19.09.1944 No. 434 Squadron Halifax III MZ908 WL-O P/O. Lees
Date: 19th September 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 434 Squadron
Type: Halifax III
Base: RAF Croft, Yorkshire
Location: Akeld, Northumberland
Pilot: P/O. John Clive Lees J/86771 RCAF Age 20. Killed
Fl/Eng: Sgt. M.H. Bush 985461 RAFVR Slight back Injuries - survived
Nav: P/O. R. Jim “Sea Level” Thompson J/88142 RCAF - survived
Air/Bmr: F/O. “Ivan” B.R. Warr J/29389 RCAF - survived
W/Op/Air/Gnr: F/O. M. “Cody” Stiles J/36550 RCAF - survived
Air/Gnr: P/O. Pete Melnechuck J/86807 RCAF - survived (1)
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. “Rusty” W.H. Boyer R/21427 RCAF - survived (1)
We are indebted to Chris Davis who researched this loss and also visited the crash site in July 2011. Further details are available on this and many others in his publications ‘Almost Forgotten’ Volumes 1 and 2 - The Search For Aviation Accidents In Northumberland. (details shown below)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Many reference books record the crash site as Fenton Town and after much investigation by the webmaster, no place exists in the area that the accident occurred. Finally, I contacted Chris Davies and he confirmed the actual crash site for me. (see below)
The previous day of the loss they had been restored on an operation to Domburg - to attack gun emplacements. However the Master Bomber called off the attack and Halifax MZ908 returned but diverted to RAF Tholthorpe in North Yorkshire - the aircraft landed with its full bomb load.
The following day they took off again at 13:30 hrs for the raid on Walcheren - yet again the operation was cancelled and the aircraft recalled.
L to R - F/O. Warr, P/O. Thompson, F/O. Stiles, Fl/Sgt. Boyer, P/O. Melnechuck, P/O. Lees - missing Sgt. Bush.
During preparation to land, the Halifax shed a propeller from the outer starboard engine which then struck the inner starboard engine, removing that propeller. As the aircraft was close to RAF Milfield they requested permission to land. On three occasions for whatever reason the permission was declined. (RAF Milfield was at the time the base for 59 Operational Training Unit - Fighter Command)
Left: pieces recovered at the crash site (courtesy Chris Davies)
In view of the possible danger the pilot, P/O. John Lees, instructed the crew to bale out - all did so successfully. He decided to attempt a landing at Milfield - sadly the aircraft crashed at 16:15 hrs at Ewart’s View Farm in Akeld. The pilot died in the crash.
(1) It is understood that P/O. Pete Melnechuck passed away in 1976 - Fl/Sgt. “Rusty” Boye was from the USA - we welcome contact from any relatives of the crew in order to complete details.
The crew had, we understand, completed over 20 operations prior to this accident.
Above: P/O. John Clive Lees (courtesy John Jones)
P/O. John Clive Lees. Harrogate Cemetery (Stonefall). Sec. E. Row E. Grave 7. Son of Bernard Gordon Clive and Sorea Louise Lees, of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. The grave inscription reads: “Greater Love Hath No Man”.
‘Almost Forgotten’ Volumes 1 and 2 - The Search For Aviation Accidents In Northumberland. ISBN: 978-1445603339. Amberley Publishing.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Linda Ibrom, Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, Chris Davies, John Jones. Other sources as quoted below.