Vickers Wellington Mk.X MF116 Bomber crash at Burbage

Vickers Wellington Mk.X MF116 bomber crashed in Burbage on a No.26 OTU training mission during the fateful night of 14th January 1945.

Vickers Wellington Mk.X

vickers wellington mk.x mf116 bomber
Vickers Wellington Mk.X Bombers based at 37 Squadron in Tortorellain, Italy.

The Vickers Wellington Mk.X was the last version of the Wellington to be designed as a strategic bomber by its designer Barnes Wallis, it first entered service in late 1942 and was assigned to 37 Squadron during March 1943. The Mk.X was fitted with two Hercules VI engines that provided 1,675 horsepower. The aircraft had a defensive armament that consisted of two .303 Browning machine guns in a forward turret and four .303 Browning machine guns in the rear mounted turret.

The bombload was small at 4,000lbs, but was still big enough to carry the “blockbuster” bomb, it was due to this and the low speed that the Mk.X had a very short career as a front line bomber with RAF Bomber Command by the four-engined heavy bombers such as the Avro Lancaster by October 1943. The Wellington Mk.X would remain in use as a bomber in Italy and the Far East throughout 1944. The Wellingtons were commonly named 'Wimpy' by their crews after the character J. Wellington Wimpy, Popeye's friend.

37 Squadron - Operation Gardening

1st July 1944 At 9:26 Wellington MF116 took off from Tortorellain in Italy as part of formation of 10 bombers from 37 Squadron RAF on a mine laying mission. The Pilot was Flight Lieutenant C.H. Muggeridge (RAFVR), the Wellingtons were carrying two Mk.V mines each.

2nd July 1944 12:30am The Wellingtons had reached their target which was south of Budapest in Hungary. The weather was good with a moonlit sky, the mines were dropped from an altitude of 250 feet. Wellington MF1116 released the mines, but one was stuck in the bomb bay, they returned back to Tortorella carrying one mine.

The fateful night of the Wellington

vickers wellington mk.x bomber being refueled
Vickers Wellington Mk.X bomber being refueled.

Wellington MF116 was assigned to No. 26 OTU (Operational Training Unit). The unit was formed during January 1942 at RAF Wing near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire and was part of No. 7 Group RAF Bomber Command which trained night bomber crews that used the Wellington Bomber. The unit would later be disbanded during March 1946.

14th January 1945 At 6:05pm The Wellington Bomber took off from RAF Wing in Buckinghamshire on an evening cross-country training exercise.

The route they flew the bomber was to nearby Northampton in Northamptonshire, then to the coastal town of Cromer in Norfolk. They would continue flying out across the North Sea until Sergeant Good the Navigator informed the Flying Officer Chobaniuk the Pilot that they had reached a point where they would turn the bomber around and head back along the same route for the return journey, while maintaining radio silence to simulate a bombing raid over Germany.

At 11:40pm Flying Officer Chobaniuk made a 'may-day' call on the return flight to RAF Wing due to an engine failure. RAF Nuneaton in Warwickshire picked up the call and lit the runway up for an emergency landing. Two minutes after the call was received, the port wing-tip hit the ground sending the bomber cartwheeling in the direction of Holt Burn, a stream that divides Holt House Farm and Sketchley Hill Farm that is just south of Hinckley in Leicestershire. The bomber broke up on impact with the ground.

A local farm worker named Raven who was living nearby at Sketchley thought he had heard a definite bump during the night but did not see anything, so he came to the conclusion that nothing untoward had happened.

15th January 1945 During the morning, Raven went out in to the fields and came across the wreckage of the Wellington Bomber that had come down 200 yards from his home, he found that all six crew had been killed.

The bodies of the six crew were recovered during the day.

60th Anniversary of Wellington Bomber crash

14th January 2005 A memorial made out of stone with a black stone tablet was unveiled and a dedication ceremony for the 60th Anniversary of Wellington Bomber crash was given on a housing estate that now sits on the place of the crash site along Featherstone Drive, Burbage in Leicestershire, by an entrance to a car park that is adjacent to a playing field.

East Midlands Today - 60th Anniversary of Wellington Bomber MF116 Crash in Burbage, Leicestershire.