Tragic accident as six die so far from home

Six Australians died in a tragic wartime accident close to a Derbyshire hamlet in January 1944. John Stone reports.

MIDDLETON-BY-YOULGRAVE is a charming hamlet some four miles south-west of Bakewell. A small bronze plaque just off the square there pays tribute to six young airmen who died in 1944 in a tragic wartime accident. That these men lost their lives not in combat but during a training flight seems shocking enough — but that all six were Australians who had travelled from the other side of the world to assist the allied cause adds extra poignancy to their loss. The men had flown from Church Broughton airfield in South Derbyshire on the evening of 21 January 1944. They were stationed there as part of 27 Operational Training Unit which included a significant Australian contingent undergoing night-time bombing training. Precisely what went wrong that night will never be known for sure. It appears that the Wellington (or ‘Wimpy’ as the plane was nicknamed by airmen at the time) was properly on course for its return to Church Broughton. The Wellington (BJ652) had flown low over Youlgrave shortly after 10pm and headed south along the valley towards the neighbouring village of Elton…

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