Letters and emails to the Editor 2016

Dear Bernard,

Not having seen you for some time I hope that you are keeping well.

As you know I am interested in what happened to local men and women who died while in the armed forces in World War One and World War Two and on seeing the article in Issue 67 the August 2015 Quinton Oracle entitled THE STORY OF A BOMBER IN PROVILLE by MARY ARCHER OBE decided to see if there was anything else that could be found about those involved. On delving into a number of sources including the CWGC Debt of Honour register and the Bomber Command Loss Books I have located the following which the members of the society might find interesting.

90 (Bomber) Squadron was in 1943 part of No 3 Bomber Group. Between the 29th, December 1942 and the 31st, May 1943 the squadron was based at and flew most of its bombing raids from Ridgewell in Essex using a mixture of Short Stirling MK1 and MK111 bombers.

(Short Stirling bombers were in 1943 due to a number of factors including their low operational ceiling and high operational loss rate being replaced in most “Main Force” Bomber Command squadrons by the more advanced Avro Lancaster’s and Handley Page Halifax bombers.

When they were ‘retired’ from use by the ‘front line’ Bomber Command squadrons they were employed most effectively as both a training aircraft transitioning crews from two to four engine bombers and as tugs for many of the gliders used in the airborne landings in France, Holland and Germany in 1944 and 1945).

On the night of the 29th/30th, May 1943 part of the force sent by Bomber Command to attack Wuppertal in the Germanys industrial Ruhr included a number of aircraft supplied by 90 squadron. Of those despatched by the squadron two failed to return to base these being EF349 coded WO-Y on which Mary Archers father was the Flight Engineer and EF397 coded WP-K which crashed near to Stradishall in Suffolk.

EF349 was shot down by a German night-fighter and crashed near Provide in Northern France. Of its crew of seven men consisting of Pilot, Navigator, Air Bomber, Flight Engineer, Wireless Operator Air Gunner and two further Air Gunners five perished and are buried in the Cambrai (Route de Solesmes) Communal Cemetery, (I have attached a copy of the Graves Registration Report Form and individual details of those buried in this cemetery for you) two members of the crew survived and became prisoners of war.

Those survived when the aircraft was shot down were:

132460. Flight Sergeant H. Masked. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

421328. Warrant Officer L.L. King. Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Those who perished and are buried in the Communal Cemetery in Route de Solesmes were:

128953. Flying Officer (Navigator) Robert William John Letters. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

417042. Flying Officer (Air Bomber) Kenneth Trevor Estcourt. Royal New Zealand Air Force.

1332103. Sergeant (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) Frank Alan Weds. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

1221156. Sergeant (Flight Engineer) Cecil William Hughes. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

701032. Sergeant (Air Gunner) Ronald Raven. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

What is of interest is that on both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission sets of documents Flying Officer Letters is regarded as being a Navigator not a Pilot. How this has come about is open to question but is possibly due to his remains being found with part of the uniform belonging to the aircrafts navigator by or on him.

I do hope that this is of some interest to members of the society even if it does pose more questions than it answers.

Robin Bird

QLHS Member

Ed’s comment-Thanks Robin for the above with attachments received.

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