Wellington Bomber Crash - Old Golf Course, Elveden
Whenever one speaks of ‘the old times’ in Elveden during the war, it will not be too long before someone mentions the Wellington Bomber aeroplane that had crashed on the ‘Golf Course’. It is surprising how many people had been the ‘first’ to have arrived at the site of the crash. However, Reg Flack told us that his father, who lived nearby at Albemarle, had been one of the first at the scene and that he, Reg, had heard that there had been some survivors. Reg told Nev that he thought Ken Jaggard, our next door neighbour, knew someone who had escaped alive from the wreckage, this turned out to be Mr. Alex Jones, the rear gunner. Due to many coincidences, Ken’s brother-in-law, Colin Ashton, Marian’s brother, had made Alex’s acquaintance, many years after the war, through a mutual war-time friend, who had come to attend an RAF reunion at Mildenhall bringing Alex with him. Both lived some distance away. Alex Jones told Colin and his family what had occurred in Elveden on that unforgettable day. Colin’s and Alex’s families have been firm friends ever since that time. Alex is still alive and fairly well and will attain the great age of ninety this year. There is some hope that we will have the privilege of meeting him in May. Meanwhile,the following is a brief summary of what occurred on that dreadful day:-
The Crew: P/O. D. Park Fox Pilot. Survived the crash. Sgt. R. Woodhouse 2nd Pilot. Survived Sgt. Morris Navigator. Killed in the crash. Sgt. D. Batty Air Gunner. Survived Sgt. B. Hampson Front Gunner. Killed over Germany. Sgt. Alex Jones Rear Gunner. Survived.
T 2716 Wellington "W" 149 Squadron, RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk. Crashed at Elveden, on the Golf Course, on 12th August 1941. The front Gunner Sgt. Hampson had been killed in the raid over Germany and is buried in Wigan cemetery. The Navigator, Sgt. Gerry Morris of the Royal Canadian Air Force aged 26, was killed in the crash, and is buried at St. John’s Church, Beck Row.
Sgt. Alex Jones was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for helping to get the crew out of the crashed aeroplane.
Gillian Turner, April 2000.
Recently, Neville and I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Alex Jones. Colin and Dorothy Ashton kindly arranged the meeting at their home where Alex was staying while attending a reunion of his wartime comrades at Mildenhall base. Whilst there we also had the pleasure of meeting Smoky, a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran and great friend of Alex and the Ashton family, who had come from Canada, as he has for many years, to take part in the reunion. Alex, who will be ninety in September is a distinguished, charming and gentle man. He has a keen sense of humour and ready smile, he is also deeply modest. When it was mentioned that we owed him, and his fellow airmen, an enormous debt of gratitude for all they did for us, his reply, in his gentle Welsh accent was that he was only doing his job and carrying out orders. "We didn’t have time to think about it, we just got on with it." The aeroplane in which he was flying had been in a raid over Hanover, and Alex as ‘tail-end Charlie’ was able to shoot down two German aircraft on his way back from the mission, in which their front gunner, Sgt. B.Hampson, was shot and killed. The forced landing of their aircraft, the Wellington bomber, happened at Elveden after running out of fuel whilst limping back to Mildenhall. The plane crashed into a gravel pit, slewing around and buckling the wing which killed the Navigator, the gallant Sgt. Gerry Morris, a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Alex cut his way out of the rear of the aeroplane with an axe that was part of the equipment supplied in his section of the aircraft for that purpose. He succeeded in helping to rescue the Pilot, Scotsman, Douglas Park Fox. Sgt’s Batty and Woodhouse were also released from the plane. A gang of about thirty soldiers from a nearby camp who had seen the aeroplane in trouble, rushed to the scene and Alex and the other survivors were taken to the hospital at Mildenhall, where they were given two pints of beer, a cursory ‘once over’ and told to rest. He convalesced for about three to four weeks and then went back into action, this time second in command to Sandy, Lord Mansfield, who was the navigator. Alex was once asked by him, during a raid, "Where are we now Alex?" Alex replied, "I don’t know you’re supposed to be the blooming navigator!" or he would sometimes say "I don’t know where we are, but I can see where we have been!" Alex flew several more ‘ops’ after the crash with his pilot F/Lt Fox. Sgt. Batty, the wireless operator and Sgt. Woodhouse, were also part of the crew. Afterwards Alex became a Gunnery instructor at the RAF training school. He received his Distinguished Flying Medal, personally, from King George V1th.
Gillian Turner, May 2000.
Addendum: Mr. Alex Jones.
It was with great pleasure that we received a letter from Alex’s daughter, Mrs. Meryll Davidson, with a copy of Alex’s Log Book from 5th July, to 30th October, 1941, including the information about the crash at Elveden. During that period their Flying Times were 92 hours 55 minutes daytime flying and 128 hours 25 minutes of night flying. The aircraft used were Wellington Bombers, although not always the same one. Many flights were made, during that time, with the following aeroplanes:- Wellington U. W 5724, Wellington C. Z 8795, Wellington J. X 9705 (once in August). On 10th August W. T2716 was piloted by Sgt. Woodhouse for an Air Test, and on 12th August 1941, at 11.00 hours, P/O Fox flew W.T2716 on an Air Test to Watton which took 35 minutes. Later that day at 21.15 hours the aircraft took off for an Operational Flight to Hanover, in Alex’s Log Book in the ‘Remarks’ column is written:
Operational to Hanover CRASH LANDED AT ELVEDEN AFTER BEING SHOT UP. F.Gunner Shot. Nav.killed in crash. 6 miles from base.
After four weeks in hospital flying was resumed, F/Lt Fox piloted the Aircraft Wellington U. X9832 until the end of October when Alex’s Log Book comes to an end. Several more operationals were flown during this time.
It was a privilege and great pleasure to meet Alex and Smoky. It is thanks to courageous and great men like these two wonderful airmen, that we are now living in a free and democratic society. What a pity we don’t always appreciate what they did for future generations and try to emulate these proud and marvellous people who put their lives on the line for their families, their friends and their country. Patriotism, in it’s true sense, is almost a forgotten word these days, thank God these wonderful boys didn’t forget it and we must never forget them!
Gillian Turner, June 2000.
A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival ©2000 Designed by ArtAtac