The Crew of Wellington HZ474 QT - R

This page is an appendix to the story of James Croxall listed on the Banstead War Memorial.
We have combined our research with that of several others related to other members
of the crew, as well as a researcher compiling the history of 142 Squadron.

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James Croxall

In the early months of the Second World War No. 142 Squadron served with the Advanced Air Striking Force in France and on 10th May 1940, the day the Germans invaded the Low Countries, it gained the distinction of being the first AASF unit to bomb the advancing enemy. Later that month No. 142 was one of the Fairey Battle squadrons which attacked the Meuse bridges in a further attempt to stem the German advance. The squadron was withdrawn to England in June 1940, and by the end of the year was converting to Wellingtons prior to engaging in the strategic night-bombing offensive.

Operating from RAF Binbrook, the squadron operated as part of bomber command's main force for the next two years. Victory in North Africa at El Alamein however, resulted in the allies capturing new airfields and so in December 1942 the Wellingtons of 150 and 142 Squadrons were transferred to this theatre.

142 Squadron moved to North Africa, initially based at Blida in Algeria, under MAC (Mediterranean Air Command) and subsequently took part in the Tunisian, Sicilian and Italian campaigns.


Wing Commander A A N Malan, Commanding Officer of No. 150 Squadron RAF,
briefs aircrew of his squadron and those of No. 142 Squadron RAF at Kairouan West,
Tunisia, for a night bombing raid on a target in Sicily.

Photographed by a Royal Air Force photographer and © Imperial War Museum (CNA 1088) .


HZ 474 QT-R was a Wellington X Bomber delivered to 142 Squadron in  June 1943, at Kairouan in Tunisia.

The Observers and Air Gunners Log Book kept by Ian Samuels, the navigator shows that Sgt Smith took the aeroplane up for Air Testing on the morning of the 19 June 1943. That same evening, and loaded with a 4000lb cookie bomb and Nickels (this was the RAF codename for leaflet dropping), it was flown on a five-hour round trip to Messina in Sicily by Sgt Smith.  Our crew were on board, namely

131900    P/O I I Samuels Navigator
1323586  Sgt  J F Croxall - Bomb Aimer
7026391  Sgt  H Cox - Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
1577278    Sgt  G S Brodie - Air Gunner

HZ474 was flown on several more ops as follows:

Date         Pilot                   Target                     Bomb load
24 June    Sgt Smith            Olbia  (Sardinia)     1x4000lb
26 June    S/Ldr Craigie      Naples (Italy)         1x4000lb plus nickels (leaflet dropping)
Missing in Action The crew of HZ474 QT-R
Missing in Action The crew of HZ474 QT-RA
Flight 16 September 1943
28 June    Sgt Smith            Messina (Sicily)      1x4000lb plus nickels
30 June    Sgt Smith            Cagliari (Sardinia)   1x4000lb plus nickels
  2 July     Sgt Smith            Trapani (Sicily)      1x4000lb
  4 July     S/ldr Craigie        Catania (Sicily)       Not listed on navigator's logbook or ORB.
                                                                          Did not return from this operation.

On its last operation, the pilot reported having engine trouble about an hour after take-off, but the problem must have been resolved and the crew flew on to their target area. HZ474 was shot down in the vicinity of its final target.  It broke on impact with the water, propelling Ian Samuels out through the Wellington's broken back. He was the only survivor.

    THE PILOT A P Craigie

Squadron Leader Arthur Percival Craigie DFC

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Service No. 76476

Killed in Action 4 July 1943

Aged 30

Son of John and Helen (Ella) Craigie and younger brother to "Jim" Major J H Craigie R.A.

The family lived in Wallington in Surrey, only a few miles from Banstead (home of James Croxall the Bomb Aimer)

Jim had two children, Stephen and Diana. Little Diana was not even two years old when her uncle was killed and remembers being told that her uncle Arthur never met her. She always thought that there was something a bit odd about the circumstances of his death and thought that perhaps he was on a secret mission. For the first time (Feb 2012) she now knows that he was on a normal bombing run and perhaps it was the difficulties with one of the engines that made the incident somewhat mysterious.

