Sunday, 25 May 2008


Originally posted 5th Feb 2008

It was early afternoon, around 1.30 pm, on 14th December 1940, a Wellington bomber which had got lost over the North Sea ploughed into trees on high ground near West Edmondsley Farm. Well, planes do come down in wartime, but not usually on this sleepy little hamlet. The impact point was in the woods close to the Wardle’s Bridge Inn.Out of fuel, the plane was seen to make a hard right turn to avoid the farm, a Grade II listed building, and the people in it. At the crash scene the Wellington’s back was broken and the nose area, presumably the Perspex front gun turret was broken open and in the stream. The pilot was still strapped in his seat.There were four crew members aboard, unusual as a Wellington normally carries six, and all were injured, three of them quite badly but all were alive. The alarm was raised and the injured were taken to the farm dairy, using an old door as a stretcher. They were given morphine and first aid by Dr Mukerji, the local GP from Craghead. They were taken to Chester-le-Street Hospital and later transferred to York Military Hospital.The crew were Flying Officer M. Kostuch, Flying Officer Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski, Sgt J Boczkowski and P/O Stanczuk. Flying Officer Waroczewski was later to become something of a hero, as will be explained later.There were various reports of this accident and most were generally accurate but a few errors had to be sorted out before the real picture emerged. The plane was said to be a Mark III Wellington from 604 Squadron flying out of RAF Syerston. 604 was a fighter squadron (flying Mosquitoes, Beaufighters, Gladiators and Blenheims) and did not fly out of RAF Syerston and the Mark III did not come into service until six months after the crash, nor did 304 Squadron ever fly Mark IIIs. However, 304 Squadron had just moved to RAF Syerston and flew Mark Ic Wellingtons.It was actually on a training mission, not a bombing mission, as reported. 304 Squadron did not fly operational missions (i.e. bombing raids) until the following AprilOnce this was established, I tried to track down the crew. I still could not identify the two unnamed crew members and M Kostuch does not appear in any further records I have seen, except an entry in the Squadron’s Operational Record Book which says that he returned to the squadron on 17th March 1941. A fellow amateur researcher found more details and passed them on; the two missing crewmen were Sergeant Bogradowski and P/O Stanczac (the spelling on the latter is uncertain). Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski was born on 25th December 1911 at Suchiednow in the Province of Kielci, Poland. In spite of his injuries, he returned to the squadron and was, sadly killed in another Wellington (R1392) on 28th May 1941. His aircraft was hit by flak whilst he was on a bombing raid over Boulogne and one of his crew baled out but was killed. The pilot regained control of the aircraft and managed to get it back to England. Another two crew members baled out and survived but the plane crashed at Darwell Hole, near Brightlingsea, Sussex. Flying Officer Waroczewski and the two remaining crewmen were killed. His body was taken back to RAF Syerston (Nottinghamshire) and he was buried in Newark Cemetery – he was twenty nine years old. He is also remembered on Panel 75 of the War Memorial at RAF Northolt.

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