Halifax bomber JN886, Blackley, Manchester

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Halifax bomber JN886, Blackley, Manchester

Halifax bomber JN886 of 1666 Heavy Conversion Unit crashed in Blackley (pronounced Blake-ley) in the northern suburbs of Manchester with the loss of 3 of the 7 crew members. All but one on board were Canadian.

The bomber took off from RAF Wombleton in Yorkshire on a cross country / bombing practice exercise on the evening of October 4th, 1944. Despite the starboard inner engine failing, the pilot decided to continue, perhaps reasoning that it was good practice for the crew to deal with flying with an engine out? Whatever the reason, after 5 hours of flying on 3 engines, the starboard outer engine also packed in.

Circling above north Manchester, Flying Officer Cooke ordered the crew to bale out while he looked for somewhere to try to crash land the Halifax. Only 3 managed to do so (and they were so low they were injured in the process) before the bomber crashed through the churchyard of St Andrews shortly after midnight. The wreck came to a halt in a field, narrowly missing the surrounding houses. One man, Sergeant Craig, survived the crash.

The priest of St Andrews Church (Rev Ian Fellows, I believe) kindly pointed out the area where he understood the plane finally came to rest, which is over to the left and beyond the trees in the view above. He wasn’t aware of the aircraft scraping the wall of the church as one reference states.

CREW
F/O M J G Cooke RCAF, killed
Sgt C G Ayres RAF, killed
Sgt J S Turnbull RCAF, baled out – injured
F/S H A Wintermute RCAF, killed
Sgt J A Murden RCAF, baled out – injured
Sgt K G Rose RCAF, baled out – injured
Sgt J A Craig RCAF, injured

The wreck of Halifax JN886, which narrowly missed the suburban housing.
Photo from the Manchester Evening News
MEN1

St Andrew’s Church, Blackley, Manchester.
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Details from;
RAF Bomber Command Losses Volume 8 (2003) W R Chorley
Moston and Middleton Express (13 Jan 1994)
Manchester Evening News (5 October 1944)

31 comments on “Halifax bomber JN886, Blackley, Manchester
  1. Anonymous says:

    woooooooooooow
    amazing 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    woooooooooooow
    amazing 🙂

  3. Tech Owl says:

    Full account as usual Ian – interesting shot to go with the detail

  4. pasujoba says:

    Well done Ian , you finally got to the bottom of it .
    lots of work researching this one by the looks of things .
    Another unusual main photo too . good to mix things up a little .

  5. redrocker_9 says:

    Very nice image to go with the details Ian~

  6. Never Was An Arrow II says:

    Hi, I’m an admin for a group called This Museum Called Canada, and we’d love to have this added to the group!

  7. Never Was An Arrow II says:

    Hi Ian, most Canadians in the RAF were RCAF folk so…I’m an admin for a group called RCAF, and we’d love to have this added to the group!

  8. Ian D B says:

    thanks all, and thanks for the invites too.

  9. Mary Liquid says:

    Superb pictures and very interesting account. Smart work.

  10. andyholmfirth says:

    Lovely image Ian.

  11. Corwin's Trumps says:

    An excellent narration for this extremely unfortunate event.

    Seen in Canadian History (?)

  12. mick cooke says:

    great story to go with the photos

  13. Pleasureprinciple2012 says:

    Excellent detail dealing with a mighty sad subject. Might just cancel my subscription to "Britain at War" and read your photo entries instead!

  14. obie10 says:

    I remember as a 7 year old visiting the crash scene within hours of the crash,
    also around the same time about 100 yards or so away a barrage balloon which set on fire

  15. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/44345774@N07] obie10
    Thanks for commenting. What do you recall of it? Where did the bomber come down in your memory of events? Was the barrage balloon on fire connected?
    Thanks
    Ian

  16. obie10 says:

    Hello Ian. How well do you know that area. Have had a look on Google maps and the cottages which are in the backgroung in your photo are still there

  17. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/44345774@N07] obie10
    Maybe I should go back. I am pretty certain the Halifax came down in the view but where it ended up is probably more to the left. Will need to check again. Would you please send me a Googlemap link to where the buildings are? Is it Crab Lane?

  18. obie10 says:

    I would an need email addres to send a link unless there is ssome other way. but if you like I can meet you there and show you . Any morning will do

  19. Ian D B says:

    Thanks for that. I have just had a week off so it’ll be unlikely I will be free any time soon, kind of you to offer though, may well take you up on that one weekend. Meanwhile you could send the link via Flickrmail or just post it here in the comments? Appreciate your help.

