... remit and some example records. 




Archive Records

ORB Extracts


Begun in 1997 the purpose of this project is to record details of crashes and forced landings within the county, together with information on any aspect of aviation history that may be otherwise lost or difficult to find. 

The Bedfordshire archive is now fairly extensive and is stored as computer based text files (MS Word) for each area of interest. The NE Scotland archive is less developed but will, hopefully, catch up over the next few years. 

The remit is: 

1. Bedfordshire: Bedfordshire based units, airmen/fliers buried in Bedfordshire, and approximately 10 miles into the neighbouring neighbouring counties of Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire where noted.

2. North-East Scotland: NE based units, airmen/fliers buried in Angus, Kincardineshire, Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Morayshire, and (former) Nairnshire, including adjacent areas of the North Sea and Moray Firth.

3. Supplementary records for both areas above, of information related to casualties (not all fatal) and aviation matters that have some connection or reference to Bedfordshire or NE Scotland but no physical connection ie. the incident took place outside the these areas, the person or a/c were not based in here when killed or injured, burial was elsewhere ...  etc.

The majority of records cover incidents that took place in the years 1939 to 1945 when aerial activity was at unprecedented levels. However the archive covers all periods, from the early days of flight to the present day.

Information is generally entered exactly as found, including anomalies or spelling mistakes (though these are flagged where noticed). Information from each source is titled and kept separate so that, if necessary, it can be rechecked or added to at a later date. The following key is used:

X for each resulting fatality

Halley : Royal Air Force Aircraft  (Serial No. Series) compiled by James J Halley; published by Air Britain Historians Ltd. (final fate of aircraft)

(X Unit) ORB : Unit Operations Record Book. Public Records Office, Kew. (daily operational notes)

1180 : Accident Card. RAF Museum Archives, Hendon. (summary of Court of Inquiry) Category/Casualties/Place/Time/Duration and Type of Ops/Pilots Name & Experience/CofI Findings & Notes

BCPASPA : The British, Commonwealth & Polish Air Services Personnel Archive. Geoffrey Negus, 2 Heathcote Avenue, Solihull, West Midlands. B91 1QL. (out of county/area places of burial)

and/or ...

CWWG : Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery Registers & Web Site information (county/area burial details, for ‘wartime’ deaths only)

Other Sources : as noted (inc. page no. within publication) eg. newspaper summaries/Publication extracts (eg. Bomber Command Losses of the RAF)/ARP Records/Cemetery visits (pre & post war burials + inscription details)/... and info from any other contemporary or substantiated source.

CAM : Own sourced info./notes eg. from meetings, visits to cemetery etc.


Airman buried at Kempston, died Wednesday 14th January 1942
CWWGC : At Kempston Cemetery, Kempston Rural.
TOMPKINS, Sub-Lieut. (A) Douglas George. RNR. HMS Daedalus. 14th January 1942. Age 23. Son of Arthur James Tompkins and Hilda Elizabeth Tompkins; Husband of Margaret Joyce Tompkins. Block J. Grave 124.
CAM : Headstone words – Sub-Lieutenant (A) / D G Tompkins / Royal Naval Reserve / 14th January 1942 Age 23 / To live in the hearts / I left behind / is not to die.
Other Sources : All Saints’ Church Kempston, Parish Magazine, November 2000; p2 [reproduced here with the permission of Geoffrey Slater to who's mother the following letter was written]

After my mother died, I was cleaning out her desk when I discovered the following letter. I previously had no knowledge of its existence, although I was told at the time of its contents.
We then lived in the pub at Box End, "Slaters' Arms" as it is now called. The house next door, which is currently being extended, was then leased to the Police, and used to house a policeman based at Kempston Police Station. At the beginning of the war, Sergeant Tompkins and his wife lived there. They had a son, Douglas, who never actually lived there, as he was already in the navy when his parents moved in. They also had an Alsatian dog named Tonk, who died while at Box End, and he is buried in the garden. I don't suppose the present owners know this! I didn't know Douglas very well, but I saw him when he came home on leave. He was a sub-Iieutenant in the Fleet Air Arm, one of the Navy pilots who flew from aircraft carriers.  I remember his being tall and fair, and he used to ride a motor-cycle [no wonder Geoffrey remembers him well! Ed.]. After only a year or two, Sergeant Tompkins was moved to Biggleswade, from where this letter was written. 

