GREENWELL Francis William 415732

LEST WE FORGET

Flight Sergeant Francis William GREENWELL

Service No: 415732
Born: Yarloop WA, 21 August 1914
Enlisted in the RAAF: 31 January 1942
Unit: No. 28 Operational Training Unit (RAF), RAF Wymeswold, Leicestershire
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 28 Operational Training Unit Wellington aircraft DV771, Leicestershire, 25 November 1943, Aged 29 Years
Buried: Oxford (Botley) Cemetery, UK
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Thomas Orton Greenwell and Amy Elizabeth Greenwell; husband of Lorna Daphne Greenwell, of East Cannington, Western Australia.
Roll of Honour: Perth WA
Remembered: Panel 123, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Cenotaph Undercroft, State War Memorial, Kings Park WA

At 1945 hours on the 25th November 1943, Wellington DV771 took off from RAF Wymeswold, for a night training exercise. While nearing the airfield from the South at 2225 hours, the starboard engine burst into flames, sending the aircraft crashing into a field. Six of the crew members were killed, one member later died from his injuries and one member survived.

The crew members of DV771 were:

Sergeant John Veitch Curry (1567974) (RAFVR) (Air Bomber)
Pilot Officer Peter Emmerson (157736) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner) Injured, Died 28 November 1943
Warrant Officer Ronald Joseph Fryer (754360) (RAFVR) (Screened Pilot)
Fight Sergeant Francis William Greenwell (415732) (Pilot Under Instruction)
Sergeant S S Hewitt (RAF) (Rear Gunner Under Instruction) Injured, Survived
Sergeant Norman Ainscough Kenyon (2204598) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Sergeant Raymond Tasker McLean (1456213) (RAFVR) (Navigator)
Sergeant Andrew MacIntyre (1558318) (RAFVR) (Wireless Air Gunner)

In a statement to a Court of Inquiry into the accident, Sergeant Hewitt said: “I was detailed to fly as Rear Gunner in Flight Sergeant Greenwell’s crew for a screened cross country flight in aircraft “S” of B Flight on the night of 25th November. The screened Captain was Warrant Officer Fryer. We took off at 1945 hours and the first part of the flight was completed uneventfully, but approximately 2.5 hours after take off when flying in the neighbourhood of Peterborough at 5,000 feet, I hard the screened Pilot say that there was something wrong with the port engine. He then asked the Navigator if he could feel any unusual vibration. The Navigator replied “Yes, it is almost shaking the maps off my table”. At the same time sparks were seen coming from the starboard engine and the Screened pilot remarked that he had been mistaken and that it was the starboard engine giving trouble and not the port. Flight Sergeant Greenwell asked the Navigator how many legs we had to complete before setting course for base, and the Navigator replied “three or four”. The screened Pilot immediately set course for base, but did not seem unduly concerned about the engine. All this time sparks were coming from the engine but only small amounts. The screened Pilot ordered Sgt Greenwell to engage rich mixture. Our speed was 140 mph all the time. On sighting base I think we were still about 5,000 feet and the Pilots had no difficulty in controlling the aircraft. The screened Pilot ordered Flight Sergeant Greenwell to lower his undercarriage in order to lose height more easily, and called up Control on the radio, he used the usual formula and did not ask for an emergency landing and did not say he was in any trouble. Control replied “Aerodrome 1000”, at this time I should say we were about 2,000 feet. The starboard engine suddenly began to give off great showers of sparks, I could not say from what part of the engine they exactly came. Immediately afterwards great sheets of flame and smoke came out and the screened pilot said “Starboard engine on fire, anyone who wants to bale out may do so, we are at 1,000 feet.” I think he called up Control and said he was going to crash land. Flight Sergeant Greenwell then advised Crew to stick to the plane as he was going down. No further words were spoken and we continued to descend with the engine still on fire until we crashed. I think they had some flap lowered but I am not sure. It seemed to me we were diving to the ground to get down quickly. The next thing I knew was the aircraft struck the ground and continued crashing and bouncing along the ground for what seemed a considerable time, before coming to rest. I must have been knocked out for when I came to the tail of the aircraft including my turret was separated from the aircraft. I could not get out because the turret doors were jammed against a tree. In approximately 10 minutes help came and I was extracted from my turret.”

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 Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/16/221