Crash at Blacknest Farm, Dunsfold of Mitchell II, Ser. No.FW264, of 180 Squadron on 6th October 1944 at 10:21hrs.
Compiled by Frank Phillipson.
At 10:00 on 6th October 1944, twelve Mitchell II bombers of 180 Squadron took off from their airfield at RAF Dunsfold to attack a petrol, oil and lubricant dump west of Amersfoort, Holland. As the aircraft climbed away from the airfield two of them collided in cloud with Mitchell FW264 crashing and killing all on board at Blacknest Farm, Chiddingfold Road, Dunsfold. The aircraft was burnt out with three of it’s 500lb bombs detonating, three made safe and two still remaining to be traced (at the time of the police Daybook entry below).
Friday 6th October 1944
10:21/6, Mitchell Bomber, No.FW244 (should be FW264) crashed & burnt out at Blacknest Farm, Dunsfold MR 436550. Crew of 4 dead (Pilot- Flight Officer (should be Flying Officer) CRANK) all of 180 Sqdn., Dunsfold. Aircraft proceeding from Dunsfold Airfield on Operations & crashed in air collision. 8, 500lb bombs on board, 3 exploded, 3 others found and made safe, 2 not yet traced. 1 Cpl. & 3 men of RAF Regt., Dunsfold relieved police guard at 11:15hrs.
The other Mitchell FW221 managed to return to the airfield and make a safe landing with no injuries to the crew.
The remaining ten aircraft attacked their target between 12:12 and 12:15 from 12,000 to 13,800 ft. A good concentration of bombs were seen to strike the target just E of the aiming point cutting the railway line immediately North of the target area. Some black and grey smoke was seen but there was no flak. There was no cloud over the target with visibility to 20 miles. On route there was 7/10ths cumulus cloud with tops up to 7,000 ft. All of the attacking aircraft returned safely.
The 180 Squadron Operational Record Book (Record of Events) states: –
“Twelve aircraft took off to attack this target, unfortunately two of them collided in cloud just after take off and the crew of FW 264 were killed. The other aircraft (FW 221) was able to land safely with its crew uninjured”.
The 180 Squadron Operational Record Book (Summary of Events) states: –
The above ref. to “FW244” should read “FW264”.
Hambledon Rural District Council ARP Logbook 6th October 1944.
6th Oct.Plane crashed (British) near Blacknest Farm, Duns(fold). 438548.
Damage to windows ie(?), Mill House, Willards, Winters Hall (Wintershall).
180 Squadron was part of 2nd Tactical Air Force and together with 98 and 320 Squadrons it formed 139 Wing based from the end of 1943 until late 1944 at RAF Dunsfold. They carried out attacks by day and night on enemy occupied Europe targeting roads and railways, fuel supplies, enemy troops and vehicles, gun emplacements and fortifications in the build up to D-Day as well as V1 Flying Bomb launch sites. After D-Day they also bombed targets to assist the ground troops.
Crew of Mitchell FW264: –
F/O James Shackleton Crank (Pilot) 133949, RAFVR, Age 22
F/O John Michael Killner (Nav.) 163546, RAFVR, Age 20
F/Sgt James Stanley Burnham (WOp./Air Gunner) 1320154, RAFVR, Age 24
F/O Leonard Maurice Gray (Air Gunner) 50745, RAF, Age 28
F/O James Shackleton Crank (Pilot) 133949, RAFVR, Aged 22.
Flying Officer James Shackleton Crank (Pilot) 133949, 180 Squadron, aged 22.
Son of Capt. Harry Crank and Jane Crank (nee Shackleton) of 24 Victoria Mount, Revidge Rd., Blackburn.
Date of Death: 6/10/1944. Buried in Mellor Methodist Chapel Grave yard, Lancashire.
Headstone photo: – With thanks to Mel Diack and also Mellor Methodist Church
James Crank photo – Manchester Evening News
F/O John Michael Killner (Nav./Bomb Aimer) 163546, RAFVR, Aged 20.
