Unidentified Grave

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by archivist, Jun 16, 2015.

  1. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    Hi Neville,

    I was about to add a corrective PS to my post - just to prove I'm not infallible - but got sidetracked into replying to a PM from one of our RC members I'd invited to adjudicate on our naming puzzle. As they saw fit to remain anonymous by not posting any comment here, I'd best say no more than that they couldn't help except to poo-poo any idea of this relating to any particular church denomination - more likely a regional tradition. Whilst inconclusive, it has the merit of debunking that RC idea of mine as a red herring.

    Then, re the serendipitously-timely photo, I visited Niebieska eskadra to see the state of play and note:
    They've got the latest burial details from you
    If they ever had a Layton Cemy record, with that photo, it's gone now - which seems a shame

    Re all this maritime stuff, quite honestly, I've no grounding in fluid dynamics and so can only approach it from something like an A-level physics perspective - I followed my OND with an HNC in communications engineering whilst engaged in audiometric research and eventually slid into IT. One thing about fluid dynamics, though, is that they've a lot in common with acoustics where it's a pretty basic fact that, in propagating sound, air molecules merely vibrate without otherwise moving - the sound actually being relayed by each molecule imparting its received energy to its neighbours down the line - 'passing on the energy baton' so to speak. In aquatic terms, this translates to the FAQ about ducks only seeming to go up & down on the waves without being carried along. Some assume this to be because the duck is quietly paddling away to stay put but the fact is that it simply doesn't need to because the water is following its own (current-driven) agenda and an inanimate piece of driftwood would behave no differently. Maybe you've never noticed but waves on a river can run in any direction regardless of its water heading inexorably downhill. Anyway, here's the PS I drafted first thing this morning:
    I'm thus completely stumped, after all, to envisage a likely reliable mechanism to account for our man's deposition on Blackpool beach - yet, unless we're to indulge in speculation about the likes of alien intervention, our evidence so far strongly implies that there must have been a natural way. What this isolated example doesn't tell us, of course bearing in mind the sheer number of drifting WW2 casualties entirely lost to us, is the odds against fate having succeeded in effectively delivering him back his family.

    That so much remains unknown, probably even now, was brought home to me yesterday in reading the 'Drift Methods' section of my first further reading reference where paragraph 4 concludes ...
    ... a previously unknown factor thus only deducible from a sufficiently-large sample evidently affected by it. I've no idea how Tait could infer an eddy from salinity data - unless something akin to variations in air pressure causing anticyclones - but can readily appreciate the overall deductive logic involved.

    FWIW, I've also been toying with wind-catching possibilities like entanglement with a part-inflated dinghy but the lack of crash detail - no logged SOS calls etc - does rather suggest that whatever happened was too quick & sudden for coherent procedures to have been carried out. I've in mind, here, the admittedly extreme case of one training Wimpy logged as spontaneously exploding in mid-air during extraordinarily violent evasive manoeuvres - simply, it was thought at the time, due to excessive vibration causing a petrol tank to fail.

    I'd thus love to audit your scuba/weather advisers' logic - not only hopefully for my education but just in case they're, perish the thought, both wrong. It no longer seems available for download, BTW, but I have a DjVu scan of the aforesaid book showing this otherwise-untranscribed advert before the title page ...
    ... which may imply that they were particularly apt to misunderstand. Meanwhile, I'm mainly relying on Wikipedia whilst awaiting Wiley's publication of 'Oceanography for Dummies' - not !

    But, at the end of the day, I'm left wondering whether the 'how' really matters,
  2. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Hello Steve,

    I was educated as an arts student and all of the science behind wind, waves and water eludes me! However, the one thing I can answer is the item on Niebieska Eskadra. I sent them that information - as I sometimes do - to fill a gap. They had nothing at all posted, which is why I was surprised when they sent me that photo of the original grave.

  3. simon102

    simon102 Member


    I have checked the Blackpool papers for the last week in October and the first week in November 1942, no joy I am afraid. Plenty of items about missing or dead local servicemen (and interestingly El Alamein and Stalingrad) but nothing relevant to your search. I also checked the Death Notices. I confirmed that no coroner's reports are held at the Local History Centre in Blackpool.

