LEST WE FORGET

Pilot Officer Alan James McLAY

Service No: 421025
Born: Narrandera NSW, 2 March 1923
Enlisted in the RAAF: 6 December 1941
Unit: No. 59 Squadron (RAF)
Died: Aircraft Accident: (No. 59 Squadron Liberator aircraft BZ724), Scotland, 18 August 1944, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Wick Cemetery, Caithness-shire
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Andrew Currie McLay and Gladys Irene Mary McLay, of Narrandera, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Narrandera NSW
Remembered: Panel 126, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Narrandera World War Two Memorial, Narrandera NSW

At 1143 hours on 17 August 1944 Liberator BZ724 took off from Ballykelly to carry out a night anti-submarine search. The aircraft crashed at Helmsdale at about 0440 hours on 18 August about 17 hours after take-off. At 2125 hours the aircraft received a signal diverting it to Tain on its return and to arrive there before 0345 hours on 18 August some 16 hours after take-off. The course was set for Tain on leaving the patrol. The aircraft arrived over Witton and though it was Wick. As the Captain was not sure of the suitability of the Wick airfield to land a Liberator, he decided to go to Tain which he knew. He was warned by the Engineer that the fuel was getting low but he had not expected the shortage to be critical. When coming into Tain on a magnetic heading the aircraft lost power on one or more engines swerved, lost height and crashed into a hill at a height of 1,000 feet. The weather and visibility were good at the time. Pilot Officer Lloyd was injured in the crash and the remaining crew members were killed.

The crew members of BZ724 were:

Sergeant Alan Wright Christie (3005923) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Sergeant Gordon Anthony Grill (1607109) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air)
Sergeant Thomas Harold Matthew Instone (1417346) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flying Officer Ronald Hudson Le Grow (J/36472) (RCAF) (Second Pilot)
Sergeant Ernest Neal Lowe (1056312) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Pilot Officer J Lloyd (416584) (RNZAF) (Pilot) Injured
Pilot Officer Alan James McLay (421025) (Wireless Operator Air)
Sergeant Harry Frederick John Newell (1399435) (RAFVR) (Co-Navigator)
Sergeant Donald Pratt (1078897) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air)
Flying Officer Robert Seigler (J/36088) (RCAF) (Navigator)

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, 166/26/548
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

Jay, Alwyn, Endurance; Coastal Command Liberator Operations 1941-5, Banner Books, Maryborough QLD, 4650, 1996