LANCASTER ME625 OF- destroyed 23rd June 1944 in training accident
see also Perkins' crew
CREW Pilot: Henry Stewart Van Raalte
F/E: Maurice Durn
Nav: David Gethin Williams
B/A: Alfred Leonard Lambert
2nd B/A: Alan Arnold
W/Op: Eric Henry Peace
MU/Gunner: Royston George Davies
Rear Gunner: John David Fletcher
In the training accident to befall 97 Squadron, almost two entire crews were wiped out on 23rd June 1944 over Lincolnshire. One man miraculously survived.
The ORB reported the incident as follows (note that in typical wartime RAF style, operations went ahead regardless):
ORB More formation flying this afternoon with calamitous results. Two of our aircraft piloted by F/Lt Perkins and F/Lt Van Raalte RAAF were flying in formation. Whilst attempting a gentle turn F/Lt Van Raalte's aircraft sideslipped over F/Lt Perkins' aircraft and dropped suddenly, removing the entire tail from F/Lt Perkins' aircraft and smashing the nose of his own. Both planes immediately spun to earth out of control. All of the occupants in both aircraft were killed with the exception of Sgt Coman, who managed to bale out when his aircraft broke in two at 1000 ft. Operations tonight were against the railway yards at Limoges for which 10 of our aircraft were detailed.
Maurice Durn Maurice Durn was one of those very unfortunate airmen to whom everything seemed to happen. He was injured by flak in early December 1943, and after this terrible experience lost his entire crew who continued flying whilst he was recovering from his injuries. See Coleman crew.
He then joined the Smith crew just in time for Black Thursday. A picture of Durn with the Smith crew just before Black Thursday can be seen on this link: Smith crew. Like the rest of the crew, Durn's life was almost certainly saved by the decision of his pilot to abandon the aircraft. Parachuting out into the darkness and fog, Durn was badly shaken by this horrible sequence of events. He vanished off the station for some while. He rejoined 97 Squadron at Coningsby and was then killed in the catastrophic mid-air collision detailed above.
Right: Page from the Adjutant's scrapbook, with photograph showing the funeral of Van Raalte and his brother standing by the graveside.