R9438 TL-H from 35 Squadron

On 30th March 1942, the crew of Halifax R9438 TL-H from 35 Squadron took off at approximately1900 hrs from RAF Kinloss on the North East Coast of Scotland to participate in an attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz which was moored at the time in Fættenfjord in Norway. This was one of three 35 Squadron aircraft which failed to return from the operation.

Force Crew Position Age
Home Town
F/Sgt BUSHBY J B RAFVR Pilot 20 Died
Sgt PEACH A J RAFVR 2nd Pilot 21 Harrow, Middlesex, England Died
Sgt POWELL G N E RAFVR Navigator 22 Died
F/Sgt BUCKLEY J P B RCAF W/Op Air Gunner Canada Died
Sgt USHER M L RCAF W/Op Air Gunner 25 Canada Died
Sgt WOOD J A RAFVR Tail Gunner 24 Benson, Oxfordshire, England Died
Sgt MEREDITH R H RAFVR Flight Engineer 32 Died

This aircraft and crew had reached the target area and were en route back to base at Kinloss when they crashed. What actually happened to the aircraft to cause it to crash is not clear, possibly it ran out of fuel or perhaps the aircraft had been damaged by AA flak over Norway and could fly on no longer.

R9438 TL-H crashed into the cliffs at Fitful Head (1,000 feet) on Shetland on the return journey from the raid on Tirpitz with the loss of all onboard. The crash was not witnessed by anyone.

The next day, two local crofters, John Mainland and George William Leslie from Brake, Quendale, were out on Fitful Head checking their sheep. They rounded a corner and were taken by surprise to find two airmen who at first glance appeared to be alive since they were in a seated position. However, as the men approached the airmen they realised that they were dead and that an aircraft must have flown into the cliff. The crofters returned home and telephoned the RAF at Sumburgh to report the crash and the discovery of the bodies. The two airmen were identified as Flight Sergeant Buckley and Sergeant Usher who were the Wireless Operators, both were Canadian. With the help of Magnus Burgess of Quendale Farm, Tammie Flaws of Gord and Willie Aitken of Hillwell, the bodies were recovered and taken for burial in Lerwick Cemetery.

Also on the morning of March 31st the body of Sergeant Peach, the Second Pilot, was discovered hanging 200 feet above the water by his parachute on Fitful Head. Tom Warner was the RAF Padre at RAF Sumburgh, and despite the obvious danger to himself, decided that an attempt to recover the body must be made. He gathered a small party of men, a friend Flight Lieutenant Taylor, RAF driver LAC Finney and local John Mainland and together they went to Fitful Head to see what they could do. LAC Finney and Tom Warner descended the cliff until they were able to reach the body of Sergeant Peach. It was impossible to recover the body to the top of the cliff and so they no alternative other than to pull the body into a fissure in the cliff where they covered it with the parachute and some rocks. They were able to positively identify it as being that of Sergeant Peach from his identity disc. Prayers were said from the Burial Service and three shots were fired over the grave.

The following day Johnnie Eunson and some others went to look for possible survivors. During the search, Johnnie Eunson was lowered down the cliff face on a rope where he discovered some aircraft wreckage and another body. It was impossible due to the precipitous nature of the terrain to recover the body up the cliff face. The airman was identified as being Sergeant Meredith, the Flight Engineer. His body was wrapped in his parachute and a grave was made for him on the cliff using a natural fissure in the rock and the wreckage from the aircraft.

Over one year later, in May 1943, an unidentified body of a Sergeant was recovered from the wreckage which still lay on the cliff face. The body was taken to Lerwick Cemetery where it was buried on 14th June 1943 as "Unknown Sergeant from 35 Squadron". The three airmen who were not recovered at the time of the crash were the Pilot, Flight Sergeant Bushby, the Navigator, Sergeant Powell and the Tail Gunner, Sergeant Wood. It must be assumed that the 'unknown' grave is that of one of these three men.

For many years a wooden cross marked the spot there the aircraft hit the cliff. However, over the years the elements took their toll and eventually it fell to pieces. Willie Mainland (son of John Mainland who had played a part in the recovery of some of the crew) approached Dunrossness Community Council about the possibility of a more permanent memorial. In June 1995 a granite boulder bearing the names of the crew from the Halifax R9438 TL-H was unveiled and dedicated at a memorial service.

The new memorial to the crew of R9438 TL-H
The names of the crew on the memorial stone
Photo: M Ives
Photo: M Ives

The new memorial was unveiled by Mr Ted Whittles, cousin of the Second Pilot Anthony Peach, and the dedication ceremony was conducted by The Reverend Trevor Williams, the local parish minister. Wreaths were laid from The Royal Air Forces Associaton, RAF Saxa Vord and the family of Anthony Peach. A bagpipe lament was played before the ceremony was concluded by a benediction.

F/Sgt J P B R Buckley RCAF
P/O M L Usher RCAF
Unknown airman from R9438 TL-H
Photo: M Ives
Photo: M Ives
Photo: M Ives

Sergeant Buckly and Sergeant Usher are buried in Lerwick Cemetery, as is one 'unknown airman' from this crew. The remainder of the crew, Flight Sergeant Bushby, Sergeant Peach, Sergeant Powell, Sergeant Wood and Sergeant Meredith are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, England.

Flight Sergeant Joseph Bushby - Pilot
Joseph Bushby - Pilot
Sergeant John A Wood - Tail Gunner
John Wood - Tail Gunner

Back to Top
© Linzee Druce 2001-2012