  20. John Sheldon says:

    HI. MY NAME IS JOHN SHELDON I HAVE LIVED AT 79 CRAB LANE FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS, MY GARDEN OVERLOOKS THE CRASH SITE. THE STORY I HAVE BEEN TOLD IS THAT THE PLANE HIT AN END TERRACED HOUSE, THERE USED TO BE 4 HOUSES,71 TO 75 YOU CAN SEE THESE IN OLD PHOTOS NO71 CRAB WAS DEMOLISHED, THERE ARE NOW 3 HOUSES.A FEW YEARS AGO THE OWNER OF 77 FOUND WHAT HE THOUGHT WAS A HUMAN VERTEBRA WHILST TENDING HIS GARDEN,AND SHOWED IT TO ME HE HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF ANY PLANE CRASH IT WAS THEN TOLD HIM ABOUT THE CRASH.

  21. Peter Bamford says:

    I remember it happening and along with all boys we went to collect bits of the aircraft but Police would not let us too near for it was a seen on investigation and me may damage or take evidence

    • Ian D B says:

      thanks for that. In case it disappears altogether, am copying it here

      Manchester Evening News – Unknown Date
      Canadians quest for facts of brave sergeant’s death
      A CANADIAN man is attempting to uncover the full story of how his cousin died in one of North Manchester’s few wartime air disasters.
      Vern Fowlie from Winnipeg, Manitoba, is asking if readers know anything about the tragedy which occurred on 5th October, 1944.
      Halifax
      He Writes: “Shortly after midnight…a Royal Canadian Air Force (or perhaps RAF) Halifax bomber (JN 886) crashed at Blackley.
      “Several of the crew managed to bail out. They were slightly injured and were taken to RAF Heaton Park SSQ.
      “Three of the aircrew did not get out. They died in the crash.
      One sergeant Harry Wintermute, was a cousin of mine. The RCAF pilot and an RAF airman were also killed”.
      Mr Fowlie – who is attempting to write his families history – would like answers to a series of questions including where exactly the bomber crashed. whether there were any civilian casualties or damage, where was the Willard Street Police station where the bodies were taken and what was RAF Heaton Park?
      After our own research we can answer some of these queries.
      Ministry of Defence Air Historic branch research officer, Mike Hatch, found an account of the crash in the book “Over the Wall” by John R Sharp which is a personal history of the war time RAF station at Heaton Park.
      The doomed Handley Page Halifax number JN886 was from a special unit established to train pilots used to lighter aircraft to fly bombers.
      Heaton Park
      It took off from the unit HQ nine miles from Pickering on the West Yorkshire Moors with Flying Officer M J Cook – a Canadian – at the controls.
      It had been airbourne for five hours, five minutes when trouble started.
      Mr Sharp writes: “The episode was a tragic catalogue of events, for at 18’000ft the starboard inner engine caught fire and the pilot was unable to feather the propeller.
      He could not find base and then he lost the starboard outer engine too.
      “It was impossible to maintain height on two engines and at 900ft control was lost and the aircraft crashed and caught fire.
      “The problems were compounded by the fact a crew member pulled a parachute ripcord inside the aircraft.”
      The plane came down at five minutes past midnight on 5th October on Crab Lane, Blackley, now ironically overlooked by a cemetery. There is some confusion in Mr Sharp’s account of casualties.
      He Claims four were killed and three injured but Mr Hatch of the Defence Ministry says the “accident card” reports four injured and three killed.
      Three survivors managed to bail out.
      The manchester Evening News of 5th October describes how the brave pilot maneuvered his plane away from the housing below to land in a field just a few yards from a row of cottages.
      Before coming to rest the plane crashed through St Andrews Churchyard bringing some railings down and damaged a shed and hencote.
      but because of the pilots heroism no civilians were injured.
      Hundreds ran to the scene of the disaster.
      The Evening News reports that Sub-Lieutenant Frank Donough, home on leave at Crab lane pulled the sergeant from the wreckage. Was this Mr Fowlies relative?
      The bodies and injured ended up at RAF Heaton Park which was an Aircrew Dispatch Centre with a Station Sick Quaters (SSQ).
      Before we send the information to Mr Fowlie can any readers add to the account? If you have any recollections contacted us on Express News desk 205 8031 Damaged Graveside Plot

  22. Eric Graham says:

    The police station is Willert Street, in Collyhurst, Manchester

  23. Tony Bowden says:

    Hi Ian great web site, found it while researching Manchester police officers who died in military service WW2 most of who were in the RAF. We visited St Andrews Blackley on 31st July (2017)to honour one of our lads P.C.Raymond Findlay Ball and we have some commemorative stuff that can be sent to you if you want. Willert st police station has gone but police reports/photos of the Halifax crash may still exist in the force museum in Newton St Manchester. let me know how to e mail the comm stuff if you want it
    regards Tony Bowden, Manchester

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Tony, thank you for your comments. I visited the Newton St museum a while back, thought they had some very interesting stuff in there relating to WWII. I have also used (with permission) some of their photo archives in the past. What is the commemorative material you have Tony? Is it stuff that might be of interest on this site? Please feel free to send anything to IanDB@gmx.com
      Thanks again,
      Ian

  24. John Higham says:

    This is my local church I only live 5 minutes walk and never knew this thank you for sharing.

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