November 27 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Ron Gill has little recollection of his visit to the west Suffolk village of Horringer during the Second World War.
But the 98-year-old retired teacher, from the Wirral, on Merseyside, and his family would like to hear from anyone who remembers his spectacular escape from death.
For he was the sole survivor from the six-man crew of an RAF Wellington bomber which crashed in the village returning from a raid over Germany on September 29, 1941.
Wellington W5436 X for X Ray of No 99 Squadron from Waterbeach, near Cambridge, crashed at 2am after running into bad weather on the return flight.
Ron’s last memory of the night was being ordered to send an SOS on his wireless set. He remembers nothing else until he woke up in hospital.
His family heard differing accounts of his miraculous survival, one that he baled out at only 400ft and his fall was broken by a field of flax. Another says he landed in the soft soil of a freshly-ploughed field.
Three crew members, including their Brazilian-born pilot, Pilot Officer Rumbo, were killed outright in the crash. Two others later died from their injuries.
After a lengthy spell in the RAF Hospital at Ely, Ron returned to duty and a ground job, his injuries precluding him from any further operational flying.
He is being helped in his research into the tragedy by Lowestoft aviation historian Bob Collis, who said there was another crash in the village in August 1940 but it involved a German Dornier. He said: “It seems this was the first occasion Ron had flown with this crew, although he was on his 48th sortie of his second tour of operations.
“There are probably now very few people in the area who recall the event but any little scrap of information, particularly any details of where the aircraft came down in Horringer, would be helpful.”
Mr Collis can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org