John David Fletcher: Part 4

I recently wrote about the collision of two Lancasters from 97 Squadron on June 23rd 1944 in the sky above Crowland in south west Lincolnshire, as they practiced formation flying.

Seventy years later, on June 23rd 2014, a ceremony was held to commemorate the sacrifice of these young lives.

A memorial service took place in a field behind Bank’s Farm and a plaque was unveiled on a farm building near the crash site:plaque 5

It is on the metal wall of a barn:

plaque 1

Here it is in close up:

palque 2zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The events of this commemoration were all scheduled to begin at three thirty in the afternoon, more or less the exact time the two huge bombers collided all those years ago. Should anyone wish to visit the site, the directions I have are to “Go into Crowland, find Cloot Drove, travel down about 2 miles where you’ll see the farm buildings on the right, the plaque is facing the road and the postcode is PE6 0JL.”

Years ago, a simple wooden cross stood alone in the middle of a field to mark the exact site of the crash, but by 2014, it was long gone.

Fortunately, members of Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group (LARG) had decided, initially in 1979, to attempt to recover the wreckage of the two Lancasters. Here is their workshop, with other remains that they have found:


Their researches have ensured that the exact location of the old wooden cross, marking the crash site, was rediscovered.
The wreckage they recovered is now on display at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, the home of LARG.

Needless to say, as I was not a witness to all of these dreadful events, this article could not have been written without using the series of excellent books by W.R.Chorley, and a number of other websites.


Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, The High School

13 responses to “John David Fletcher: Part 4

  1. I’m not that far from there. I shall have to pay it a visit.

  2. Remembered – and as it should be. Such a dreadful accident to take their young lives.

  3. A fitting tribute to their tragic loss. Thank you for bringing it to our attention John.

  4. You may have answered this already so if so forgive me for raising it. ME625 records a lost crew of 8 airman but ND981 only 6. One man survived from ND981 (Sergeant Cowan) which means it still had a smaller crew for the training session. Was one man extremely lucky and missed the flight?

  5. As far as I can see, ME265 had one man extra, Alan Arnold, who was doing some extra training in daylight as a second bomb aimer or visual air bomber , if I remember correctly. That gives you the eight casualties in that aircraft. In the other aircraft, two men were on a charge for bad behaviour, and were therefore not allowed to fly. These were Messrs McBride and Russell. They could only find one replacement, Denis Gilbert Partos, the mid upper gunner. This gives you the total of six, with the rear gun turret left empty. In some accounts, attempts are made to fill that gap with John Fletcher from the other crew, thereby producing two more normal crews of seven, but this seems to be incorrect. Overall though, truly tragic afternoon’s work!

  6. John, the tragedies from war are bad enough without something like this happening. How horrible. I’m glad these men are being remembered in this way!!! Thank you for writing this important post. ❤

  7. leon padfield

    very interesting my grandfather should of been on nd981, he’s pictured and was in perkins crew picture bottom right john kenneth russell. i have a few items such as his log book and both pilots perkins and van raalte appear in it meaning he was mid gunner for bothering his time in the war.

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