On the evening of 29th September 1941 ten 102 Squadron aircraft took off from Topcliffe airfield tasked with bombing Stettin railway station, this particular Whitley took off at 18.53hrs. The weather over the target area was described as "clear with ground haze and flak was moderate to heavy". This aircraft was first from the squadron to bomb and attacked from 12,000 feet, flashes were seen in the area which was already burning on the ground. In total 95 aircraft of a force of 139 aircraft of various types bombed around four aiming points in Stettin, overall good bombing was reported. Stettin was pretty much at the range that Whitleys could reach with standard fuel tanks.
During the early hours of 30th September 1941 the crew were well into their return leg of the flight and was more or less on course for their home base at Topcliffe. They crossed the Yorkshire coast at around 03.30hrs in the Middlesbrough area and a course was set for base, flying at a height of 2000 feet to avoid striking the high ground they would have to cross over. There were no problems upto then in the flight. Afew minutes later at 03.55hrs the aircraft flew into high ground on the North Yorkshire Moors. The front end of the aircraft was badly damaged in the impact but it did not catch fire, when the aircraft finally came to a halt the crew were able to scramble out, all but the second pilot that is, he was sadly killed in the impact, he was on his first operational trip and was thrown from the aircraft in the impact. The observer, who was uninjured and the captain, who had a slight cut to the head decided they would go for help. Not knowing where they were they made their way off the moor and eventually found a farm some hours later, the farmer then took them to up to Danby Beacon Chain Home station for help. Later in the night the airmen along with the help finally arrived back at the crash site, following a long walk from the nearest road where their lorry had parked. It was not until 13.00hrs until all survivors were back at the lorry at the nearest road. They finally arrived back at Topcliffe four hours later, where upon they found that their lockers had already been cleared out on the assumption they would not be returning. The crash was put down to the pilot falling asleep at the controls, because of this the aircraft had descended and crashed into the high ground which it was flying over.
Where the aircraft crashed is not actually confirmed at the time of the last update to this webpage in February 2013, the widely quoted location at Danby Head and this may well be the crash location however the area has been searched by myself and numerous other people in the last 40 years since wartime aviation became historically interesting and no aircraft fragments have ever been found here by anyone that I am aware of. The Yorkshire Air Museum also quote a map reference for this incident which plots to Danby Head. The death registration of the second pilot was made in the Lealholm parish, Glaisdale Rural District; Danby Head is not in this area and therefore I believe that Danby Head is therefore incorrect. One of the crew wrote a letter home to his family describing the events after the crash, he stated the aircraft bounced off the top of a hill and slid to a halt and had they been flying twenty feet lower they would have flown head on into the side of the hill, he also states that when they returned to the area by lorry from Danby Beacon they had to walk four miles back to the aircraft after leaving their transport. Danby Head does not fit with such descriptions presuming the road used by the lorry was the Blakey road and begining walking from a roadside from up at Rosedale Head. The RAF's crash card, the Form 1180, gives where the aircraft crashed as being six miles south-west of Lealholm and at 1,400 feet above sea level. The police report is less helpful and states it occured between Glaisdale and Westerdale Moor - there are other "moors" between these two moors. Having tried to ignore the "Danby Head" references and start from scratch to work out a crash location the area that fits is in the Cockheads area at the head of Glaisdale or slightly west towards Fryup Head; I have yet to find any evidence on the ground though to prove this theory. There is very little open moorland in the south side of the Lealholm parish and Cockheads is the only "hilltop", part of Fryup Head also falls within the same district so could also be the right place. Another problem is that for high ground Whitley crash sites in Yorkshire very little ever remains on the ground, these sites were very well cleared at the time and as Z6871 was initially believed to be repairable it must have ended up reasonably intact so was probably taken apart and removed from the moor and not simply chopped up on site. There should however still be evidence of the front end hitting the ground with small fragments still remaining somewhere.
Whitley Z6871 had been built to contract 106962/40 by Armstrong Whitworth Ltd at Baginton and was delivered to the RAF in July 1941. After acceptance it was issued to 102 Squadron in the same month. The aircraft was slightly damaged at Topcliffe when Whitley Z6868 exploded when it was being bombed-up in August 1941 but Z6871 was soon repaired. After the accident on the North Yorkshire Moors, detailed above, the aircraft was recovered with the aim of it being repaired, this however was not done and it was re-assessed and declared a write off some days later on 30th September 1941 with Cat.E2/FB damage being recorded.
The airman killed was :
Second Pilot - Sgt Donald Kyle Kibbe RCAF (R/56344), aged 23, of Westfield, Massachusetts, USA. Buried Topcliffe Cemetery, Yorkshire.