By that time Arthur had been using the surname Craigie for many years but this was not his surname at birth — it was Samuel. Craigie was Ella's maiden name, and when John Samuel married her, out of his Jewish faith, he was 'cut-off' by his family. Years later, when the boys were at school they suffered from the anti-semitic feelings of the time and changed the family's surname to Ella's.

Arthur had always wanted to fly but his mother, Ella, was terrified about the prospect. Prior to WWII, Arthur lived and worked in Singapore. His mother went out to see him and when she got there a small plane was flying overhead with much wing waggling and general showing off. She was not pleased when Arthur landed! It was a long way to go but Mrs Craigie made the trip at least twice, in September 1936 on the ship Gneisenau, and in April 1938 on the Kaisar-I-Hind.

Craigie's Drop Goal
One of the many write-ups in the Singapore Press.
Arthur was a fit and active young man and he joined the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) which, despite its name, allowed him to take part in far more than just cricket. He was often one of perhaps two or three team players regularly singled out for a mention by the Singapore press. In the first of many such reports, dated 18 October 1934, the SCC beat the Wiltshires (Regiment) at rugby. Arthur is mentioned in a typical fashion; " . . . the Regiment forwards took control, but they were stopped near the flag by Craigie . . ." Not satisfied with defending his team's line, he pushed forward at the opponents' line when he "intercepted and ran hard for the corner but was caught before he could get over. However, this put the club in an attacking position." The indication that he had no fear and he was the man to get the job done seems to have been present from an early age, and doing well in any activity he chose to undertake came naturally to him.

In December 1934 he is recorded as having been invited to play hockey for the SCC. Just two months later, in February 1935 he was invited to play Association football at the SCC, for the first XI. An article from The Straits Times dated June 1937 shows him competing in the Singapore Athletic Championships in the 220 yards race before suffering a leg injury later the same year.

By October 1938 Arthur was playing rugby for the Singapore team. A further report dated 16 October 1939 shows Arthur playing rugger for Singapore against a RN and RAF team. He played as 'centre-three' a different position to his normal place, but he did well and following a "neat movement that veered across the field" he scored right out. It must have seemed to Arthur a long time ago that he was beaten by his brother in a school boxing final at Cranleigh. Perhaps that is what spurred him on to do so well later in life.

Arthur was a Flying Officer attached to the Malayan Volunteer Air Force. Formed in 1936 it was originally titled The Straits Settlements Volunteer Air Force but was renamed in August 1940 to the MVAF operating mainly civilian aircraft such as the de Havilland Tiger Moth, Leopard Moth and Rapides. Personnel were recruited from members of the Royal Singapore, the Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Perak flying clubs, in addition the private airline, Wearnes Air service was commandeered.

We have no record of the date when Arthur joined but he is listed on the Nominal Role of Officers and Men in 1939. On 1 November 1939 he was granted a commission as a Flying Officer in the RAFVR for the duration of the hostilities and on 14 Sept 1940 he was promoted to the war substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant."

At some point he joined 148 Sqn. which had been set up on 14 December 1940 at Luqa, Malta, flying Wellington bombers. It's targets included locations in Libya, Sicily and also the Italian mainland, from Malta, until March 1941 when it moved to a new home at Kabrit in Egypt. From here it supported the 8th Army during its battles for control of the North African Desert, operating from a number of desert landing grounds. In December 1942, a week after arriving in Malta again, the squadron disbanded, with the crews being absorbed by other units on the island.

It was two months later that Arthur was awarded the DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS, on the 26 Feb 1943. The citation was included in the Third Supplement to the London Gazette and read:

"Squadron Leader Arthur Percival Craigie flying in squadron 148. This officer completed numerous sorties in the Western Desert. In several determined attacks on Tobruk, he achieved much success despite heavy opposition from the ground defences. On one occasion, after setting course for base, he returned to the target area and dived to 3000 feet to release a large bomb, which had not released in his first attack, on a heavy gun position. Squadron Leader Craigie has attacked many enemy concentrations. On one occasion he descended to 700 feet to rake a column of tanks and vehicles with machine gun fire. A large fire was started and much confusion ensued. On another occasion he disorganised a convoy of motor transport by his bombing. Squadron Leader Craigie has invariably displayed skill and courage of a high order. His untiring efforts and inspiring example have been reflected in the fine fighting qualities of his squadron."

