Personnel Index - Detail
From the panel at Runnymede
17/18 December, 1944; MUNICH:
Four consecutive operations were scrubbed before 17 of the squadron's aircraft eventually got away from Fulbeck bound for Munich on 17 December. It was another exclusive 5 Group attack using 280 Lancasters led by 8 Mosquitoes. Although there was some undershooting, most crews reported the bombing to be fanning out from the sector as planned. Four Lancasters from the Group failed to return. Back at Fulbeck, the squadron's aircraft started landing at around 02.00hrs. F/O Edward Essenhigh (PB355) and crew were overdue and reported as missing. It was established later in the day, that their aircraft had in fact crashed on Worthing beach at 17.55hrs the previous evening en route to Munich. The aircraft had blown up, luckily without loss of civilian life. Only one crew member was found in the wreck; that of F/Sgt Gordon Callon. His body was recovered from the rear turret and at the time caused some consternation to those at the scene, as he wore pilots wings. Sgt Callon was one of the volunteer pilot/rear gunners operating the 'Village Inn' turret. The bodies of the remainder of the crew have never been found; their whereabouts and indeed the reason for the aircraft's demise still remains a mystery. Gordon Callon is buried in Littlehampton, Sussex, whilst his fellow crew members are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.
Lancaster PB355 (EA-B)
F/O E.G. Essenhigh Pilot (Killed)
Sgt H. Varey F/E (Killed)
Sgt L.B. Bourne NAV (Killed)
F/S F.B. Rees W/OP (Killed)
Sgt J.W. Moore A/G (Killed)
F/O J.A. Thomson B/A (Killed)
F/S G.F. Callon P/AG (Killed)
Crew on their 11th operation
There is a memorial on Worthing Pier to commemorate this crew
Courtesy of Graham Lelliott we have some text from the local newspaper taken from a number of days.
Worthing Herald - Friday 22 December 1944
CRIPPLED PLANE CRASHES ON BEACH
With live ammunition exploding every few seconds, a Worthing N.F.S. (National Fire Service) crew, under Company Officer A. Duffield, attacked a fiercely burning plane on Worthing beach recently.
Eye witnesses, a few minutes earlier, had seen a plane in obvious difficulties. Through the dusk of the early evening they had watched the pilot's struggles as he fought to avoid crashing the crippled plane on the town. Directly in its path was the Plaza Cinema; its huge auditorium was packed.
It was on the water's edge - literally within a few hundred yards of this cinema - that the aircraft struck. An explosion followed - then a tongue of red flame as the wreckage caught fire. Numerous smaller explosions followed as the plane's ammunition exploded.
The N.F.S. were quickly on the spot. Police and wardens were also there to lend a hand. A line of hose was run out and the men ignored the flying missiles until they had recovered the body of a sergeant-pilot. It has been stated that the remainder of the crew had baled out, but no confirmation can yet be obtained.
There was extensive damage to windows in the town's coastal area and, in certain freak instances, far inland, Montague-street suffered heavily. Traders worked by the lights of their shops - for a while the dim-out was not so dim - to clear up the broken glass with which the beach was strewn.
Worthing Herald - Friday 28 May 1948
ENGINE IN SAND DEFIES EXPLOSIVES
Explosive charges were used by R.A.F. maintenance men on Wednesday evening in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy a plane engine embedded in the sand off Heene-road. The engine has been there since December, 1944, when a R.A.F. bomber crashed on the beach, after the pilot had skilfully guided his damaged machine over the town. The pilot lost his life is the crash.
Several attempts have been made to dislodge the engine, which has caused an obstruction to local fishermen and boatmen. Cranes have been used, and efforts to drag it clear by means of tow ropes attached to service lorries also proved ineffective.
On Wednesday police kept people from the foreshore while a R.A.F. demolition squad, under W.O. J. V. Evans and Sergt. G. Lipscomb, from Thorney Island, placed gun cotton charges near the engine. These were detonated, and pieces of wreckage were blown over the sands.
Windows of hotels and houses on the front were shaken by the explosion, but the main part of the obstruction still remained un-disturbed.
Worthing Herald - Friday 12 August 1949
THE MAN WHO SACRIFICED HIS LIFE NINE DAYS BEFORE HE WAS DUE TO BE MARRIED
Pilot hero's name revealed
A woman walked into the office of Mr Ernest G. Townsend, O.B.E., Worthing's Town Clerk, on Wednesday, and gave him information which for nearly five years the townspeople have wanted to know - the name of the pilot of a crippled bomber who sacrificed his life by deliberately crashing his plane on the beach to avoid buildings in the town.
The pilot was Flying Officer Edward Gordon Essenhigh, of 54, Bishopthorpe-road, York. His aunt, Miss Ethel Maud Essenhigh, visited the Town Clerk to see if she could obtain any further details of her nephew's death, which occurred on December 17, 1944. She also revealed that five other members of the crew were killed in the crash.
Flying Officer Essenhigh was on his "Black Gremlin" mission - the thirteenth. The bomber was bound for Munich, where a special target was to be attacked. The next day he would have been celebrating his 24th birthday, while nine days later he was due for a spell of leave and intended to marry his fiancee, Miss Eileen Colley, also of York.
Essenhigh, who was 6ft. 2½ins. tall, was trained and commissioned in Canada. Before joining the R.A.F. he was a chemistry apprentice.
Worthing residents will remember that the plane, after being in difficulties at dusk, came from a northerly direction. Eye-witnesses stated that it looked as though the pilot was trying to avoid the built-up area near Montague-street. The plane limped over the Plaza Cinema and then crashed near the water's edge opposite Heene-terrace. The bomber immediately exploded and burst into flames.
Members of the N.F.S. and Civil Defence who extricated the body of the pilot came under a hail of fire from exploding ammunition. The faces of houses along the Front suffered extensive damage and shops in Montague-street had windows blown out.
Afterwards, letters poured into the Herald office suggesting that a form of memorial should be erected in recognition of the pilot's action. The Mayor at that time, Alderman (then Councillor) H. W. Shalders, said that until he was in possession of fuller information of all the facts he could take no action.
In 2018 a large number of aircraft remains were discovered.
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