Those who survived this accident were:
Pilot - P/O David Bernard Delany RAFVR (63472). Slightly injured, cut above his eye.
Observer - Sgt Philip Leonard Newell "Len" Trehearn RAFVR (947664), of Rhyl, Wales. Uninjured.
Wireless Operator / Air Gunner - Sgt Charles "Maxie" Miller RAFVR (970515), of Edinburgh. Injured, broken nose.
Wireless Operator / Air Gunner - Sgt Ronald Gayler RAFVR (1356736). Injured, either broken nose and/or cut forehead.
Air Gunner - Sgt Clifford Carr RAFVR (1378971), of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Uninjured.
Sgt Kibbe's grave at Topcliffe Cemetery. Donald Kibbe was the son of Lt.Col. Kyle Albert Kibbe and Mrs Elizabeth Marie Kibbe, of Westfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Although an American citizen he, like a number of his fellow countrymen around the same time, enlisted into the RCAF in the early part of the War before America came into the War. He was buried on 6th October 1941 at Topcliffe Cemetery. In 2010 I was contacted by a fellow historian across the Atlantic who subsequently created "http://ww2today.com/30th-september-1941-an-airmans-first-and-last-operational-flight" after our contact using some of my research. Don Kibbe's younger brother Jerry Kibbe made contact with this website and added additional information and that another brother, Robert Kibbe, who was serving in The United States Merchant Marine Academy resigned his appointment and enlisted into The United States Army Air Corps after Don Kibbe's death. Sadly Robert, or Bob as he was known, died in a flying accident only a week before he was to be posted overseas. The incident was probably on 12th January 1943 when L-4A Grasshopper 42-36499 crashed in the region of Harding Field, Los Angeles.
Two photographs of Len Trehearn. Sgt Trehearn was sadly to be killed on 14th April 1942 when Halifax R9488 crashed near Baldersby, Thirsk while the crew were giving it an airtest. Details found on this website by clicking here. Len Trehearn is buried at Rhyl in Wales, he was married to Margaret and I would like to thank his son Mr Phil Trehearn for contacting me and for the photographs of his father shown above. It was Len Trehearn's letter used in the text refered to above.
Charles Miller is shown on the photograph seated on the left (photograph kindly supplied by Mr Ed Cooke, ex-102 Squadron, I thank him for this photograph and his information about this crew). The full line up on the photograph is as follows, (back row L-R, James Fraser (KiA 25/6/1942), Alexander Jaggers (KiA 3/9/1941), Unknown, Ernest Borsberry (KiA 28/7/1942), Unknown, Front Row L-R - Maxie Miller, George Davidson (KiA 29/12/1943).
Charles Miller recovered from his broken nose at Danby Head and returned to active service, on his next operational flight on the night of 12th/13th October 1941 he was flying in Z6801 on Ops to Nuremburg, on the return leg the aircraft ran out of fuel and he was forced to bale out on crossing the east coast. His pilot (Sgt Stell) force landed near Deeping St.James but the aircraft was badly damaged and was written off. Charles Miller suffered a heavy landing and broke his ankle. He recovered and returned to service with 102 Squadron before the squadron converted to Halifaxes. After conversion he returned to 102 Squadron and completed his Tour. He was awarded the DFM for service with 102 Squadron, Gazetted on 22nd September 1942. He received his commission to the rank of P/O on probation (emergency) on 25th February 1943 (142837). He was later posted to 1663 HCU after his time with 102 Squadron but returned to operational flying with 35 Squadron PFF in July 1943, he also served with 511 Squadron, 246 Squadron and 242 Squadron before the end of the War. He was promoted to F/O on probation (war subs) on 25th August 1943 and later to F/Lt (war subs) on 25th February 1945. Having survived the War he remained in the RAFVR until 24th August 1951 and returned to civilian work. He died in 1970. I would like to thank his son for contacting me in December 2012 and for supplying extra details about Charles' life. Charles Miller sold his medals in the 1960s, his son would like to buy them back should the owner of them wish to part with them.
By December 1942 102 Squadron had converted to the Halifax type, on 7th December 1942 F/Sgt Clifford Carr was flying in Halifax W7924 which is believed to have crashed into the North Sea on Ops to Mannheim. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. He was thirty years old. Nothing more is known about him.
The area shown above is part of the Danby Head area and Whitley Z6871 is quoted in numerous places as crashing here. I have spent many days searching this area for any sign of the aircraft and have found nothing at the time of making the last update to this webpage. I believe this location is not correct.
I've spent further days searching moorland around Trough House (towards Fryup Head) and the Cock Heads area at the top of Glaisdale. Cock Heads area above, Trough House below. A long period of the grouse nesting season prevents a year-long search.