Personnel Index - Detail
Flew 29 Hampden operations as Captain and 9 as Second Pilot.
Later Wing Commander DFC and DSO & Bar.
14/15 April, 1940; MINELAYING:
Three aircraft were ‘stood up’ for gardening. Take-off was 19.00hrs at 5 minute intervals. F/O Forsyth and F/LtMitchell were 'on' again, and were joined by S/Ldr Lowe. Bad weather intervened and prevented the mines being planted. Both Mitchell and Forsyth returned to base safely, but S/Ldr Lowe (L4043) and crew were experiencing severe difficulties. S/Ldr Lowe reported the following:
"We did not lay our mines due to bad weather which rapidly deteriorated on the way home. I was having trouble with all my flying instruments but the compass and turn and bank indicators were still working. Eventually we managed to make contact with Hemswell and they gave us a bearing which proved to be inaccurate. Shortly after crossing the coast an aerodrome was sighted flashing a red 'D'. We were unable to get a response so decided to send an 'SOS' on the Aldis lamp... again nothing happened... we then fired a red Very light and this time searchlights came on to the north of us." S/Ldr Lowe made for the searchlights with the intention of being 'brought in' by them. One engine then packed up but they managed to maintain height on one. When this engine started to spit and cough the captain offered his crew the option to bale out... none wished to jump. The aircraft was rapidly becoming uncontrollable and the captain decided to force land on the coastline; the pilot continues:
"I instructed the crew to collect in the compartment behind the pilot’s seat. I held off as long as possible but the aircraft swung violently towards the cliffs and rocks below. I managed to correct this slightly, but not enough to clear a line of rocks running out into the sea. When I was holding off and practically stalling, I pulled the nose up and landed on a tail slide with very little speed."
P/O Anthony Bryan-Smith was attempting to join the other two members of the crew amidships when the aircraft landed. He was only half-way through the rear door and was killed instantaneously. The navigator, P/O Beauchamp received slight cuts on the hand, the W/Op, AC1 Appleton bumped his head and was slightly concussed and the pilot escaped with a cut lip.
The Hampden crashed at about 04.00hrs near Ryhope, south of Sunderland.
S/L Lowe Pilot (Injured)
P/O Beachamp Nav (Injured)
Cpl Appleton W/Op (Injured)
P/O Bryan-Smith (Killed)
Additional details received from his son, Paul Beauchamp:
Father joined RAF bomber command in Oct 1937 and was posted to 49 Squadron (B Flight - Hampdens - Scampton) in December 1938 until November 1940.
He then joined 207 Squadron (Manchesters/Lancasters) and flew a tour between September 1941 and August 1942.
His 3rd and final tour was with Mosquitoes (night fighter), briefly with 23 Squadron July/September 1944 and then 157 Squadron between September 1944 and August 1945.
Father joined B.O.A.C. in 1946 flying amongst others, the Handley Page Hermes, the ill-fated Comet 1, Lockheed Constellations, Comet 4, and finally the Vickers VC10.
He always considered he had experienced the most exciting development period in aviation history, from the delightful Tiger Moth bi-plane in 1936 to the second generation jet, the VC10.
Father died suddenly in 1996 aged 80.
He always spoke warmly and modestly of his time in Bomber Command, especially the early pioneering days of hit and (mostly) miss bombing and mine-laying sorties!
I have great admiration for father and for all bomber crews, it was a hugely important and dangerous occupation that called for great personal bravery, endurance and sacrifice.