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Sgt Spalding by Dan Engle.
This account was given to me by Mr Sid Butcher of Beck Row, who, as a teenager, had gone to look at the crash site of Stirling N6067 on the edge of Beck Row village.
The Short & Harland Company at Aldergrove built N6067 in December 1941. After being fitted out at No.46 MU it was delivered to 15 Squadron, RAF Wyton on the 9th February 1942. It was assigned to “A” flight and given the Squadron code LS-E. (These are the letters, which were painted on the aircraft’s fuselage).
Its first operational sortie was on the night of 25th February 1942. This is the night that Sgt Spalding dropped into Feltwell and tried to pinch a bike!
The target was Kiel and the aircraft took off from Wyton at 23:32 hours. Over the enemy coast, on what was a very dark, moonless, night, Squadron Leader M.D.H. Wilson was unable to find the primary target. He subsequently decided to attack the secondary target, which was the town of Sylt. On the run up to the target, the aircraft was damaged by flak and had to take evasive action.
As a result of this, they suspected that they might have been off course on their return journey. With the engines failing because of lack of fuel, and with the sincere belief that they might be over either enemy territory or water. Squadron Leader Wilson gave the crew the option of bailing out. Sgt Spalding, the rear gunner, was the only crewmember to take up the offer.
Shortly after his departure, the pilot decided that he must make a forced landing. It was 05:40 hours and the aircraft had been in the air for over six hours.
He put the aircraft down at Beck Lodge Farm, Beck Row. During the course of the landing, the aircraft’s nose stuck a wall on the farm boundary and Sgt Murray, the front gunner, was killed.
It is a great pity that RAF Mildenhall maintained such a good “black out”. The aircraft was only about 200 yards from the end of the airfield.
As soon as the aircraft stopped, the crew deployed the dingy, still in the belief that they were over water
An examination of the Stirling, made on the following day, showed that it was damaged beyond repair. It was scrapped having only completed 18 ½ hours flying time.
Sq./Ldr M.D.H. Wilson, Sgt Melville, F/O Reeve, Sgt Lammie, Sgt Murray (killed), Sgt Ely, Sgt Spalding (bailed)
Final note. If you examine the wall around Beck Lodge Farm, you can still see where it was repaired after this incident.