Pilot Officer Graham Edward McGRATH

Service No: 428341
Born: Clayton VIC, 7 March 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 18 October 1942
Unit: No. 1652 Conversion Unit (RAF), RAF Station Marston Moor
Died: Aircraft Accident (No. 1652 Conversion Unit Halifax aircraft LW278), Yorkshire, 4 December 1944, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Edward James McGrath and Elsie May McGrath, of Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Clayton VIC
Remembered: Panel 126, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 2225 hours on 4 December 1944, Halifax LW278 took off from RAF Marston Moor for night bombing practice. At 2310 hours the aircraft crashed into a hillside near Southwood Hall, Thirlby, Yorkshire. Four of the crew members were killed and three were injured, one fatally. The aircraft took off with a full student crew to carry out practice bombing on the Helmsley bombing range between 2230 and 2330 hours. The weather was ideal at take-off, but the crew were warned of isolated showers bringing cloud down to 1,000 feet or lower. The aircraft flew into the top of Sutton Bank (height 1,050 feet). A Court of Inquiry into the accident considered it to be “an error of Captaincy on the part of Pilot Officer McGrath in that he came below the safety height he had been given of 2,000 feet, in an attempt to break cloud, although the possibility of ice could not be ruled out .”

The crew members of LW278 were:

Sergeant R Bosley (1405723) (RAFVR) (Mid Upper Gunner) Injured
Sergeant Joseph Fraser Cromarty (1567127) (RAFVR) (Air Bomber)
Sergeant William Randolph Edwards (1607130) (RAFVR) (Navigator) Fatally Injured, Died: 8 December 1944
Flight Sergeant Desmond Maurice Lee (434687) (Wireless Operator Air)
Pilot Officer Graham Edward McGrath (428341) (Pilot)
Sergeant Peter Henry Reynolds (1850794) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Sergeant N Wilson (2218709) (RAFVR) (Rear Gunner) Injured

Sergeant Bosley later stated: “After take-off we climbed to our height of between 10,000 and 12,000 feet, but the target was not sufficiently visible for bombing. The Captain decided to try to get below the cloud but the target was still not visible and the exercise was abandoned at 4,000 feet. The navigator gave the Captain a course for base but the Captain said he would first get out of the cloud before setting a course for base, and continued losing height. The next thing I remember was the aircraft hitting the ground. I then commenced to get out of the turret. The last thing I heard over the Inter Com was the Bomb Aimer saying “crash positions”. When I woke up I was standing outside the crash.”


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, 166/26/684

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