Police Station Biggleswade 18-1-42
"My dear Mrs, Slater, I feel I must write and tell you of our grievous news because you and Mr. Slater came into and took a happy part in Doug's life. He was fond of you both and of Box End. The poor darling has crashed. It happened on Wednesday 14th while night flying, not the fault of Doug's, but the engine cut out. He did all in his power to glide the plane down safely, but the night and the up-hill of the field were against him.
We have been assured he knew nothing, so that is a little help.
Do not grieve too much, Mrs. Slater, he wouldn't like that, he was tough and he liked his friends to be the same.
He is coming home tomorrow (Monday), and we are bringing him down to Box End Church on Wednesday at 3'p.m.  He loved that church, the people and the peace as I did, and I know you will be proud to have him.
Our two darlings will both be in Box End, Tonk and Doug.
Please do not fret. 
Yours sincerely, 
Ray Tompkins (Mrs.)”  

 I have recently visited the grave where Douglas was buried. It is over the far side of the cemetery among the other war graves. The gravestones are all clean and white and look new. Terry informed me that they are cleaned annually by the War Graves Commission. It is sad to think of such a young life lost, and that local people will not have known him, as he never actually lived here. He was only 23 when he died.
Geoffrey Slater

Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939-1945; p486 : (Fleet Air Arm Fatalities with RAF Units 1939-45) 14.01.42 Tompkins D.G. S/L 1 SFTS Netheravon. Master III W8763 Crashed Shrewton RLG at night, suspected engine trouble.
Halley : 1 FTS  Crashed on overshoot, Shrewton 14.1.42
1FTS ORB : (AIR 29/563) Netheravon 14/1/42 Sub-Lieutenant Tompkins DG killed whilst night flying at Shrewton at 19.40 hours as a result of suspected engine trouble. Netheravon 6/12/41 No. 25 Naval Course completed its flying training. No further intake of Naval pupils will be made from this date. Fl;ying training continues until No.26, 27 and 28 courses are complete.
(6/1/42 No.26 Course dispersed, so it is likely he was on 27 or 28) 
Bedford Modern School Roll of Honour:  Douglas George Tompkins. Sub-Lieutenant (A), R.N.R.
DOUGLAS GEORGE TOMPKINS (1934-35), aged 22 years, was killed at Netheravon on the 14th January, 1942, while engaged in practising night landings. On leaving School he went to sea as an apprentice with the Shell Oil Co. Ltd., obtaining his Mate's certificate. On the outbreak of war he joined the R.N.R. and served on The Circasis, a converted liner engaged on blockade control. Later he transferred to the Fleet Air Arm, and, gaining his wings, he piloted a Hurricane.

Halifax LW510 (Mk III) of 78 Sqn., crashed at Hulcote, Beds. on Friday 24th March 1944.
Halley : Engine cut; stalled on approach, Cranfield, and crashed, Hulcote, Beds., on return from Berlin; DBF 24.3.44
51 OTU ORB : Cranfield
1501658 F/O Wimberley (Capt)
1334523 F/Sgt Shields (Nav)
Aus412970 F/O Kelly (Bomb)
1324941 Sgt Edge (W/Op)
1523593 Sgt Neal (F/Eng)
641893 Sgt Nelson (R/G)
1800930 F/Sgt Brignall (MU/G)
of 78 Squadron killed in a flying accident near Cranfield.
78 Sqdn ORB : Breighton
24/3/44 Halifax III LW510. Bombing - Berlin. Took off at 18.59 hrs to attack Berlin. A fix was received at 22.45 hrs third class (?). Also message from base “Returning to base, one engine u/s”. Another fix at 22.55 when a/c got permission to land at Cranfield. Aircraft crashed one mile ahead of runway, all crew being killed.
1180 : Cat E, all. 7K. Hulcote Moor Farm, nr Cranfield, Bucks (!). 23.17hrs (or 23.27hrs?). War Operations (Pilots 9th Sortie). Pilot WIMBERLEY M A F/O 150168 (K)  334hrs tot. solo, 117 on type. 123hrs tot. night, 72 on type.
Exp. on Halifax’s -    Mk II 49/29. Mk III 68/43. = tot. 117/72
LOC. Approaching to land on 3 engines, came in too low and too slow & stbd. wing stalled.
AOC. A/c stalled on approaching to land. Crashed and caught fire. E of J on making 3 engine landing.
Metal in filter. Examination of a/c controls etc. inconclusive (1022 raised) owing to to the state of the a/c. Stbd. engine feathered.
A/c … (can’t read word) not working (?) on TR set.
Ldg. at airfield not base without … (can’t read word) BFE.  (can’t read next lines - ref to ‘Darky’). A/c was under shooting and stalled.
BCPASPA : 1800930 Sgt (Air Gnr) Dennis Horace Albert Brignell, RAFVR, 19, of Holborn, London.   412970 Flg Off (Air Bomber) Reginald Stanislaus Kelly, RAAF, 21, of Ermington, NSW.   1334523 Flt Sgt (Nav) William Harold Shields, RAFVR, 21, of Cricklewood, Middlesex.  150168 Flg Off (Plt) Michael Arabin Wimberley, RAFVR, 21, of Rowlands Castle, Hampshire. Above 4 buried at Cambridge City Cemetery.
1523593 Sgt (Flt Engr) Harold James Neal, RAFVR, and 641893 Sgt (Air Gnr) Horatio Robert Nelson, RAF, 22, of Liverpool. Both buried at Liverpool (Anfield) Cemetery.  1324941 Sgt (W.Op/Air Gnr) Leslie James Edge, RAFVR, 78Sqn (Halifaxes at Breighton), 21, of Valence. St Mary Churchyard, Westerham, Kent.