    I did check with the Carelton Cemetery office again this time with a different person in the office there. The person I saw said that the words "no memorial" referred to the entry above the one I photographed on my last visit however I was not allowed to look at the book again. You will notice that the original entry was crossed out in pencil and the reference to the memorial was also in pencil. The use of a pencil is not normal practice in this kind of document. If it is part of Grzegorz's entry then it might refer to the fact there was no stone memorial to move as part of the exhumation as opposed to a wooden cross as in your picture.

    So all in all not a very satisactory outcome. The only other action to take is to obtain Grzegorz's death certificate if you have not already done so.

  4. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Hello Simon,

    Thanks for trying but there is little point in finding his death certificate as it will only say something like "Cause of death: war related" and will not show any of the coroner's findings. I expect it will take several weeks for his military records to arrive and that should make some reference to the manner of his death.

    I had several people in Anglesey working on it (there were five others killed in the crash) but all seems to have gone silent at the moment and I think I will just have to wait for those records to arrive. The accident was not reported in the Anglesey press and a recent letter to them has brought no response whatsoever.

    Well, if it was easy it would be boring!

  5. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    I had assumed, Simon, with a 26 Oct burial date and Mrs Horner's typifying these cases as taking longer*, that the body had been found at least a week earlier - perhaps even as early as the beginning of the month, if not before, since it's only the death registration that definitely took place in October. Given that "old news is stale news", I'd have expected the local press to have got in there pretty sharpish to quell curiosity (finding & removal from beach hardly invisible activities), without necessarily identifying the corpse at that stage, and maybe not following it up, when the burial did take place, simply because he wasn't a local lad. But then I've not read any of those papers to get a feel for editorial policy at the time and so may be off the beam.

    Re the register entry, don't forget there was bags of room within the allotted entry space for comments - deducing commonality from unusual pencil usage is a tad iffy. And I've been meaning to ask, BTW, the headings of the 2nd & 3rd columns where I can't be quite sure of what's written in black ink - looks, to me, like "Easthen" & "5Fr" without any heading context to aid interpretation. C2 may be the OC's surname and C3 really "Sgt", as rank, but that's merely my best guess off the cuff.


    PS: Just a random press thought perhaps expecting too much of 'grapevine' & deductive powers - maybe a Burnley paper latched onto the story for Mary's sake ?

    * As previously referenced here, BBC - WW2 People's War - WINTER OF MY DISTRESS:
  6. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    I agree with you about "Easther" but I think "5Fr" looks more like "Ofr" as rank. I will try to follow this up to find out what the column headings actually are. That might give us a better idea.

  7. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Just as an afterthought, I have emailed the cemetery authorities to ask what the column headings really are. I will post here as soon as they reply
  8. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Latest news: I have been asked to write up this story for a Polish Aviation Magazine. I am very happy to do this and the only thing that is missing is a photograph of Grzegorz Gramiak. So, if anyone can help, please post it here!
  9. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    NB: A topical North Welsh drift story resolved itself on Sunday with a missing fisherman being washed up ~6m SE of Rhyl Flats where he was thought to have gone fishing last Tuesday night - suitably-redacted Daily Post headline coverage timeline as follows:
    • 14:50, Wed 15 - WATCH: RNLI search sea off Llanddulas
    • 18:01, Wed 15 - Missing fishing vessel's life raft found adrift unmanned as search off Llanddulas goes on
    • 19:27, Wed 15 - Missing fisherman's boat understood to be Conwy vessel the Susie Mo II
    • 08:58, Thu 16 - Missing Conwy fisherman named as X
    • 10:53, Thu 16 - Missing Conwy fisherman: Messages of support to family of X as search for lost boat goes on
    • 11:29, Thu 16 - Missing Conwy fisherman: Search for X called off
    • 11:38, Mon 20 - Body found in Kinmel Bay is missing Conwy fisherman X
    Calling that 4½ days equates to ~9.3 m/wk, at the lower end of my post 99 "9-13 m/wk" calculation, so tending to support the maximum (9wks to 22 Oct '42) timescale upon which it was based and not least Simon - just another non-theoretical factoid for the mix ...

    PS: Latest update ...
    • 18:26, Mon 27 - Inquest opens into death of fisherman X who was reported missing at sea
    ... predictably confirms his having worn a life-jacket
  10. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    I have now received a reply from the authorities in Blackpool and Steve and I both misinterpreted the hand written note!

