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Fragment of debris from the largely Canadian crewed Halifax bomber W1146 of 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit which crashed on Great Shunner Fell in the Yorkshire Dales on January 28 1943.
The bomber was on a cross country navigation exercise out of RAF Leeming when it crashed in low cloud while descending on the return to base. 3 of the 7 men on board were killed in the crash. One of the men, Flight Sergeant Askew, survived but succumbed to his injuries and died the day after.
The pilot P/O LeFebvre and air gunner Sgt Pudney, themselves badly injured, returned to the burning wreck to get their mates out. Sgt Pudney then walked across the moors, in spite of his injuries, to get help. He was awarded the George Medal for his bravery.
The George Medal is normally awarded to civilians for acts of great bravery (such as the Wolverhampton nursery teacher Lisa Potts who in 1996 suffered extreme injuries protecting kids against a machete wielding attacker) but also to military personnel in non-combat situations.
In a twist of fate, Sgt Pudney of Buffalo, New York, was in another Halifax* bomber of 405 Sqn which crashed less than 6 months later at Clenchwarton near King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Again Sgt Pudney pulled his pals from the wreckage of the bomber and again walked to find help. Tragically he had less luck than he had spirit, and he and all his fellow crew members died from their injuries. He was 21 years old.
*W R Chorley (RAF Bomber Command Losses, Vol 8) says HR832 was a Lancaster bomber of 405 Maritime Patrol Squadron, but that squadron flew Halifaxs not Lancs. Chorley also says Sgt Pudney was from New Jersey, not Buffalo.
Pilot Officer Edmund Raoul Herve Yvon LeFebvre RCAF (pilot, injured, survived)
Sergeant Hugh McGeach RCAF (flight engineer, injured, survived)
Sergeant Richard Edward Drago RAFVR (navigator, killed)
Flight Sergeant Joseph Henri Alphonse Beliveau RCAF (observer, killed)
Sergeant John Dennis Stone RAFVR (wireless op/air gunner, killed)
Sergeant Clinton Landis Pudney RCAF (air gunner, injured, survived)
Flight Sergeant John Ruskin Askew RCAF (air gunner, injured, died)