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