    Column 2 heading is "Earthen, Brick or Vault" and is therefore earthen
    Column 3 heading is "Depth" and is 5ft

    Earthen squares with the original grave marker photo sent to me earlier and the depth is not really relevant.
  11. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    There has been a new twist to this story which is interesting but not critical. The lifeboat report states that the aircraft was still floating when they reached it and recovered two bodies.

    However, the RAF crash report states that it crashed into the sea, exploded and sank. Is it likely that it would have exploded more than half an hour after the impact? And where did the RAF get that information - an eye witness report perhaps?

    Attached Files:

  12. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    If we're to help, please quote the lifeboat report verbatim rather than paraphrase it - a lot could potentially be read into specific phraseology that you may have missed ... and you've said nothing of timing that we may compare to your ARC (Accident Record Card rather than fuller 2-sided foolscap Report on Flying Accident or Forced Landing Not Attributable to Enemy Action Form 765[C]).

    Another card that would probably help, by describing the a/c configuration well enough to determine whether or not it had flotation aids, is the AMC (Aircraft Movement Card) - torpedo bombers for example not carrying any due to lack of space for it. The ADC (Aircraft Delivery Card) would, FWIW, complete the set but not very usefully I suspect.

    Am I correct in recalling the ORB not being worth a jot here ? Assuming "15.40" to be when the accident was deemed to have occurred, I'm struggling to interpret "D. 3h. 50m." - expected total flight duration or time elapsed from take-off - as the latter would suggest they were heading back to base as something to maybe constructively relate to wind direction. My reading of the ARC's indication of the possibility of loss of control is that whatever went wrong wasn't apparent to the presumably-lay witness(es) - perhaps something as simple as a stall maybe triggered by an unfortunate gust of wind upsetting the proverbial apple-cart during a tight turn (South Stack may well have been an exercise waypoint requiring said turn).

    All I'll add for now is that I'm seeking to better inform speculation about what exactly it was that most likely exploded - bearing in mind that training flights didn't usually carry HE. Did, for example, the lifeboat crew collect their pair before or after the explosion and from exactly where - were they having to act quickly in expectation of an explosion (hence not thorough enough to get all 6) or mopping up after the explosion had already scattered 4 beyond their scope ?

  13. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Hello Steve,

    This is the verbatim report I received from the Maritime Museum at Holyhead:

    "At 03.30 hrs [pm] Lifeboat No 845 launched on the 20th August 1942 to an aircraft that had crashed South Stack and Penrhos Point in line quarter of a mile. Four crew lost and two bodies recovered by lifeboat on arrival at the port the authorities took charge of them (R.N.) Weather force 6 SW." the source advised verbally that the aircraft was still afloat.

    I am currently waiting whilst the Lifeboat crew at Holyhead check their records to see if they can enlighten me any further.

  14. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    Thanks Neville,

    So the crash apparently occurred >10m before the 15:40 recorded on the ARC and I'd have thought it unlikely that the lifeboat reached the scene by then - curious then that whatever scattered the crew (maybe too easy to suppose an explosion, if not the one mentioned on the ARC, doing that) should not have resulted in immediate sinking. It's also now clear that, unlike my initially envisaging the pair possibly being collected from the still-floating a/c, they were more likely to have just been fished out of the water. But experience has taught me not to expect (often approximated) times stated by different sources to necessarily agree - 15:30 perhaps even amounting to the same as 15:40 in this case.

    So what could have exploded - a choice presumably limited to fuel, bombs/torpedoes and/or a sea-mine ? Having yesterday dismissed the middle option as probably not HE, I suppose the next most likely suspect was fuel from classically-ruptured tanks/pipes - presumably due to whatever trauma was strong enough to rip open the geodesic airframe and scatter the occupants. Here I'm beginning to picture one wing-tip hitting the water sufficiently in advance of the fuselage to have been bent back and consequently torn open the side of the fuselage from which it projected - that thus downmost side then quite likely disgorging any of its crew not securely strapped in (in those pre-'clunk click' mind-set days). Since I'd expect any flotation carried to have relied on hull integrity, to some degree, it's not too hard to see such a large hole as I've theorised here eventually leading to delayed sinking. I'm guessing that either the encroaching seawater shorted out the electrics, to ignite leaking fuel, or the a/c incredibly triggered an errant untethered mine on its way down. (but see PS below)

