LEST WE FORGET

Flight Lieutenant Robert AGNEW

Service No: 404816
Born: Peeramon QLD, 17 December 1914
Enlisted in the RAAF: 6 December 1940
Unit: No. 143 Squadron (RAF), RAF Station North Coates
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 143 Squadron Beaufighter aircraft JM279), Lincolnshire, 23 April 1944, Aged 29 Years
Buried: Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire
CWGC Additional Information: Son of James and Jeannie Agnew; husband of Edna Mabel Agnew, of Mackay, Queensland, Australia
Roll of Honour: Tolga QLD
Remembered: Panel 118, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 2213 hours on the night of 23 April 1944 Beaufighter JM279 took off from North Coates to carry out night flying practice off Flamborough Head. The purpose of the exercise was to give the crew practice at locating small shipping targets at night. The weather was good at the time. At the duration of the exercise, witnesses saw the aircraft approaching from the south east and gradually losing height to fly low past them and appear under perfect control. The aircraft passed within 1,000 yards of their position in a north west direction with its navigation lights on at speed. The aircraft was then lost sight of over the brow of a hill and it then crashed and immediately burst into flames at a height of approximately 450 feet above sea level. An examination of the wreck shows that the initial impact was made by the port wing and the starboard propellers. The aircraft struck the ground later at a very shallow angle. It became airborne again for a further 150 yards and finally skidded to rest in flames. In a report on the accident, the Commanding Officer of No. 143 Squadron stated: “Primary cause: The Pilot was flying too low and is responsible for the accident.
It was believed that the accident was caused by faulty instrument flying in that the pilot may have been concentrating on looking for the coast and relaxed his watch on the blind flying panel.
The Station Commander of RAF North Coates stated: “I agree with the above. The Beaufighter at night suffers from the disadvantage that there is no one apart from the Pilot who can look out ahead, and this means that he is prevented from concentrating entirely on his instruments.” .

The crew members of JM279 were:

Flight Lieutenant Robert Agnew (404816) (Pilot)
Flight Sergeant Harold Benjamin Blackwell (1060671) (RAFVR) (Navigator Wireless)

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 163/21/36