310 (Czech) Squadron RAF ORB

RAF Dyce 24.10.41; Today representatives of the Scottish Press visited the Squadron, having lunch with Squadron Officers at the mess and visiting dispersals in the afternoon, during which six pilots gave an exhibition of formation flying over the aerodrome. The flying was very excellent, but F/O Burda and F/Lt Dolezal had a very narrow start when the tail of Dolezal's plane was damaged slightly by the airscrew of Burda's plane. Very slight damage was done and both planes were able to land safely.

In the evening F/O Nezbeda, whilst on a searchlight co-operation practice was caught while making a steep turn by the beam and lost control over his plane, went into an uncontrollable spin - This occurred at about 6000ft. Nezbeda recovered but was unable to regain control of his plane and baled out at about 1000ft., falling into the sea, 2 to 3 miles off Aberdeen. He had a severe struggle with his parachute the ropes of which got entangled round his neck and he had great difficulty in getting rid of his parachute the body of which had fallen over his head. He got out his dingy and inflated it, but it was u/s and would not hold the air, and Nezbeda was obliged to rely on his Mae West - The searchlight beam was kept on the water over him on instructions from Ops. and the High Speed rescue launch eventually picked him up unconscious after he had been in the sea for about 1 hour - It seems there was some 35 minutes delay in the launch getting off its mark. Nezbeda was taken to the Naval hospital Aberdeen. The aircraft was a total loss.

RAF Dyce 25.10.41; F/O Nezbeda was brought back to camp today little the worse for his experiences yesterday, except for shock and bruises.

RAF Dyce 17.11.41; P/O Briggs and Sgt. King arrived at Dyce to-day with a towing plane and glider to give the boys some glider attacking practice. One more Spitfire Vb received today.

RAF Dyce 19.11.41; To-day has been a sad one for the Squadron. F/O Zaoral V (No.81903) crashed when flying a Spitfire IIa while practising attack on the Glider - The accident occurred at about 14.05 hours. F/O Zaoral was observed diving steeply to attack the glider which at the time was about 600 feet from the ground above the aerodrome - As Zaoral neared the glider the latter did a steep turn and to avoid flying into it F/O Zaoral continued his dive and flew underneath the glider straightening up at about 250-300 feet height above the aerodrome - He then went into a very steep ascent and was seen continuing this until he reached cloud at about 2000 feet - a few seconds later his aircraft was seen coming out of the cloud in a spin with the engine shut off. F/O Zaoral recovered from this spin but appeared to be going into a reverse spin. By this time he was nearing the ground and what exactly happened is difficult to say but he got his engine going again and hit the ground just outside the aerodrome on the east side of the railway line in what was practically a nose dive with the engine full on. He and the aircraft were almost unrecognisable and death must have been instantaneous. The a/c did not catch fire. F/O Zaoral was very popular and he will be missed by the Squadron

RAF Dyce 21.11.41; F/O V Zaoral was buried today at the Service Cemetery near Dyce with full RAF honours, the cortege leaving the Station at 14.30 hours.


back to top 8 (Coastal) OTU ORB

RAF Fraserburgh 5/8/42; Lieutenant Commander J Lee (HQCC) visited the station and gave lectures to pupils in "Recognition of merchant shipping". GPO Line Fraserburgh 311 installed.