Reference to the above citation gives a clear indication that this was a man who finished the job, even when the odds were against him. Despite the difficulties with one of his aircraft's engines on the night of 4 July 1943 Squadron Leader Arthur Percival Craigie made it to the target, Catania, but was shot down and killed in his heroic attempt to get the job done.

A P Craigie DFC Malta memorial
A section of the bronze plaque, Panel six of the
Malta War Memorial showing
Arthur Percival Craigie's name.
(digitally enhanced as original of poor quality).

Page last updated 7 March 2012 with new photo supplied by Diana Byrne Craigie
Awaiting new information from the Singapore Cricket Club and the Malayan Volunteers Group (emails sent 29 Feb 2012).

    THE NAVIGATOR (NB this section is WIP! 7 March 2012 pending more detail from RCAF Log Book) P/O Ian Samuels 142 Sqn

Pilot Officer Ian Israel Samuels

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

142 Sqn

Service No. 131900

Sole survivor of the crash on 4 July 1943

Aged 22 at the time of the crash

Died in Liverpool aged 80

Son of Samuel and Rose Samuels whose maiden name was originally Lewkonia but was changed to Levy when the family came to England.

Ian had a sister called Vicky who was just thirteen years old when her brother was shot down so she was never told by her parents. Whilst looking for some lipstick in her mum's bedroom, she came across a letter that advised the family that Ian was missing. This letter from the Casualty Branch, dated 17 July 1943 read ". . . your son was flying as navigator of a Wellington aircraft which set out for action and failed to return. Prophetically it continued "This does not necessarily mean that your son is killed or wounded, and if he is a prisoner of war, he should be able to communicate with you in due course."

It seemed to Vicky like three or four months before news that he was safe arrived but documents now in the safe keeping of Ian's daughter Vivienne, include a telegram dated 31 Jul 1943 stating simply


This communication arrived at the family's house in Liverpool but by this time they had temporarily moved to Wales. They had also taken on a young Jewish girl as part of the Kindertransport rescue of Jewish children and she and Vicky quickly became very close. The news was passed on to the two girls who cycled like fury along a prohibited track to catch up with their parents calling as they went "He's safe. He's safe".

Unlike James Croxall who was devoted to his much younger sister, circumstances meant that Ian and Vicky had spent very little time together, as he was a border at school before going on to study History at Cambridge. Ian was tall and athletic, loved to ride horses, listen to music, and read. Vicky was far the more boisterous of the two.

Cadet Ian Samuels initially trained at the Pan American Airways Navigation Section, University of Miami Coral Gables, Florida, as part of a 90-day course lasting from 3 March to the 2 July 1942, where RAF flying cadets were taught by civil contractors. Ian's logbook shows that he took his first flight in Sikorsky NC81V, and acted as second navigator on a two-hour flight on 1 May of that year. The Sikorsky was a flying boat and might seem an odd choice of aircraft, however PAA had flown long distances over water for many years, and it was this very activity which caused them to develop the best navigational techniques which they were now contracted to pass on to the young RAF students. Class 42-4 enrolled 149 students of which 142 graduated. Ian passed the course and his papers record him as Average in Flight and Exceptional in theory. On 2 July class 42-4 boarded the Silver Meteor and head out to Canada. . . . (more details to follow)

RAF training with Pan AM
RAF training with PAA – Ian Samuels is third from the left in the front row.
This photograph was probably taken in Miami in the summer of 1942 and the exact
location is almost certainly the San Sebastian Hotel, close to the University of Miami campus.

Immediately following the crash, P/O Ian Israel Samuels was propelled from his position and reached the surface in time to see the tail section sink below the water. He could see in the moonlight that none of the others had surfaced and despite an injury to his leg, he decided to swim to safety. He probably could not see any land in the darkness, but being the navigator, he would have known his last position. Further, the three hundred hours or so of classroom work back in Miami, included learning how to set a course using astro-navigation, a skill that probably saved Ian's life, as it is estimated that the distance from crash site to shore was some four miles.

