Following-on from yesterday's post, my thanks to Tony Ovenden for sending over the records of two Liberator bombers that crashed in Thanet in 1944.
From one of the documents, it's clear that one of the two aircraft, from the 392nd USAAF bombing group (BG), - Based in East Anglia near Wendling, Norfolk, - crashed off the the beach at Westgate on 27th April 1944. The other, from the 446th BG, - Station 125, Flixton - crashed at Foreness Point, both following a raid over Germany.
It's clear that the censor did not pass the report for the Thanet Gazette and until now, I had no idea of the incident, which had the Westgate aircraft ditch on the beach to avoid the town.
Thanks to the internet, we can discover more about the men and the missions involved on that day.
Returning debriefings gave an account that the Westgate aircraft had been hit by flak with one man bailing out at 1930 hours, and the ship finally crashed landed at sea near Westgate-Kent with (5) of the crew killed and (4) injured in the crash. The date of this final 392nd de-briefing account was 1 June 1944. No other information was given in these general reporting at the time though one member, Sgt. Kent, who had bailed out earlier, was taken as a POW.
After the war, Sgt. Kent, one of the surviving crewmen and the only POW, gave the following account of the crew’s plight in a report given 9 March 1946:
"We took off from England about noon after a very quick briefing which only the Pilot and Navigator attended. I was flying as spare Radio Operator at the time and did not know any of crew members until that day. We bombed an airfield in France and were very near the French coast on our return trip when we were struck by flak.
The plane started in a slow spin (and) the Co-Pilot left his position and started pulling off (his) flak suit and oxygen mask. The Engineer prepared to leave his position in the upper turret. It was my duty to clear the flight desk, open the flight deck doors and the bomb bays, which I did and stood waiting for orders. The plane was still dropping and the Engineer came out of his position trying to get his feet on the cat-walk where I was standing. In order to make room for him and for the Co-Pilot who had left his position, I was forced to bail out. I delayed opening my parachute for several thousand feet and then looked around expecting to see others about, but saw none nor could I see any plane going down. While a prisoner, I heard in a round-about-manner that the plane had kept on in a rather long coasting dive until it hit in the Channel a little way from the English shore; and that one man at least (had) survived the crash. I give you the above information with an open mind as it came to me from fellows who had been in the same outfit (392nd) as I, but might have been speaking of an entirely different case...".
The following members of this aircrew are interred in the U.S. National Overseas Military Cemetery at Cambridge: Ross; Aughinbaugh and Rich. There is no information listed for Sgts. Munford and Fink. Both Ross and Aughinbaugh are shown to have been awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart.