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  Flight Sergeant V Richter RAFVR and crew - 103 Sqdn - Ulceby Lancaster Collision

  On the 16th December 1943 Lancasters from 103 Sq. and 576 Sq. at Elsham Wolds were taking off for a raid on Berlin that night. There was low cloud at Elsham Wolds but this was not bad enough to prevent operations. At briefing the crews were cautioned about the low cloud and told that after take off they had to climb away into the climbing pattern until they reached the prescribed height and then head out over the North Sea on the operation. It was stressed that crews should not deviate from these instructions in any way because of the visibility issues.

  Amongst the first to take off was F/S F R Scott RAAF and crew of 576 Sq. in Lancaster LM332. Scott and his crew were on their first operation. Soon afterwards they were followed by F/S Richter RAFVR and crew of 103 Sq. in Lancaster JB670. This was a scratch crew made up from members of both 103 Sq. and 576 Sq., an unusual occurrence

  As Richter’s aircraft took off and climbed away Scott’s aircraft appeared out of the clouds flying directly towards them. A collision was inevitable and the machines crashed head on.

  This occurred just outside the village of Ulceby and wreckage fell over a wide area. There were no survivors from either crew.

  This letter from an eye witness describes the events.

  A Day I Never Forget by Marie Harris.

  I was posted to the Ack Ack Site at Goxhill Haven as a driver in 1943. My duties were to drive all vehicles and any vehicle wherever needed. There were 3 of us girl drivers, Moira Turnbull, Nan Caulfield and myself. Although I say it myself I think we did a darned good job (must have done for they never gave us the sack!). It was quite a good site really, ATS and soldiers all got on well together, taking the good with the bad, no luxuries as such and not many "Passes Out".

Occasionally, when there had been a good night of shooting the enemy planes down, the Major and Officers would put on a dance and social night for us in the NAAFI. They would invite so many RAF and so many Yanks. It all helped to make a great night and lift our spirits and to mix or meet others who were doing what we were trying to do, keep old Hitler out. Most of the RAF were Air Crew and you would dance with one or two, get to know them a bit and have a great night, but knowing when you saw the Bombers taking off the following night they were up there doing the BIG BIT and come the next evening you would ask "where's Alec, Bob and Bill?" Just a shrug of the shoulders from their mates and you knew and felt sad, very sad.

As I drove around the lanes to wherever my duties took me at a certain time of the day you would see the Bombers going off and up into the clouds and away, you got used to it, up into one circle, two circles and third circle away on their mission and you would say to yourself and often loudly "Good luck lads, come back for that Tango."

It was one afternoon in December 1943 around 4.30 as I was driving a load of stores to another site in the Guy Truck, which had an open front and canvas covered back, going along this lane just wide enough for the truck and a ditch each side. Coming up to a farm on my right, it was very low cloud and the Lancasters were taking off into the circles, up and away, as I looked up and raised my right arm in a salute. They were so low and so near I felt I could nearly touch them.

One went into this low cloud and I was thinking it's a wonder they don't crash they are so close together, when in a split second as it came out of the cloud, God, it was a head on crash with another Lancaster, one almighty explosion and all Hell was let loose. It was awful, I couldn't believe what had happened practically over my head, just over the farmer's field. I was so stunned, streaks of fire shooting all over the road and my truck. I pulled on the brakes and jumped in the ditch but only for a few seconds thinking some of the crew could be saved, so I ran up past the farmer's house, bits and pieces lying all over, just passing a barn and someone caught hold of me from behind and wouldn't let go, kept saying "NO LASS, NO LASS there'll be nothing". It was the old farmer. In no time at all the fire engines etc. were arriving. I pulled myself together and went back to my truck in a daze and drove onto the site, still couldn't believe what had happened. When I pulled up at the Guard House I was just rooted to my seat and couldn't stop crying, thinking of the Bobs, Alecs and Bills whoever just blown to bits. It was awful and still is. The guard called the Sergeant who took one look at my truck with all the bits and pieces, burns on the canvas and said "she must have been under it." They took me into the Mess and gave me a cup of hot strong tea and 20 minutes by the round stove (they were really kind.) I felt better and had to get on with it, so back to Goxhill. On arriving our MT Officer was concerned; did I need to go to the MO? No Sir, I'll be OK but when I went to bed I couldn't shut my eyes, this terrific explosion flashed before me every time. I was like this for quite a few nights. Another thing I can't bear even to this day to watch a film with planes crashing. I'd shut my eyes or go out of the cinema.

Later in life I often used to think and wish I had gone back to see that farmer and I used to wonder if the families knew where their sons were lying. I was very pleased to hear that a Plaque is being dedicated in Remembrance to those poor souls. I can never forget them or what happened to them..
Driver Marie Harris W/44133 ATS.

  In 2000 a plaque commemorating both crews was erected at the site of the Ulceby War Memorial

  


  

16/12/1943

Berlin

JB670

F/S

V

Richter***

22

Chingford, Essex.

RAFVR

16/12/1943

Berlin

JB670

Sgt

FS

Copping

21

Walthamstow, Essex.

RAFVR

16/12/1943

Berlin

JB670

F/O

CR

Jaques***

30

Winterton, Lincolnshire.

RAFVR

16/12/1943

Berlin

JB670

Sgt

TLH

Kay

28

Redhead, New South Wales, Australia.

RAAF

16/12/1943

Berlin

JB670

Sgt

P

Coopman

21

Cropthorne, Worcestershire.

RAFVR

16/12/1943

Berlin

JB670

Sgt

CW

Plampton***

 

 

RAFVR

16/12/1943

Berlin

JB670

Sgt

FS

Furrie

 

 

RAFVR

  Flight Sergeant Richter. He was flying his 3rd operation with a scratch crew.

  Further info on the Ulceby War Memorial website here

Item written by David Fell

www.103squadronraf.org.uk

E mail address - 103squadronraf@gmail.com