On August 25th 2001 I had the pleasure to represent the Association at the unveiling of a memorial plaque honouring the crew of Avro Lancaster LM258 HA-Q who died in tragic circumstances 67 years to the day off the coast of Felixstowe.
The crew apart from the flight engineer F/O Glyn Mathias arrived from No.31 Base w.e.f 20th May 1944. Twenty five year old Mathias joined the squadron from No.1657 CU w.e.f 12th July 1944 where he had been instructing. He had previously completed a tour with the squadron in 1943 when he had flown with Pilot Officer Cozens. The crew (minus Glyn) started operations on June 9th 1944 with a mining operation in Short Stirling Mk.III LJ472 HA-K. There followed a further six operation on the Stirling before conversion to the Avro Lancaster in August 1944. The crews first operation on the type was on August 11th when they visited Len Marshalling Yards, the following night they operated on a target in Germany for the first time, attacking Russelsheim. On August 15th, the crew was joined by the squadron commander W/Cdr Fenwick-Wilson AFC on a raid directed against St Trond, the operation was unsuccessful due to engine trouble. The crews final operation was flown on Friday August 25th 1944, a daylight attack against the V1 bomb site at Vinchy. While on the bomb run Lancaster LM258 was hit by flak damaging both port engines. Crossing the North Sea Doug Haggis was forced to feathered one or possibly two of the engines on the port side, the crew managed to coax the Lancaster across the North Sea to within sight of the Suffolk Coast. The Lancaster was seen by a number of witnesses in Felixstowe approaching low from the south west with its undercarriage lowered and both port engines stationary. Witnesses also reported that the pilot was apparently looking for somewhere to ditch as the Lancaster was circling near the New Pier when it suddenly banked to port, side slipped and dived into the sea at 21.15hrs, two dull explosions followed and a fire broke out on the water. A Walrus aircraft was soon on the spot as was 2 H.S.L’s, sadly only one survivor was located, 19-year-old airgunner Sergeant Angus Craig. The critically injured the young Scottish gunner was brought to Felixstowe docks and then transported to a local R.A.F Hospital where he sadly died of his injuries at 00.30hrs. The bodies of New Zealander Flying Officer Charles Oxenham RNZAF and Sergeant George Covell RAFVR were quickly located and brought ashore. The bodies of the remaining crew washed ashore over the next week, Flight Lieutenant Douglas Haggis was found on September 1st near Fagbury Beach, Sergeant William Dyer the crew’s navigator washed ashore the same day near Harwich Harbour, while Flight Sergeant Ernest Murray the Wireless Operator was discovered near the Felixstowe Spa Pavilion on September 4th. The body of Pilot Officer Mathias was recovered on Friday 6th October 1944 at around 18.00 hours, on the foreshore at Landguard Point, Felixstowe.