RAF Fraserburgh 9/8/42; 100 bicycles which arrived were distributed to Personnel in Sections pre A.M.O's.

RAF Fraserburgh 26/8/42 Favoured with summer weather, a Station Sports meeting was held and enjoyed by all who attended. An outstanding feature of the programme was the success of a young Australian Pilot (P/O J H Frazer) in winning the 100 yds, 220 yds Hurdles, Three legged race, and 440 yds. Lady Douglas-Hamilton (wife of the Commanding Officer) attended, and kindly distributed the prizes. [this pilot commenced his training on No.4 Course the next day]

RAF Fraserburgh; 28/11/42 F/Lt J Morgan took the first party (No.6 Course) to Aberdeen Baths to carry out Dingy Drill practice. Report was made on its outstanding success.

RAF Fraserburgh; 25/12/42 Christmas Day. Services held in NAAFI Canteen AM. At 13.00 hours Airmen's Dinner served, at which Officers and Sen. NCO's officiated. Concert and Dance in evening. Good time had by all.

RAF Fraserburgh; 5/1/43 Spitfire I X4599 Pilot F/Lt A M WODEHOUSE was reported missing during training flight. No trace of aircraft or pilot was found, although search was made. [5/12/42 F/O (? rank) A M Wodehouse arrived and attached to No.10 course. training commenced immediately.]

RAF Fraserburgh; 18/1/43 About 15.00 hours Spitfire III X4498 Pilot Sgt P J MILES (No.10 Course) reported crashed and pilot killed at DORNIE, KYLES OF LOCHALSH. On inspection of aircraft it was found that No.4 Plain connecting rod of engine had fractured causing hole in crank-case and severing the main gallery oil pipe. This caused the pilot to make a forced landing. Country round Dornie is very hilly so pilot decided to bale out but left it too late and he hit the ground before parachute had time to open. [P J MILLS (? sp) had reported for training on 2/12/42]

RAF Fraserburgh; 18/1/43 Sgt/Pilot LEE carried out a high level photographic exercise and flew circuit of Scotland including Outer Isles and English Border in Spitfire aircraft. Trip lasting 6 hours 10 minutes, during which 120 exposures were taken. [student of No.10 Course]

RAF Dyce 8/5/43; Braemar Expedition: Only a small party braved the inclement weather for this walking and climbing expedition. Welcome hospitality was provided by a Commando Unit at the "Fife Arms" Hotel, Braemar.

RAF Dyce 9/5/43; Enemy Aircraft at Dyce: Two Spitfires of No.165 Squadron "scrambled" to intercept a hostile aircraft reported as approaching the coast to the North of Aberdeen. The aircraft was intercepted and escorted to Dyce, where it landed. The crew of three Germans was taken prisoner and special guards mounted over the machine, a JU 88-type C6-No.D5 E.V. Permission to move the aircraft to a Blister Hanger was obtained from the Air Ministry. The special guard was maintained throughout the night.

Air Commodore Grace, S.A.S.O No.14 Group, accompanied by F/O James, A.I.K Officer, visited the Station in connection with the above-mentioned aircraft.

The prisoners were retained in custody at Dyce until transferred by train to London on the evening of 10th May. In this connection a guard was provided to Aberdeen Station.

RAF Dyce 2/1/44; Flying: W/O Able (Pilot of Mosquito DZ557) reported that while flying in the Alnwick area at 22,000 ft at 1200 hours, he had sighted "four rectangular black objects stationary in the sky." This was reported to 13 Group.

RAF Dyce 26/12/44; Flying Control: A single engined aircraft was seen in the circuit with wheels down, waggling its wings. Just before touching down it was identified as a Me.109. It landed on a boggy patch of grass and turned over on its back. Pilot was uninjured. Two Halifaxes were diverted to Dyce and landed safely at 1900 hours.

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