1What is Known about the Last Flight of AD730
My brother, P/O John Kenneth ("Ken") Hill aged 23, was the pilot and captain of Hampden AD 730. He was the oldest member of the crew. His navigator and bomb aimer was Sgt. Jack Lamb, a few months younger. Jack was a scientific officer with the Carlisle Council Museum. He joined the RAFVR in July 1939 with the Border flying Club. Jack attended Carlisle Grammar School where his favourite subjects were physics and chemistry. At the age of thirteen he produced a detailed design covering over 50 pages for a space ship. A copy of this document has been offered to 50 Squadron Museum. Between leaving school and the outbreak of war he worked as a lab assistant at Carlisle Technical College. Fred Erdwin from Old Trafford, the lower rear gunner, was orphaned at an early age and together with his sister was brought up in a National Children’s Home. He enlisted as a regular in the RAF at the age of sixteen and was trained as wireless operator (aircrew) at Cranwell College. Stanley Wright, son of a wheelwright, also from Old Trafford, was in a reserved occupation but on the outbreak of war he volunteered for the RAF. He too was trained as a wireless operator and rear gunner. On the last flight of AD73O he is believed to have been the upper rear gunner. All the crew members had flown together on their last four operational flights
On that night 118 aircraft were detailed to bomb Berlin consisting of 50 Wellingtons (one lost), 39 Hampdens (two lost), 28 Whitleys (five lost) (all twin engined aircraft) and one Stirling (four engined). Of the six Hampden Squadrons involved the records of three—44, 50 and 83—comprising 20 aircraft (50% of the total)—were examined. Of these twenty only nine reached Berlin and six of those were unable to pinpoint their allotted targets. (Appendix 1). Two planes returning from Berlin reported problems in obtaining a radio fix. From the research I have undertaken it seems improbable that AD730 reached Berlin.
The weather over England, the North Sea and the western part of Germany on both outward and return journeys was bad with 10/10 cloud but from Emden onwards the cloud appears to have been less patchy although over Berlin most crews found that from bombing heights thick haze and cloud made pinpointing the target difficult. (see Appendix 1). Two aircraft reported concerns about excessive petrol
Colin Hill visits the Memorial at the crash site at the time
consumption on the outward journey but it is not known whether this was due to higher than forecast head winds or other causes.
The weather over Ireland was similar to that over England— overcast with heavy low cloud, some rain with light north easterly winds at ground level. Over Ireland the aircraft was heard but not seen. An Irish Look-out post reported hearing a plane crossing the coast between Dalkey and Bray Head (about 10 miles south of Dublin) and heading westward towards Co. Kildare at 0405 hrs on 18 April. At 0418 hrs it was reported over Carbury—some 30 miles west of its land fall on a bearing of about 280 degrees.
The final report at 0432, was of it flying northwards over Holywood—25 miles SSE of Carbury. At 0434, a time determined by the Irish authorities from the clock in the wrecked aircraft, it crashed at Lacken near Blessington, Co. Wicklow killing all of the crew. Its time in the air was over eight hours and miles covered over 1300. It would have had little fuel left to search for a landing site in those conditions.
The wreck was located on an almost inaccessible part of a bog. It was described as a complete wreck with parts scattered over a wide area. The engines and wings (containing fuel tanks) were torn off on impact. The wreckage did not catch fire. A large quantity of ammunition and two Very light pistols were found near the wreckage. The bodies of the crew of four were found in boggy ground about 150 yards from the crash. The crew were not wearing parachutes which implies that there had been no decision to prepare to bail out.
They received frightful injuries. Death was instantaneous in each case. The wreckage lay undiscovered for over two days. The clothing on the bodies was saturated with blood and damp from the boggy ground and rain. Identification of the bodies was by identity discs or personal items carried by the two crew members on whom no discs were found. The coroner instructed that no inquest should be held.
The Irish Government ordered a military funeral for the crew in Blessington churchyard. On each anniversary of the crash the crew are remembered in the prayers of the congregation of Blessington church. On the fiftieth anniversary of the crash a memorial service was held at the Church. All surviving relatives of the crew were present. A memorial plaque was unveiled in Blessington Church by the British Ambassador to Dublin and a wreath laid by a representative of the Irish government. Later that day, a visit was made to the crash site where a commemorative stone was dedicated. An illustrated talk on what was known about the crash was given by a member of the Irish Wreckology Group and a video of the proceedings was made for the Irish Aviation Museum.
OF THE 110,000 RAF AIRCREW WHO SERVED IN
THIS IS THE STORY OF ONE OF THOSE CREWS
The Reverend Richard Stokes, Rector of Blessington, at the