After several hours, and completely exhausted, he reached the rocky coast of Sicily at dawn. At daybreak he was picked up by Italian sentries guarding the cliffs and was taken into captivity at Augusta naval base. Ironically, Sicily was not the best place to be at this time because of the intensive bombing being carried out by the RAF. Another fact that must have weighed heavily on Ian's mind was that he was of Jewish Origin.

He was moved around the island for several days before being taken to a POW camp at Capua near Naples, and later to Bologna where he contracted hepatitis.

Back in the UK, Ian's father wrote to the families of the other crew members advising them that Ian had made contact and was safe, and that he had written to him to try and establish the fate of the rest of the crew. The reply, if there was one, has not survived but we have a record of a letter from the pilot's father, Mr Craigie who was " . . . delighted to hear that your son at any rate is safe and sound and not knocked about too much."

When the armistice with Italy occurred in September 1943, all officer POWs were seized by the Germans and transported to Germany.

Ian spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft III, in Sagan but nothing is known of his time there as he never spoke about it. We do know that he was amongst those who endured the forced march in January 1945 when the Russian army advanced into eastern Germany. Ian was liberated at Lübeck in May 1945 and immediately sent a telegram to his parents. Dated 10 May 1945 it reads "Fit and well liable to arrive anytime love Ian"

When Ian returned home in 1946 he went to see his sister Vicky at her boarding school in Bristol but it was almost like two strangers meeting. The last time she had seen him was on Embarkation leave.

He returned to his home town of Liverpool where he joined the family business. He married Anita soon after and her support was instrumental in seeing him through the after effects of a bad experience. They had two children, Andrew and Vivienne. Ian died in 2001 aged eighty, having stubbornly refused to talk to his family about the experience which had affected him so badly.

    THE BOMB AIMER Sgt James Croxall 142 Sqn

Sergeant James Frederick Croxall

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

142 Squadron

Service No. 1323586

Killed in Action 4 July 1943

Aged 22

James F Croxall was born on 30 June 1921 and his birth is registered in Hertford.

James is listed on the Banstead War Memorial and his full story can be found on the Memorial pages here.


Sergeant Herbert Cox

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

142 Squadron

Service No. 7026391

Killed in Action 4 July 1943

Aged 32

Herbert Cox 142 Sqn

At 32 Herbert Cox was the oldest member of the crew. Born in Cardiff on the 24 November 1910, he was seventh of eight children, born to parents Fred and Florence. He attended the local Grammar school and the family recall he was bright at maths and physics.

Before he volunteered for the RAF he had worked for a printing company for 14 years, eventually becoming a costing clerk. Herbert is remembered by the family as a pleasant, smiling man, 5 feet 3½ inches in height with blue eyes and fair hair. He enlisted on 14 Oct 1940 and was very proud to be joining the RAFVR. Herbert broke the mould by joining the RAF as there was a long standing family commitment to the Royal and Merchant Navies. His initial training was as wireless operator.

In early July 1941 his Service Record shows he gained an unusual 'special qualification' which appears related to his wireless operator training, and later that month he was posted to Station HQ Signals at RAF Carew Cheriton in West Wales. This role was later combined with Pembroke Dock, the large Sunderland Flying Boat base. Herbert's wireless related activities here are unclear, but the Coastal Command Defence Unit at these locations was developing early airborne radar at the time.

On 27 Oct 1942, Herbert was posted to 21 Operational Training Unit at Moreton-in-the-Marsh. Here James Croxall, Ian Samuels (who has the same arrival date in his log-book), George Brodie, their first pilot W J Harbottle and Herbert would have been brought up to operational level and formed into a crew. After the course completion, they collected a new Wellington bomber and then flew out to North Africa via Portreath and Gibraltar.

Herbert was so excited at the prospect of finally being aircrew that he brought home his 'flying suit' to show the family on what was probably his last visit before being posted to North Africa. On 28 February 1943 Herbert is shown as posted to 142 squadron NWAAF (North West Africa Air Force). The flight down was a dangerous mission in itself as quite a number of allied aircraft were being shot down over the Bay of Biscay by German fighters.

