The above photograph was sent in by member Wally Mankelow from Herne Bay. Wally’s late father, Walter was killed in a crash involving a Hurricane from 61 Operational Training Unit, the Stirling was flying from RAF Oakington with 7 Squadron and the accident occurred just north of Earith Bridge in Cambridgeshire on 17th January 1942. All eight crew were killed as was the Hurricane pilot P/O Browne. To add to the families distress, the remains of Sgt Mankelow were never recovered. The aircraft having been rammed by the Hurricane dived into the ground to a depth of fifteen feet at the site of the Haddenham Drain. The crash site burnt for several days and the crater then filled with water making the task of recovering two of the crew’s remains, Sgt. McCarley and Sgt. Mankelow impossible.
According to local newspaper reports after a few days some remains were recovered but it was impossible to identify to which airman they belonged and the Coroner closed the case. In 1959 work was carried out to the drain by excavator and further remains were discovered, these were assumed to be those of the lost airman although again no identity could be established and unfortunately no attempt was made to contact any relatives. The Coroner directed that the bones be disposed of by the police and again the case was closed. Despite extensive enquiries by the family in the preceding years no information was discovered. In 1996 a through investigation was undertaken by the late Charles Lofthouse on behalf of the family. Charles left no stone unturned approaching the Home Office, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, AHB (RAF) the County Police Headquarters in Cambridgeshire, RAF Innsworth, Cambridgeshire County Council, Seven Squadron Association and all local cemeteries and Parish Councils, all to no avail. It appears that all records were destroyed and so the final resting place of Sgt Mankelow remains a mystery to this day. In 1999 a Memorial was erected to the crew at Earith and funded as a joint venture by the Parish Council and Seven Squadron Association with many personal donations being reveived. The service was attended by over three hundred people Wally, his mother and other family members attended. Each year on Remembrance Sunday a service is held at the memorial and wreaths are laid. On the anniversary of the crash, 17th January, flowers are placed on the memorial by Glynne Howell who apart from taking care of the plaque and site has been instrumental in helping Wally place a seat there, doing much of the work himself for which Wally and his family are very grateful.
Over the years attempts have been made to trace relatives of all the crew to inform them of the memorial site, so far only Sqn/Ldr Mahler’s family have been found and have visited the memorial. The search continues for the families of the rest of the crew. If any members have any information that would help, please do contact the editor who will willingly pass on any details.
The crew were as follows:
Pilot Officer Ronald W Taylor DFM, RAAF, Pilot. From Strathfield, NSW
Squadron Leader John N Mahler DFC, Pilot
Pilot Officer James D Waddell, Navigator
Sergeant Francis J Lloyd, Wireless Operator Air Gunner. From Grays, Essex
Pilot Officer Alan J Low, Air Gunner. From Brentwood, Essex
Sergeant Edward Blacklaw, Flight Engineer. From Dundee
Sergeant James McCarley, Air Gunner
Sergeant Walter J Mankelow, Air Gunner
The pilot of the Hurricane was Pilot Officer D.M. Browne