Lancaster ED481

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Lancaster ED481, North York Moors

31 January 1943. Lancaster ED481 crashed close to the village of Hawnby in North Yorkshire while returning from a bombing raid on Hamburg. Diverted to another airfield, it is thought the crash was due to the Lancaster running out of fuel and / or losing power to its engines. All on board were killed.

The pilot was American but served with the RCAF. The Flight Engineer was Canadian, the Navigator was Welsh and the Rear Gunner was from South Africa. The rest were all English.

W/O Frank Nelson RCAF Pilot
Sgt. McKeen Allen RCAF Flight Engineer
Sgt. George Done RAFVR Navigator
Sgt Alan Williams RAFVR Bomb Aimer
Sgt. Henry Jones RAFVR Wireless Operator / Air Gunner
Sgt. Arthur Butcher RAFVR Air Gunner
Sgt. Walter Murton RAFVR Rear Gunner

Photo of a Lancaster bomber of 1 Group taken over Hamburg;
Lancaster ED481 crashed returning from this very air raid, 31 January 1943.
The caption says the raid was carried out by Lancasters of Groups 1,5 and 8.
Lancaster ED481 was with 5 Group based at RAF Waddington.

Image from wikipedia commons

We planted the cross and buried the fragment of debris close to this spot before moving on.

The date of this crash is erroneously given by Rapier (Warplanes Return, 1970) as 30th January 1943, a mistake since copied by others including me in biro on the poppy cross above.

40 comments on “Lancaster ED481
  1. cgullz says:

    superb research and imagery as always Ian. amazing that you can still recover articles from the crash which is almost 70 years old!! funny, i guess WWII was such a massive event, and it still in the social conscience with memorial days and the like, we forget that time marches on. a truly wonderful thing you and your friends do, to help preserve this history and to provide a visual reminder and memorial.

  2. Tech Owl says:

    Another great series Ian. Looks like the landscape is another distracting place

  3. Air Frame Photography says:

    Well done Ian…

  4. Mark McKie says:

    Well done Ian.. Keep up the good work.

  5. mick cooke says:

    brilliant ian great work

  6. nondesigner59 says:

    Great tribute..



  8. Stezzer says:

    Great info, and kudos to you for your travels and tribute there that day.

  9. pasujoba says:

    Cracking research Ian …….you have only one of the crew as SA but they were in the RAFVR?
    I assumed they (the 5) were all SA. If wrong I will of course correct my misassumption.

  10. pasujoba says:

    PS saw that shot of the bombing raid on the RAF museum website too , downloaded it but then forgot to use it ! πŸ™‚

  11. Ian D B says:

    You should upload the photo, too good a find to not use that!

    Crew details I took from Richard’s site, link above. Only one crew member identified as South African. Speaking of which, have you seen that photo of Brian Rapier on the Dornier page of his site, author of your book?

    Have you got it recorded somewhere they were all SA? Need get that book back to you.

  12. pasujoba says:

    PPS one of the canadians were american ….were did you come by this info …:-) I looked ,i thought everywhere:-) …great work fella.
    I sussed though the date , and did not alter my account , because i worded it in a way that I thought legitemised it …..they set off on the 30th , yet returned on the 31st …..the cross would still be wrong though πŸ™

  13. pasujoba says:

    Yes , I read it somewhere that they were all from the RAFVR so I am afraid that I assumed they were SA…. same for the Canadians , I never imagined one of them would have been an American , although I know this did happen , I thought that at this stage they would have been dragged into US units .

  14. Ian D B says:


    Alan Clark’s site and again Richard Allenby’s both detail W/O Nelson as being American serving with RCAF.

    I noticed how you had worded it re; the date, you do right.

  15. pasujoba says:

    Think I have had a mind block Ian ……..what am I thinking ……..I have no idea why I thought the others were all SA …..clearly they are not . and of course any one can be in the RAFVR not just SA …..??? I must have been on medication or is it that I need to be on it πŸ™‚ …. itll be the whiskey Hic!

