Another tale of D-Day heroics at Blackbushe
June 11, 2004
First of all I would like to say how much I enjoyed the ‘D-Day Special’ articles in last Friday’s News, especially the article about Blackbushe Airport.
This was of particular interest as I have spent a considerable amount of time researching and writing a history of the airfield.
D-Day obviously must have been a day filled with dramatic incidents involving millions of people.
I thought your readers may be interested in an account of a dramatic and tragic incident that took place at RAF Hartford Bridge on D-Day involving an 88 squadron Douglas Boston IIIA aircraft (BZ314) which arrived back at the airfield very short of fuel after having completed its early morning smoke-laying duties.
Two other smoke-laying Bostons (BZ213 & BZ243) failed to return home but BZ314 had been luckier.
The aircraft had been hit by a shell fragment, but at least it was able to get home.
However, its hydraulics were damaged which meant that the aircrew had to lower the aircraft’s undercarriage by hand.
Only two of the aircraft’s three undercarriage legs came completely down and the undercarriage collapsed as the aircraft touched down.
The uncontrollable aircraft slid down the runway and crashed into a tent which was the headquarters of C Troop of the Royal Artillery’s No 5 Light Anti-Aircraft and Searchlight Battery who were stationed at the airfield at the time.
Unfortunately two of the troopers were killed and another was injured.
The aircraft finally came to rest in a sandpit beyond the end of the runway and the airfield’s ambulances and fire brigade rushed to the scene.
Two of the aircraft’s three crew survived but the navigator, F-Sgt E Allan, who was seated beneath its perspex nose dome, was crushed.
Sous Lt B Canut who was lost in BZ213 had gathered his friends together earlier in the morning and distributed his belongings telling them “I have a feeling that I am not going to make it”.
He was of course correct and he was one of nine men based at RAF Hartford Bridge who lost their lives on D-Day.
To commemorate their loss a modest wreath of poppies bearing their names was placed among the thousands of other floral tributes which were laid in the Normandy area during last weekend’s 60th anniversary celebrations.