Crew A – Denyer and Graham

I am so glad  Eddy  wrote  back about  his  Uncle seen  on the left.

1 - His Crew

Harold Stone could not remember who was in Crew A.

I found it in cyberspace…

Douglas A20 Havoc crash – RAF Ford – 9th July 1941

A brief story of how two young men trained together, flew together and died together. 

Sergeant Robert Denyer (Pilot) 927380 RAF  23 Squadron (Night fighters).  Died 9th July 1941

Flight Sergeant Donald Graham (Air Gunner) 628544  RAF 23 Squadron (Night Fighters) – died with his pilot on 9th July 1941

They are both buried in the CWGC section of the church graveyard at St. Mary’s at Clymping, Sussex

Robert Denyer and Donald Graham were assigned to night fighter duties with 23 Squadron and were based at RAF Ford, Sussex.  They had flown together as a crew for a few months and had initially trained together on Bristol Blenheims.  As far as I can make out they flew nearly every one of their flights as a crew together.

They lost their lives when their Douglas A20 crashed on 9th July 1941 but prior to this they had a close shave whilst training at RAF Church Fenton, Yorkshire on 23rd June 1941.  They were flying at night in Blenheim L1403 when one of the engines suddenly stopped and disintegrated in mid-flight.  Both Denyer and Graham evacuated the aircraft and baled-out at 1500 feet. Denyer was uninjured and Graham was slightly injured.

At the beginning of July 1941 the squadron moved to RAF Ford, Sussex and were re-equipped with the Douglas A20 Havoc (also known as the ‘Boston’).  Sgt Denyer and Sgt Graham were assigned A20 Havoc serial number BJ485.

On the night of 9th July 1941 a number of aircraft from 23 Squadron took part in night training exercises. All the aircraft took off from RAF Ford on what was primarily one of a number of training flights to familiarise the crews with the A20 Havoc. Sgt Denyer was the pilot of Havoc BJ485  and Sgt Graham was the Air Gunner.   During the night training flight the aircraft had a major mechanical / engine malfunction and crashed.  Both Sgt Denyer and Sgt Graham died.

About Blenheim L1403 near Little Fenton.

On 23rd June 1941 this trainee night-fighter crew were carrying out a training flight when one of the Blenheim’s engines broke apart in the air and the aircraft became uncontrollable. The two on board abandoned the aircraft from 1500ft which then crashed near Little Fenton, not far from the airfield at 03.00hrs. It was later found the engine had failed through oil starvation. A letter found on the superb RAF Commands forum website give additional information as to what happened to this crew after this incident, as prior to leaving the OTU this crew were one of two to volunteer to join an “intruder” operational squadron.

Pilot – Sgt Robert Gordon Denyer RAFVR (927380). Uninjured.

Air Gunner – Sgt Donald Clinton Charles Graham RAF (628544), of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. Slightly injured.

Robert Denyer and Donald Graham were soon posted to 23 Squadron, and both lost their lives on 9th July 1941 during “night operations” when their aircraft, Havoc BJ485 crashed soon after taking off from Ford airfield after it had suffered some form of engine failure. It is believed they were learning to fly the Havoc type when the crash occured. Both are buried at Clymping Churchyard, Sussex. F/Sgt Graham was twenty four years old, Sgt Denyer’s age is not given in the CWGC online register but he was probably born in the Reigate area of Surrey in 1921, he was the son of Henry and Louisa Denyer (nee Appleyard).

Blenheim L1403 was built to contract 527114/36 by The Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd. at Filton as a bomber variant and was awaiting collection in November 1938. It was initially taken on charge by 34 Squadron at Upper Heyford the following month but was transferred to 21 Squadron based at Watton in March 1939. In late 1939 the aircraft was transferred to 90 Squadron at Upwood but on 4th April 1940 90 Squadron and 35 Squadron merged, the aircraft later became attached to 17 OTU at Upwood when it formed on 8th April 1940 but shortly after this date it was flown into MU for conversion to MkIf status, it next appeared on charge with 23 Squadron at Collyweston during the summer of 1940 before moving with the unit to Ford on 12th September 1940. Before the end of 1940 it had a spell on the books of 600 Squadron at Catterick and 219 Squadron at Tangmere. In early 1941 it returned to the care of 23 Squadron at Ford but 23 Squadron ceased operating Blenheim MkIf’s in April 1941 so the aircraft was transferred to the newly formed 60 OTU at Leconfield on 28th April 1941. 60 OTU were moved to East Fortune on 4th June 1941 and their role as a Blenheim OTU ceased so the aircraft was transferred to 54 OTU at Church Fenton. As a result of the incident detailed above on 23rd June 1941 Cat.E2/FA damage was recorded.


Blenheim Mk I


4 thoughts on “Crew A – Denyer and Graham

  1. How sad, but you must and I do feel so grateful for their courage at such a young age, we must never ever forget that wonderful generation who gave everything, their future.

  2. It saddens me that, these young men, had the ever-present thought that, during war, they may die. Yet, in this case, it wasn’t to be in combat. Sometimes, I read your posts, Pierre, and it reminds me of the reality of war. Thank you for the ever-present reminder, that these men, gave their lives, under any circumstances to preserve the lives of future generations.

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