Sergeant Harold Peter WISHART

Service No: 401728
Born: Linton VIC, 28 March 1921
Enlisted in the RAAF: 28 March 1941
Unit: No. 27 Operational Training Unit (RAF), RAF Station Lichfield
Died: Injuries from Aircraft Accident (loss of No. 27 Operational Training Unit Wellington aircraft X3961 near Lichfield on 11 December 1942), 22 December 1942, Aged 21 Years
Buried: Fradley (St Stephens) Cemetery
CWGC Additional Information: Son of James Thomas Wishart and Ethel Bertha Wishart; husband of Edna Joyce Wishart, of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Ballarat VIC
Remembered: Panel 132, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 1942 hours on the 11 December 1942, Wellington X3961 took off from Lichfield for a night training exercise, only to crash fourteen minutes later at Stychbrook Farm near the airfield. The crash was attributed to the failure to remove the pitot head cover prior to departure. Three of the crew members were killed in the accident and five were injured including three whose injuries proved fatal.

The crew members of X3961 were:

Flight Sergeant Francis Thomas James Bryant (951974) (RAFVR) (Second Pilot under instruction)
Sergeant William Thomas Chandler (1186607) (RAFVR) (Navigator under instruction)
Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Robert Cook (1164424) (RAFVR) (Screened Pilot) Fatally Injured, Died: 12 December 1942
Pilot Officer Geoffrey William Harrison (126449) (RAFVR) (Bomb Aimer under instruction) Fatally injured, Died: 12 December 1942
Sergeant Ivan David Maxwell DFC (407947) (Air Gunner under instruction) Injured, Discharged from the RAAF: 22 August 1945
Flight Sergeant Colin Ritchie Shade (403398) (Navigator) Injured, later killed on Air Operations: 24 January 1945
Flight Sergeant Donald Ernest Harvey Smith (975318) (RAFVR) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Sergeant Harold Peter Wishart (401728) (Wireless Air Gunner under instruction) Fatally Injured, Died: 22 December 1942

A report into the accident stated: “The Primary cause of the accident was attributed to the aircraft taking off with the cover still fitted to the pressure head. The accident occurred at night near the aerodrome with MK1 Drem lighting in force supplemented by double cross Goose Necks, Gum Lamps and Floodllghts. Soon after take off the Captain called up on TR9 to say that the Air Speed Indicator was U/S. As it was a dual controlled aircraft with the Student Pilot in the pilot’s seat, the
Screened Captain took control, and made a right hand circuit, and overshot badly. He took overshot procedure, but stalled at 400 feet and crashed. The failure of the Air Speed Indicator was attributed to the fact that the aircraft took off with the pressure head cover on. The cover was found tied to the pressure head after the crash. Neither the Captain nor the Pupil Pilot could have carried out their “before flight” drill properly because the removal of the cover on the Pitot Head is the first sequence of the drill. It was not understood why a screened pilot should have done a right hand circuit as he was an experienced instructor who had passed the CFS. Orders have now been given to all Pilots that they are not to take off until the Pressure Head cover has been handed to them.
The Group Captain Lichfield Station: “I concur. I have given orders that the Pressure Head cover is to be handed to the Pilot prior to the aircraft taxying out for take off.”

The Air Commodore Air Officer Commanding No. 93 Group stated; “I concur that the Rigger is primarily to blame for failing to ensure that the Pitot Head cover was off and to make his report to the Pilot. The Pilot was also to blame for failing to check either. Disciplinary action is to be taken against the Rigger.”


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, 163/178/485

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