LOSS OF LANCASTER B3, LM720 AND CREW AT BARD HILL, SALTHOUSE
J anuary 1945 was another busy day for the crew of Lancaster B3, LM720, based at Skellingthorpe, Lincs, with 61 Squadron. Take off was to be at 1630 hrs, for a raid on oil refineries Leuna, near Mersberg. The crew had only just returned at 0245 hrs that very day, from a raid on Politz, near Stettin . The Captain and crew had reported a good concentration of bombing for this raid, with slight but heavy flak being encountered.
LM720 was now to be one of 573 Lancasters going to Leuna. The attacks on this target caused severe damage to the synthetic oil-plant, and indeed the German Minister Albert Speer, in his post-war interrogations, stated that 'This was one of a group of most damaging raids on the oil industry'. Ten aircraft were lost.
Due to bad weather whilst returning to Skellingthorpe, the aircraft of 61 Squadron were diverted to Carnaby but, for whatever reason, LM720 did not divert to this location and instead the aircraft was put on a heading to land at Langham, Norfolk. Presumably descending for its approach to land, in very bad visibility due to drizzle and low cloud, the aircraft struck the RAF 200ft radar pylon at Bard Hill, Salthouse, at 0121 hrs on the 15th January. Six of the crew of seven were killed instantly. The seventh, F/Sgt Boakes, died from his injuries in hospital at 0625 hrs.
The pylon collapsed partially onto the Operations Nissen Hut in which the RADAR operators were working. Fortunately none were injured. The disintegrating Lancaster fell on the nearby heath, the tail section blocking the road at the entrance to the camp. The existence of the RAF RADAR Station and the pylon are still evident to those strolling on the heath. Poppies are sometimes placed at the pylon during Remembrance week.
Pilot: F/O William G. Corewyn
Navigator: F/Sgt Ronald C. Battersby
Flt/Engr: Sgt Peter R. Earl
Air/Bomber: F/Sgt Edward J. Boakes
W/op Air: F/Sgt Sidney J. James
AG: Sgt John Douglas
AG: Sgt Richard Richardson
They were all in their twenties, the eldest was 24.
Sgts Earl and Douglas are interred in the parish cemetery at Wells, Norfolk ; the remainder of the crew, in their respective home town cemeteries in England.with the exception of the Captain who came from Scotland.