During his time in North Africa, he wrote several letters home; the last was on the 4th July 1943. The concluding paragraph says.... "I am now waiting for some more papers and books to catch up with me, as I have not received any for over a fortnight. I will write you again shortly". Sadly he never was able to view those books and papers, or write again - within just a few hours he and three of his comrades had perished.

The Commanding Officer of 142 Squadron was an Australian, Wing Commander Augustus R Gibbes DFC. He can be seen in the briefing photograph at the top of the page standing behind Wing Commander Malan and wearing the forage cap. He wrote a letter to Herbert's next of kin, his sister, on the 10 July 1943. This is part of that letter …. " Before you read this letter you will have been informed by the Record's Office of the fact that your brother Sergeant Herbert Cox is missing from operations. The aircraft in which he was operating as wireless operator took off to attack an enemy target on the night of the 5th July, and has not since been reported. There is unfortunately at the moment no further information available, but you can rest assured that I will not fail to let you know of any news that may come to hand." (The letter states the night of the 5th July - it was actually the night of the 4/5th July).

Missions from North Africa were tough. Within six weeks Wing Commander Gibbes and all of his crew were killed when his Wellington, HE266, blew up over Viterbo, Italy. There is a remembrance page on W/C Gibbes and his crew at "Aircrew Remembered".

When Herbert was killed he had flown at least 18 operations from North Africa with the same crew, but different pilots.

Page last updated 6 March 2012.


Sergeant George Stuart Brodie

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

142 Squadron

Service No. 1577278

Killed in Action 4 July 1943

Aged 18

George Stewart Brodie, his registered birth name, was born in Stromness, Orkney, Scotland on 20 July 1924 to parents William Brodie and Elizabeth Mary Stout. This is at variance with his RAF record, which states that he was was born in Thurso, Orkney on 20 July 1923, one year earlier. Nothing more is known about his life prior to RAF service.

George enlisted with the RAF Volunteer Reserve in Birmingham on 24 July 1941, just four days after his 17th birthday and well below the minimum 18 years required at the time. The spelling of his middle name changes, as does his date and place of birth. One could surmise the likely reason for this was to enable him to be eligible to join-up.

In early January 1942 he was shown as being at two RAF Reception Centres at Blackpool, one of which was No 10 RC (Signals). This was also where Herbert Cox, the wireless operator/AG commenced his radio training in late 1940. It is possible that George might originally have been training in this trade, perhaps initially for ground duties. In April he was posted to RAF Station MacMerry, near Edinburgh, Scotland where 614 Squadron (County of Glamorgan) was based flying mainly Blenheim bombers and Westland Lysanders.

He was not there long, because on 6 July 1942 he moved to an Air Crew Reception Centre - with the Allies expanding their war effort into the Mediterranean, aircrew volunteers were being called for. From the A.C.R.C. he moved to 14 Initial Training Wing at Bridlington and on 28 August he was posted to 4 Air Gunnery School, which at that time was at Morpeth, Northumberland. George was was promoted to Sergeant on 10 August 1942.

On 13 Oct 1942 George was posted to 21 Operational Training Unit at Moreton-in-the-Marsh. Here George, James Croxall, Ian Samuels, Herbert Cox and their first pilot W J Harbottle met, were trained to operational level and formed into a crew. They were assigned a new Wellington bomber at 21 O.T.U. for ferrying to Portreath in Cornwall on 24 Feb 1943.

George, along with the others, is shown as posted to North West Africa Air Force 142 squadron on 28 Feb 1943 - this is very likely the day they left the UK and flew out to North Africa via Gibraltar. 'Tail end Charlie' George, (that was the nickname rear gunners were known by), would have had to be very alert on the long flight down, because German fighters had shot down quite a number of Allied aircraft in the Bay of Biscay area.

When George lost his life on the night of the 4/5th July 1943 he was two weeks short of being 19 years old, although his death certificate, based on his RAF Service Record, states that he actually was 19.

SOURCE: Article researched and compiled by Greg and Claire Halliday Page last updated 3 March 2013.

SOURCES : Same as those for James Croxall's story (see here).

In addition: PAA Navigators training from THE ARNOLD SCHEME by Gilbert Guinn

Page last updated on 3 March 2013.