CREW: Edward Leslie John Perkins, Frank Ernest Coxhead, William James Hunt, John Fairbairn, John Coman, Denis Gilbert Partos
97 Squadron Aircrew after Bourn - CONINGSBY
LANCASTER ND981 OF-
destroyed 23rd June 1944 in training accident
see also Van Raalte crew
Pilot: F/L Edward Leslie John Perkins
F/E: Frank Ernest Coxhead
Nav: William James Hunt
B/A: John Fairbairn
W/Op: John Coman
M/u/G: Denis Gilbert Partos
After the mid-air collision with Van Raalte's Lancaster, only one man from the crew miraculously escaped - Joe Coman - who was badly burned by parachuting down almost into the burning wreck of the aircraft.
(After surviving against all odds, sadly Coman would die of TB not long after being discharged from the RAF.)
The story of the mid-air collision is told in Max Hastings' 'Bomber Command', and in 'Metal Birds - Stories from Lincolnshire's Air War' by Ian Blackamore.
Extensive remains of the aircraft can be seen at the East Kirkby museum better known as the Lincolnshire Heritage Aviation Centre
together with a display of photographs and extracts from the diary of John Fairbairn.
Above: the usual Perkins crew
L to R: (back row) Frank Coxhead, Edward Perkins, William Hunt, Joseph Coman
(front row) John Fairbairn, McBride and Russell
Neither McBride nor Russell were flying the day of the collision as they were on a charge.
Fairbairn kept a tiny pocket-sized diary for some months. Though very short and spare in its wording, it is also at times extremely vivid. He recorded, for example, the loss of the Emerson aircraft at Bourn Emerson Crew in January 1944.
The horrific strains of operational flying are all too apparent. After the Nuremberg raid of March 30-31, in which a friend and fellow occupant of his hut was lost, he wrote:
"Two [crews] missing again (Hyde and Rowlands inc Putt) and so to bed, seems unnatural without Putt. Awake at 2 and 4 by SPs [Service Police] collecting Putt's effects. Got 2 brass crowns from his overcoat. Feeling mentally bashed today. 96 [aircraft] missing from 800, nearly murder."
Putt was on the Hyde crew which was shot down and all the crew killed. Service police would come and collect a man's effects as soon as it became clear that the aircraft was not returning.
Below: John Fairbairn on his wedding day