Flying Officer John Michael Killner (Nav./Bomb Aimer) 163546, 180 Sqdn., Aged 20.
Son of John and Norah Killner of Hampstead, London (at time of his death living in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, where his father, John Killner, was the landlord of the New Inn).
Buried in Hurstpierpoint New Cemetery, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex – grave Reference: Plot H. Grave 199.
Headstone Photo: – Stewart Hall. John Killner photo Mid Sussex Times
F/O J.M. KILLNER OF HURSTPIERPOINT LOSES HIS LIFE IN A FLYING ACCIDENT. Mid Sussex Times – Wednesday 18 October 1944
The sympathy of the whole village has been extended to Mr and Mrs J. Killner of the New Inn, Hurstpierpoint, in their great sorrow at the death of their only son, 20 year old Flying Officer John Michael Killner who lost his life in a flying accident on Friday October 6.
Educated at Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire, F/O Killner was Captain of his School, and a keen sportsman, particularly in tennis and cricket, Jack Hobbs coached him in cricket, and he was Captain of the school 1st XI. He continued at Caius College, Cambridge, in order to receive his pre-O.C.T.U. training in the University Air Squadron. Whilst awaiting his call up he spent a year at Barclays Bank, Haywards Heath, and, to quote F/O A.G. Gasson, 172 (Mid-Sussex) Squadron A.T.C. “He took his original training with ‘D’ Flight of 172 Squadron and was one of the first to take advantage of it. He was much loved and well esteemed”.
“Michael”, as he was affectionately known to his friends, went to Canada to win his wings as a navigator and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer. He has since been flying Mitchells and has been on several operational flights. His father, one of the most respected residents of Hurst, is the popular licensee of the New Inn and also producer of the Hurstpierpoint Players. The latter, although deeply sympathising with Mr Killner on his great loss, are at his request going on with the production of “Outward Bound” billed for the end of this month. Only two days before his death Michael was home and attended one of the rehearsals.
The funeral took place at Hurstpierpoint on Thursday, the first part of the service being in the Parish Church. The Rector (Rev. C.R. HARDING R.D.) officiated, and during the service those present stood whilst the organist played “O rest in the Lord”. The chief mourners were Mr J Killner (father), Mrs Cecil Baker (aunt), Mr Donald Thomson (friend) and two officers representing 180 Squadron R.A.F. Representing Hurstpierpoint Home Guard were Major G.F. Killwick, Captain Simon Campion and C.Q.M.S. Burchett. Mrs Killwick represented the Women’s Section of Hurst British Legion.
Stewart Hall and Craggs: http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk
Flt. Sgt. James Stanley Burnham (Wireless Op./Air Gunner) 1320154, RAFVR Age 24
Flight Sergeant James Stanley Burnham (Wireless Op./Air Gunner) 1320154, 180 Squadron.
Son of Charles and Maud Burnham, husband of Susan Burnham, aged 24.
Buried in Acton Cemetery, Middlesex.
F/O Leonard Maurice Gray (Air Gunner) 50745, RAF, Age 28
Flying Officer Leonard Maurice Gray, (Air Gunner) 50745, RAF, Age 28
Leonard was born on 30th October 1915 in London to Leonard William Field Gray and Nellie Louisa Gray (née Wheeler). He had an older brother Vivian, older sister Doris and younger sister Jose. In the 1911 census his father is recorded as a Stock Exchange Clerk. The family lived at ‘Downton’, Lodge Lane, Keymer, Sussex.
Leonard joined the RAF and became an Air Gunner. He was posted to 180 Squadron originally formed in 1942 at West Raynham, Norfolk.
Leonard Maurice Gray is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey
Thank you for such an informative piece. Leonard Maurice Gray was my Uncle Viv’s brother. Can you tell me exactly where, or how, I would find Leonard’s grave at Brookwood as I’d love to visit but not sure where to look, given how big the site is?
This is a good place to start looking.
The catalogue will give details and location information of all graves.