  16. pasujoba says:

    I have corrected my error , cheers Ian for putting me on the straight and narrow πŸ™‚

  17. Ian D B says:

    No problem, I didn’t do owt!

  18. redrocker_9 says:

    Well done Ian and a spectacular backdrop for this!

  19. SolarScot. says:

    it seems extra sad that they were nearly home after the raid,good work Ian,best wishes for 2012 mate

  20. Ray~Watson says:

    Great work, keep going… looking forward to reading/seeing your work in 2012…. Happy New Year!

  21. andyholmfirth says:

    More top detective work Ian

  22. stopherjones says:

    I like the use of the map and the wide angle to give the main photo context, but find the close up of the cross among the dewy grass so powerful; a tiny fragment of, and memorial to, a much bigger incident, which in turn was just a tiny element of a much bigger piece in our history. Humbling stuff.

  23. amyrey says:

    An enourmously sad account. But only one of many such incidents that would be forgotten were it not for research such as this…..

    … the exchange of info between you and Paul above was fascinating to read….

  24. rob of rochdale says:

    Fantastic stuff again Ian. You two are becoming a modern day Holmes and Watson!

    Love that image, it really is a beauty

  25. crusader752 says:

    Fascinating info Ian – got to hand it to you as it brings a whole new dimension to some of these bleak but beautiful landscapes where unassuming young men and women perished either through weather, technical issues or by being just plain unlucky. There must be thousands of such locations across the British Isles that may never yield the secrets that they hold! πŸ™‚

  26. pasujoba says:

    Bloody Holmes and Watson again πŸ™‚ …….mind , not so bad now being compared to old Jude babe!

  27. Ian D B says:

    [] [] []

    Lol. Again.

    Rob scroll down to Solar Scot’s comment on this photo…

  28. Ian D B says:

    [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

    Many thanks everyone. I really appreciate your comments on these crash site photos.

    Best wishes for the New Year!

  29. Hotpix [LRPS] Hanx for 1.5M Views says:

    Another moving post Ian

    Happy New Year 😎


  30. f3liney says:

    Another very interesting and poignant account.
    Thanks for doing what you do Ian.
    The site visits and research are a really worthwhile act of remembrance, especially as the numbers of those who were there and could tell the tales are now rapidly dwindling.
    Keep up the good work.

    All the best for 2012.

  31. Gizzardtreedude says:

    As always, very meticulous work
    Have a Happy New Year and prosperous historical hunting

  32. *Psycho Delia* says:

    Fascinating account and great shot

  33. Mike J Chapman says:

    I may have been off Flickr for a while Ian but I can see you have continued doing a fantastic job, producing images that go beyond being just great pictures.

    Bringing stories like this one back to life through research, a site visit and a photographic record is crucial if we are to truly Remember Them.

  34. Ian D B says:

    Thanks very much Mike, always a pleasure to see you on Flickr.

  35. caz_180 says:

    A brave young man who although a farmer volunteered to go to war…. RIP Uncle Arthur x

  36. Ian D B says:

    [] caz_180
    Thank you for dropping by. Brave lads all. Just been watching that splendid documentary about Bomber Command, it’s good to remember them.

  37. caz_180 says:

    Thank you Ian, they were all brave men and we should never forget any of them.

  38. Keith Williams says:

    Very interesting reading, due to the fact that Sgt. Allan Williams was my father’s older brother, my father also served in the RAF as ground crew.
    I intend to visit the site later this year as my wife and I will be holidaying not far from there.

    Sgt. Allan Williams is buried in Seasalter, just outside Whitstable, Kent, in one of I believe only two war graves there. It is a lovely old church, very small.

    • Ian D B says:

      Thanks Keith. It’s years since I was there. Will have a look and see if I can find a grid reference for the crash site.

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