I am looking into the loss of this bomber which occurred on the evening of 25th February 1943.
Halifax DT 800 flew from Pocklington in Yorkshire and crashed in severe weather conditions one hour later.
The crew were Pilot Charles Henry Bray who is buried in Ringshall Suffolk; age unknown;
Air Bomber Thomas Bertram Barfoot who is buried in Birdingbury Warwickshire, he was age 19;
Observer Leonard Victor William Herbert, buried at Eltham Woolwich London, age 22;
W/Op Cyril James Drane Smith, buried in Patna Ayrshire age 23;
A/Gunner John Dudley buried in Titsey St. James Surrey, age 20;
Flt. Eng. Edward Leslie Widgery buried in Oystermouth Swansea, age 35;
A/Gunner Irving louis Sanitsky buried Norwich Norfolk, age 22.
Through posting on an ancestry forum and WW2talk.com already this week I've gained some useful information. I've also visited the area where the crash occurred though as yet I don't know the exact location. But it was 'Badliss Hall Farm' in Ardleigh.
Through going there I've now found a local archivist who has been able to give me valuable information on one of the crew, Charles Bray. This may lead me to a relative in time.
My thoughts at the moment are to collate as much information as possible then maybe put this together and present it somehow to the local village of Ardleigh.
If anyone is interested in helping in tracing family of the crew or has information they think might be useful please post on here. But please also have a look at the thread I started on WW2talk.com Link here:
The Essex Police report for this incident used to be in the Record Office in Chelmsford, hopefully it still is although some have gone 'missing' in recent years. Notes I made at the time say that the incident was at Badliss Hall Farm bordering Home Farm. The crater was described as 30ft wide and 5ft deep so may show up on the 1946 aerial photography of the area if it is available.
Many thanks for that information Ashley, much appreciated.
I've now obtained the Police Reports which are very informative. I also found a day to day diary a local man wrote which covers the events of the crash comprehensively. This is proving very useful. The man who wrote was a well know Colchester local, a man called E.J.Rudsdale. His diary's were made into published books. I believe he also was the curator of Colchester Castle museum.
He must have lived close to the crash site as the memoir begins even before the plane came down. This material has copywright but I may be able to reproduce it if I receive permission.
We have found some relatives of the crew - three - and from two at least we hope to gain an image and some further information about them.
The Yorkshire Air Museum has been helpful providing information about the aircraft and men's training, so thank you Jon Larder.
I will continue to post on here but for anyone interested it will be worth visiting the thread on WW2talk.com
Image attached is the Pilot of the aircraft, Charles Henry Bray. His brother was also in the RAF.
We think Charles was 27.He is buried in Suffolk.
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You probably have this already, but from "The Halifax File", DT800 was a Halifax II, ie with the triangular tail and the Merlin XX engines and nose turret, built by English Electric and delivered to the RAF between 21.1.1943 and 28.3.43 under contract B982938/39 which was for 250 a/c in all.
Since it crashed on 26.2.1943, you can see that its service life was very short
It served with 102 Squadron as DY-P, it took off from Pocklington on a raid to Nurnberg (Nuremberg) at 19:20
The Bomber Command War Diaries says 337 Aircraft,169 Lancasters,104 Halifaxs,64 Stirlings, 9 aircraft lost of which one was a Halifax, a loss of 2.7%
Weather Conditions were poor and the pathfinders were late with their marking
The crew were
Sergeant Barfoot T B
Sergeant Bray C H
Sergeant Dudley J
Sergeant Herbert L V W
Sergeant Sanitsky I L
Sergeant Smith C J D
Sergeant Widgery E
Sanitsky was RCAF but was an american
Son of Simon and Ida R. Sanitsky, of Fall River, Massachusetts, U.S.A
Born: May 8, 1920 Chelsea, Massachusetts
Enlistment: October 1, 1941 Moncton, New Brunswick
and he was a Jew
The Long Island City NY Star Journal - 9 March 1943 has a pictire of Sgt Irving Louis Sanitsky.
Flushing Flier Killed; Downed 5 Nazi Ships
A Flushing Hier, Sergeant Irving Louis Sanitsky, 22, of the Royal Canadian Air Force was reported killed in action overseas on Feb. 25, according to an announcement today by the Canadian government.
Sergeant Sanitsky, who lived at 170-07 3,lrd avenue, Flushing,was a rear gunner In one of
the huge British bombers and hadmore than 250 hours of combat flying.He was credited with downing five enemy planes and one "probable."
One of the real veterans of the air, Sanitsky was dubbed "Lucky"by his squadron males for having
come through so many air battles and dangerous missions unscratched..
Since the first of theyear he had been trying to get atransfer to the U. S. Navy Air Force.
Foresaw 'the End' The thought of impending death appears to have been In the filer's
mind. In one of his last letters to his mother, Mrs. Simon Sanitsky, he wrote:
"Things ar e beginning to get a bit closer to the end, I guess. What end, I just don't know."
Born in Chelsea, Mass., Sergeant Sanitsky was president of his high school class there and later studied aviation mechanics at. the NYA school at Quoddy, Me.
He Joined the RCAF in April1941. and was promoted to sergeant in March 1942. He was shipped to
England in a huge convoy in May and Immediately went into almostdally combat runs over the continent.
The flying sergeant's feelings toward the part he was playing in the war were expressed in a letter
received by his mother after she had been Informed of his death etc etc..........
Sergeant Sanitsky is survived by his mother and a younger brother.
Sawyer, 18, a second-term student at Bayside High School. Sawyer hopes to follow in the footsteps of his dead brother, not as a gunner, but as a pilot
Many thanks for that information, some of it I knew but the facts and figures about the mission and aircraft itself I didn't. So that was very useful.
So far we've been concentrating on tracing relatives and finding the actual crash site. Having found four relatives we continue on to try and find some for the other three airmen.
With a bit of luck we can gain access to the crash site and take some photos. I'm informed the 30 foot wide and 8 feet deep crater caused by the aircraft coming down was filled in years ago. But on viewing Google Earth there's a noticeable mark where this most probably happened.
I've written out a few of the Essex Police Reports on the WW2talk.com forum post. Hopefully I'll get clearance from the Essex Records Office to show the actual documents eventually.
Just a bit of an update. We now have had the area of the crash pointed out to us by the 1940's land owners son. The area today is owned by two different people and we have been granted permission to visit there for photographs. No visual evidence apparent there today to the eye. But for many years the soil had distinctive marks. The ground had a 'blue tinge' which could be attributed to fuel or oil from the aircraft. A scrap metal man removed most of the wreckage after the incident.