loss of control."

The crew of Lancaster I W4890 was:
Sgt. C.B. Darby, Air Gunner
Sgt. P.B. Kellegher, Air Gunner
Sgt. H. Metzer, Wireless Operator
Sgt. C. Woodhead, Navigator
P/O C.D. Callum
P/O H.S.J. King
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John
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« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2012, 17:15:30 PM »

Photograph of the headstone of Charles Callum has been added to the Military Graves board - there appear to be discrepencies between the CWGC information (ie rank, whose bodies were recovered) and the information posted above.
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Andy Saunders
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2012, 19:45:48 PM »

I covered this case in my book "Finding THe Fallen". Here is the relevant extract:

"Here, then, are commemorated six airmen who still lie in unmarked graves on British soil. Whether they are still truly beyond reach in 2011 it is perhaps difficult to judge, although another Lancaster loss over Britain is most probably within that category. It also contains the remains of missing aircrew. This aircraft is a Lancaster I (W4890) of 1667 Heavy Conversion Unit which took off from RAF Lindholme at 12.25 hours on 10 February 1945 for a cross-country exercise with a crew of seven on board. The pilot, Flt Lt G A Liversedge, had been briefed to avoid and to not enter expected cumulus-nimbus cloud but high over RAF Thorney Island on the West Sussex coast Liversedge edged his Lancaster into the lethal cloud formation. It is believed that the Lancaster initially suffered icing before breaking up in the violent forces within the cloud formation, and then being seen to plummet out of the cloud base on fire before major portions of the rapidly disintegrating airframe plunged into the upper reaches of Thorney Channel just south of Prinsted village at 14.50 hours. At once, the wrecked centre section, cockpit, wings and engines vanished beneath the tidal mud and water of what is part of Chichester harbour along with all seven crew members and were immediately lost to view. In its terminal fall earthwards the twisting, turning, diving and tumbling wreck must have exerted terrific centrifugal forces on the crew and there could have been no hope of escaping from their crew stations, let alone exiting the disintegrating aircraft, during those awful few moments in the plunge of W4890. When the spray and swirling foam had subsided, just patches of petrol and small bits of floating debris bobbed on the receding tide above a muddy and oily patch of the channel. The water here is relatively shallow even at high tide, and at low tide the mud bed of what is part of Chichester Harbour is exposed. When the tide had fully gone out just a black gash in the mud was visible, with scattered and jagged bits of silver aluminium and black and camouflage painted airframe all that was visibly left of the Lancaster. Over following days, personnel from the adjacent RAF station at Thorney Island undertook salvage operations at the site and later boats and divers joined the efforts. Initially, three bodies were recovered but ultimately the bodies of five members of crew were recovered; Flt Lt G A Liversedge, Fg Off C D Callum, Sgt H Netzger, Sgt P B Kellegher and Sgt C B Darby. Of Sgt C Woodhead and Fg Off S J King, however, no trace could be found although salvage operations were still ongoing by 24 February. Eventually, the search was called off and a service was conducted by the RAF Thorney Island chaplain from a boat moored over the site. The five recovered airmen were buried at various locations in the UK, although Fg Off Charles Callum, the flight engineer, was buried at Thorney Island very close to the spot where he had lost his life.

Ultimately, Woodhead and King were commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial and it is probably true to say that considerable efforts were made to find them in 1945, albeit without success. There can be little doubt, therefore, that Colin Woodhead and Harold King lie somewhere, beyond all reach, in the murk of Chichester Harbour. However, it is certainly likely that a concerted search effort of the type undertaken by the American recovery and identification teams would most likely find them but such an operation can probably be considered as unlikely. That said, Harold’s sister Phyllis Webb, writing to the author in 1987 articulated her feelings on the matter: “It is a great comfort to me to know that there is someone interested in what happened on 10 February 1945. My parents were devastated and never got over the shock. To me, it is an everlasting sorrow. I do not like to think of Harold lying lost and forgotten in that harbour and I hope that one day he might be found and laid to rest for the sake of his mother and father. It would be the right thing. I hope one day that ‘right thing’ can be done.”

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John
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2012, 20:34:03 PM »

Thanks for expanding on this subject with such great detail. It's sad to think that two of these airmen remain in the Harbour. I did wonder, what happens to the names of those airmen who are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial and whose remains are subsequently recovered?
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Andy Saunders
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« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 19:40:59 PM »

The CWGC do not have a policy of removing the names. However, when the panels are replaced then those names will no longer be included.
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tigerfeet
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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2017, 11:45:18 AM »

Finding this site fascinating   now makes me wonder  if this is the aircraft  My brother had  seen,
  it would have been the right Direction  from where we lived  near Rogate always attributed what he had seen to the collision of  Two Lancasters  514 squadron 30th June 1944 over  Midhurst   extract from "Bombers Over Sussex 1943-1945" - Fernhurst Society
http://www.fernhurstsociety.org.uk/assets/dornier_29-middleton.pdf
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