Harry-boy Jones (27 May 1923 to 28 April 1945)
Lancaster Bomber LM 719
The site received a comment on 22nd August 2007 that read:-“Hello! I’m trying to contact the family and friends of Sergeant Henry William Jones, of Romford, Essex. It appears that he was the son of Ciselia Bessie (Fink) Jones. Sergeant Jones served on the crew of an RCAF Lancaster with my uncle, Flying Officer Richard Knut Ourom. They died in a crash while on a training flight on April 28 1945,near Stoke Rochford, England. (South of Grantham.) In 2006, Stoke Rochford established a memorial to the crew, and held a service in their memory. We are trying to contact the other six families, so they know, and can visit. Thank you for any help, and please feel free to forward this as you wish.”
The enquirer had navigated to this site through a search engine, as we make mention of Henry Jones and family on the website page devoted to George Henry FINK and descendants. George Fink’s second child Cecilia Bessie Fink married Henry G. Jones in 1920 and had four children; the second of these was Henry W. Jones (aka Harry-boy) who was born May 1923.
Descendants of the direct Finks and Jones, however, had only sketchy details of how the young man (known to all as Harry Boy) lost his life. Both parents had since passed away, as had all his siblings. A couple of surviving cousins, however, recall seeing a large hand-coloured portrait of Harry-boy in his mother’s front room.
Following a number of emails and phone calls, we can now reveal some of the details (specific references to individual persons still living have been edited out).
On the night of 27th April 1945, a Lancaster Bomber of 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit took off from RAF North Luffenham. The mission was to be six and a half hour cross-country training exercise. At 03.14 hours on the morning of 28 April, it crashed into the grounds of Stoke Rochford Hall. There were seven airmen on board, six from the Royal Canadian Air Force and one from the Royal Air Force.
The flying conditions were impossible with severe icing and thunderclouds. Three eye-witnesses state that the aircraft was on fire prior to impact with the ground. This fact was not known to the accident investigation board at the time as the witnesses, owing to their age, were never interviewed. The first witness states that he was caring for new-born lambs at the time of the accident and had an excellent view of the aircraft flying towards Stoke Rochford Mansion, “loosing height with a fire in the wing”. The second witness states she was awoken by the thunderstorm and remembers the aircraft “on fire”, passing over Colsterworth village. The third witness categorically states that “an engine was on fire”. Investigation has shown that aircraft are frequently struck by lightning. An interview with a Lancaster veteran of over 30 Operations reveals “It was described as “St Elmo’s fire” and it “danced around the whirling propeller blades and between the gun barrels”. It is unusual for a lightning strike to cause a fire, as aircraft are designed to dissipate the electrical charge, but in this instance, it must be a possibility. The RAF reports states that “Radio Telegraphy communications lost and aircraft failed to acknowledge Wireless Telegraphy communications” – if struck by lightning it is very likely the radio equipment and intercom were damaged and unusable. Thus, this very young, inexperienced crew, flying in appalling weather, iced up, with unknown airspeed and then faced with an onboard fire, met their tragic end.
All seven aircrew perished in the crash. The six Canadians are buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey; Sergeant Jones is buried near to other members of his family in Romford Cemetery, Essex.
On 6 December 2002, the 8th Canadian Wing Headquarters at Trenton, Ontario were closed when they received what they thought was a suspicious parcel. The bulky letter which had UK stamps on it but no postmark or return address was declared suspicious. The explosive Ordnance Disposal Team from London, Ontario was flown in to survey the package. After a series of x-rays revealed that the contents were not harmful it was opened. The package consisted of a bracelet, placed in a box inside a paper envelope. The bracelet similar in shape and size to a present day medical alert bracelet, with V. Cline and a service number and the message “Love Marge”, engraved on the underside. The Royal Canadian Air Force crest is on the front. A very short, anonymous note was also enclosed: “This article was discovered at Stoke Rochford (near Grantham) on an RCAF crash site dating from the 45 era. I believe that you are best placed to know appropriate actions for such an object”.Noone knows who the identity of the anonymous sender of the bracelet to Canada.
A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Website using the name and service number confirmed that Sergeant Verle Edmond Cline, 21, is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery. The package was forwarded by 8th Wing to the Director of the Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial Museum. After extensive research, Sergeant Cline’s only surviving relative was located. His sister who was born in 1926, was contacted and told of the discovery of the bracelet. When she asked for it to be posted to her, she was told “Your brother was killed in the service of his country and we don’t do that with our heroes”, and that they wanted to present the bracelet to her, in person, in a cedar wood box he had made for the occasion. “.. it won’t remain out of sight any box” she said “I’m going to wear it; this is closure”.
During the emotional hand over, further details of Sergeant Cline emerged. Verle Cline – nicknamed “Hap” for Happy – left his fathers dairy farm in California when he was 19 to fight in the war. Since he was born in Canada and the family had moved to California to continue farming, the American government would not send him overseas. He therefore enlisted in the Canadian Air Force. On leave a year before his fatal crash he asked Marge Hill a childhood sweetheart, to marry him. His 8 September 1944 diary entry says “Engaged to Marge” and an entry covering the entire month of October says “Waiting to see Marge”. One of his last letters to his mother stated “All I want to do is my job and get home with a whole body and in good working condition”.
The rest of the crew were traced via the Ministry of Defence Air Historical Branch who hold details of all aircrew killed on operations or training. Family details and grave plots were supplied by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The crash record and Board of Enquiry information was obtained from Royal Air Force Records at Hendon.
On the 19 November 2006, a Dedication Service took place to honour the aircrew who died. This was attended by Canadian relatives, the Canadian High Commission, Senior Royal Air Force Officers, Standards of the Royal Air Forces Association, The Royal British Legion and Ex-Service Associations. Over 200 members of the public witnessed the event.
A Canadian Maple tree (Acer Rubrum) was donated by Stoke Rochford Management Limited. The tree was dedicated by a Royal Air Force Padre which was complemented by the unveiling of a plaque cast from salvaged aircraft metal. This plaque was manufactured and engraved by Royal Air Force Station Cottesmore. A painting of LM 719 now hangs in Stoke Rochford Hall, along with a collection of memorabilia and artefacts salvaged from the aircraft. (See photos 116 and 117 in the Photo Album). The site has been registered with the United Kingdom Inventory of War Memorials, and administered by the Imperial War Museum.
Harry-boy’s family were totally unaware of the above events until the website enquiry in August 2007. Efforts had been made to trace his family, even advertising in Romford. Surviving family members were scattered throughout the UK but none, alas, in Essex.
Harry-boy’s cousins have now been given full details, including photos of the young crew-men taken shortly before the crash. They also now have a photo of the memorial and a copy of the painting of the Lancaster LM719
Some final, sobering facts:
The average age of this crew was just under 21 years old.
Harry-boy completed his pilot training in November 1944.
The plane crashed on 28 April 1945 five months later
General Jodl signed the surrender on 8 May 1945, ten days after the crash
We will remember them!