WHITCOMBE, William Henry

Sergeant (Navigator)
William Henry WHITCOMBE
Royal New Zealand Air Force, 75 (New Zealand) Squadron, RAF
Killed in Action on Thursday 16th December 1942
Aged 32

"For ever and ever, be strong"

Son of Eric and Jane Morton WHITCOMBE (nee HENDERSON)of Pahiatua, Wellington, New Zealand. In the burial register their address is given as 40 Roy Street, Palmerston, Wellington, New Zealand.

Short Stirling Mk3 R9245 c/s AA-N was delivered to No.75 (New Zealand) Sqdn 25/10/1942. Airborne 22:11 on 16/12/1942 from Newmarket to lay mines off Bordeaux. As the Stirling cleared the runway, its starboard undercarriage clipped the top of Devil's Dyke. The Dyke was 13' 6" high at that point but the aircraft hit four feet from the top. The oil tank of the starboard inner engine was knocked completely out of the airframe. With no oil it was just a few seconds running on full throttle before this was followed by engine failure. Out of control, the bomber spun in at 22:12, coming down about a mile from the airfield with its mine load exploding on impact. Five other Stirlings waiting to take-off had their missions cancelled.
Probable cause was put at wind direction and long grass impeding the take off run, which although long, the initial climb of a fully laden Stirling was not sufficient to clear any obstacle. The aircraft had swung to port 30 degrees soon after starting, but was straightening as it took off.

The crew was:
Sgt B.A.Franklin RNZAF KIA; Sgt W.J.Lawrence KIA; Sgt W.H.Whitcombe RNZAF KIA ;Sgt E.Harvey RNZAF KIA; Sgt H.R.Welch RNZAF KIA; Sgt E.J.Burridge KIA; Sgt T.Pascoe KIA
4 of the Commonwealth crewmen were buried in Newmarket, but Sgt E Harvey was buried in Lakenham, Norfolk.

William is buried in Newmarket Cemetery in grave O:399

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details