Tragedy struck the squadron on a relatively peaceful Saturday in July. The squadron was at the time still coming to grips with the Blenheim. The squadron crews were still relatively inexperienced with this twin engine bomber which when compared with the rather sedate Battle required much more flying ability.
On the early morning of July 13 1940 Australian Flying Officer Terence Newton and two observers, 26-year-old Sergeant David Malpass and Sergeant Joseph Routledge were aloft at 09:30hrs from RAF Oakington in Blenheim R3597. They were scheduled to carry out relatively simple cross country / navigation exercise between RAF Mildenhall, RAF Waddington and RAF Sywell, it was a routine flight in good weather.
The squadron’s first Blenheim had only arrived on July 5th and Flying Officer Newton had only just returned from his conversion training at No.17 O.T.U Upwood five days previous. The crew set course for the first location, flying north the crew passed over the bombers bases of East Anglia and Lincolnshire. Once Waddington had been reached the crew swung south and headed towards the city of Northampton and RAF Sywell. It would appear but it is not confirmed that the crew duly reached RAF Sywell as instructed. Sadly youthful enthusiasm or Aussie rule breaking would result in the crew deviating from the planned route and heading towards Newton’s uncles pig farm on the Harrold to Sharnbrook road. This was only 10 miles off the planned route and just a few minutes flying time. Sadly it was to have tragic consequences, flying low over the farm the starboard wing tip hit a 40ft Ash tree, the aircraft started to turn to starboard this gradually steepened until the Blenheim and its occupants crashed into the ground and burst into flames killing the three occupants at 11:45hrs.
At 13:35hrs the Action for Overdue Aircraft was taken back at RAF Mildenhall, at this stage nothing untoward was considered, however this very quickly changed at 14:00hrs when news was received by the Operations Officer that Flying Officer Newton’s Blenheim had crashed 8 miles NW of Cransfield, there were no reported survivors. At the time of his death Flying Officer Newton had amassed a total of 314 solo hours flying, of which only 6 hours 25 minutes were flown on the Blenheim. His flying ability was assessed as “Above Average” and he was considered a “Careful and conscientious pilot”. The court of enquiry findings were that the accident was caused by culpable negligence on the part of the pilot involving disregards of orders.
39943 Flying Officer Terence Newton (Pilot), son of Winstanley and Madeleine of Melbourne, Australia, was buried in Carlton (St. Mary) Churchyard, west of the tower, on the 18th July 1940. His name appears on the Harrold War Memorial.
513919 Sgt (Observer) Joseph Newton Routledge, RAF, 218 Squadron, of Penrith, is buried at Penrith Cemetery, Cumberland.
564042 Sgt (Observer) David Vincent Malpass, RAF, 218 Squadron, age 26, of Pembroke, is buried at Pembroke Dock (Llanion) Cemetery, Pembrokeshire.