16.10.1944 No.12 O.T.U. Wellington X LN536 S/Ldr Vipan. Location: Near Lavendon, Buckinghamshire.
Mission: Training (Night cross country detail)

Date: 16
th October 1944

Unit: No.12 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit).

Type: Vickers Wellington X

Serial No: LN536

Base: R.A.F. Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire England.

Location: Near Lavendon, Buckinghamshire.

Pilot: S/Ldr Arthur Lushington Vipan 39191 R.A.F. (Killed)

Nav: F/Lt Daniel John Falconer 77912 R.A.F. Age 30. (Killed)

Bomb Aimer: Sgt William Harold Chappell 1602941 R.A.F.V.R. Age 22 (Killed)

W/Op: Sgt Victor Stephen Wright 1892957. R.A.F.V.R. Age 19. (Killed)

A/Gnr: Sgt Peter Neville Hewitt 1812711. R.A.F.V.R. Age 20. (Killed)

A/Gnr: Sgt Harold Desmond Hudson 1813316. R.A.F.V.R. Age 20. (Killed)


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Vickers Wellington Mark X of an Operational Training Unit, being refuelled from two petrol bowsers prior to a flight. (I.W.M.)

Aircraft took-off from R.A.F. Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire at 1915 hrs for a night cross country detail. Returning to their base 3hrs and 30 minutes into the flight the aircraft suffered an engine fire and crashed in flames at 2245 hrs near the village of Lavendon, with the loss of all six crew on board.

Report from Beds Times and Standard 20th October:

“Aeroplane Crashes in Flames / Villagers Search for the Crew “ When an aeroplane crashed in flames about half a mile from Lavendon on Monday night, scores of villagers searched the neighbourhood in the hope of finding members of the crew, who, it was thought, might have jumped to safety. The plane had exploded above the village a few minutes earlier. The NFS arrived from Olney, but for some time could not get near the wreckage because of exploding ammunition. Later parachutes were discovered near the ‘plane and it was assumed that all the crew had lost their lives.

Squadron Leader (Pilot) Arthur Lushington Vipan:

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Officers of No. 103 Squadron RAF lined up in front of a Fairey Battle at Betheniville. They are, (left to right): Squadron Leader H G Lee (wounded, 9 June), Pilot Officer V Cunningham (killed, 14 May), Flying Officer J R Hayes, Flying Officer G B Morgan-Dean (killed, 12 May), Flying Officer D D A Kelly, Flying Officer T B Fitzgerald, Pilot Officer T Pugh, Flight Lieutenant J A Ingram (commander, 'A' Flight), Pilot Officer Taylor (Equipment Officer), Wing Commander T C Dickens (Commanding Officer), Flight Lieutenant C E R Tait (commander, 'B' Flight), Flying Officer "Doc" Mahon (Medical Officer), Flying Officer A L Vipan, Flying Officer W Rayne, Flying Officer Rhys Price (Officer i/c Servicing Flight), Flying Officer M C Wells (prisoner of war, 10 May), Flying Officer MacDonald (Intelligence Officer), Flying Officer J N Leyden (prisoner of war, 26 May), Pilot Officer E E Morton (killed, 12 May), Pilot Officer K J Drabble (killed, 10 May), Flight Lieutenant Fallowfield (Intelligence Officer) Pilot Officer J C F Hayter. (I.W.M.)

Squadron Leader Vipan was a very experienced pilot with 1,140 solo flying hours, most of these were however on single engine types with just under 50 hrs on the Vickers Wellington. A pre-war regular officer he had left the service for a short while before being recalled from the reserve. He had served with No.103 squadron on Fairy Battle aircraft during the battle of France.

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Fairey Battles of No. 103 Squadron RAF overfly Betheniville, watched by ground crew servicing K9408 'PM-N' (I.W.M.)

On September 27, three Battles from 'A' Flight of 103 Squadron (Challerange, one of the most forward bases, near Verdun) were reconnoitring the frontier between Bouzonville and the Rhine at 3,000 ft. when they were attacked by three French Curtiss Hawks which came out of a cloud. The formation leader, Flt M. C. Wells, fired his recognition lights and brought his flight down until it was flying close to the ground. After the first attack the French aircraft broke away, presumably having identified the Battles. At this point the Battles were engaged by three Bf. 109s which suddenly appeared 'out of the blue'. Sgt Vickers, navigator of Battle K9271, flown by F/O Vipan, was badly wounded and in great pain, and so Vipan, whose engine was already failing, forced-landed in a field. On the way down, apparently, one of the enemy fighters presented itself as a sitting target, and the air-gunner sent it down in a spin to equal the score. (Me 109 pilot believed to be Obergefreite Josef Scherm) Vipan landed, on one wheel, in a field close to a Maginot Line fort, and saw a Frenchman running towards him, shouting in Cockney: 'Blimey, Guv'ner, you're bloody lucky.' The wounded navigator was removed from the aircraft, and the Frenchman then explained his Cockney accent and command of English bad language by saying that he had lived in Chelsea. Later, more French soldiers arrived and, pointing to a dense column of smoke from a nearby wood, said that was the Messerschmitt which Vipan's gunner had brought down with them. A French report later confirmed this. Vipan's navigator, Sgt Vickers, subsequently died in hospital as a result of his wounds, but just before he died he was awarded the Medaille Militaire by order of General Gamelin, the French Generalissimo. This was the first French decoration awarded to the B.E.F. in World War II.

Burial Details:

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(Left) Flight Lieutenant Daniel John Falconer (Right) The grave of Squadron Leader Arthur Vipan.

Squadron Leader (Pilot) Arthur Lushington Vipan 39191 R.A.F. Cambridge City Cemetery, Grave 15726.

Flight Lieutenant (Navigator) Daniel John Falconer 77912 R.A.F. Age 30. Edinburgh (Liberton) Cemetery. Sec. N. Grave 85. Son of Charles William Falconer, and of Jessie Falconer (nee Blackley), of Liberton, Edinburgh. B.Com., A.M.Inst. T.

Sergeant (Air Bomber) William Harold Chappell 1602941 R.A.F.V.R. Age 22. Mangotsfield (Downend) Cemetery. Sec. A. Grave 606. Son of Harold and Edith Kate Chappell, of Staple Hill.

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William Harold Chappell’s grave at Mangotsfield (Downend) Cemetery. (John M)

Sergeant (Wireless Operator Air Gunner) Victor Stephen Wright 1892957. R.A.F.V.R. Age 19. Sutton-At-Hone Burial Ground. Grave 1084. Son of Sydney Gladstone Wright and Ethel Emma Wright, of Sutton-at-Hone.

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Stephen Wright’s grave at Sutton-At-Hone Burial Ground. (Geoffrey Gillon)

Sergeant (Air Gunner) Peter Neville Hewitt 1812711. R.A.F.V.R. Age 20. Eltham Cemetery, Woolwich. Sec. B. Grave 409. Son of Ernest E. Hinds Hewitt and Dorothy Cecil Hewitt, of Woolwich.

Sergeant (Air Gunner) Harold Desmond Hudson 1813316. R.A.F.V.R. Age 20. Nuneaton (Oaston Road) Cemetery. Sec. Q. Grave 303. Son of Samuel and Ada Hudson, of Stockingford, Nuneaton.

Researched and compiled in memory of this crew by David King and Alexander King, August 2019. Special thanks to John Panter (Lavendon Historian)
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