    Now, to get into the sort of pickle leading to such a crash, I'm imagining a turning flight stall whilst banking from an easterly to a southerly bearing across the Force 6 (24.1–31 mph) 'strong breeze' thus pushing down on the wings (slightly more on the lower starboard wing unshielded by the fuselage to add to the tipping moment). That's assuming they were returning from somewhere out over the Irish Sea and turning more-or-less-directly south back to base. But that's just inexpert conjecture maybe a flier like Gage, IIRC, could usefully debunk/verify if PMd. Other than that, you may care to check out 'Special Notes on Turns' under section 17 (Steep Turns and Climbing Turns) of this archived Pilot Elementary Training: RAF Flying Cadets' Handbook transcript - or see pp39-40 of this arguably-handier complete printout ( View attachment 1943-04 - AP1979A - Cadets' Handbook of Elementary Flying Training.pdf ). Whether or not it's reasonable to suppose a qualified pilot would make such a mistake I don't really know but I can't help wondering why a supposedly-qualified crew was sent on an OTU-type training exercise in the first place !


    PS (to 2nd paragraph): The CoG (Centre of Gravity) of an a/c with one wing folded back would be shifted, off-centre, out toward/over the unbent/intact wing which would sink, by the weight of its engine nacelle, and rotate the fuselage ~90° with the theorised hole uppermost out of the water - thus slowing the flooding to an unholed rate more comparable to case history amply telling of delayed sinking.
  15. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member


    I can't find fault with any of your arguments. However, regarding the OTU type flights, it seemed to be the norm for 304 Squadron to do this. It was an exactly similar flight that caused their first ever loss 18 months earlier. On that occasion it crashed on land and the cause was known to be heavy icing on the wings and control surfaces and a very hard turn to avoid a building full of people. That aircraft was also free of bombs but still carried guns and ammunition.

    In the case of Z1172 the captain was experienced but all of the rest of the crew were just 11 days out of the OTU. Hopefully, more information will come to light when the Lifeboat Service respond.

  16. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    I'll leave the detailed minutiae to you who have access to documents etc but just let me add this...
    Perhaps there was no "explosion" but simply the splash of water thrown into the air at the point of contact, an impact severe enough to tear the fuselage open, rip off the wings etc? The crew could have begun baling out or simply have been thrown out, say in a somersaulting crash and therefore the bodies be thrown over a distance and not neatly together?
    They would no doubt still have been wearing Mae Wests to provide a degree of bouyancy and those first seen may have been the only ones readily visible (weight of opened parachute or being caught in sinking wreckage.
    So long after the event, it's difficult to reconstruct with any certainty, but the impact and noise of hitting the water might have also been similar to an explosion.
    Slightly different entry points into the sea may also account for different drift patterns for the bodies, some being taken in one direction by a vagary of current that didn't affect others.
    On another topic I've come across a Dunkirk casualty that came ashore many weeks later on the Dutch Freisian Islands
  17. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    I hope that the Lifeboat Station might have a fuller record than just that of the individual log. I had an acknowledgement yesterday and a promise to check things out as soon as possible and get back to me. Three bodies were recovered the first day - but only two in the original Lifeboat mission two others were picked up separately after two weeks. There must be some record to say how and by whom. With any luck the RNLI report will have a bit more to add.
  18. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    Thanks for your input Kevin - esp. for the merely-perceived explosion possibility that didn't occur to me. The Dunkerque case you mention was incidentally far from unique - David Railton mentioned one such earlier this year for which I partly supplied the GE-based LB222/R3203(KO-J) North Sea Wimpy comparison chart attached below showing the continental longshore drift current responsible for it. You may also find this North Sea resource handy - Sea currents | Seaonscreen - ZeeinZicht.
    pair o' wellies + currents.png

    Don't forget, aside from the RNLI Neville, to consider Holyhead Port Authority records and the log of any fishing trawler picking up the odd pair - the former perhaps supplying a vessel name leading to the latter. Pete Owens' CLIP - Crew List Index Project may be worth a mention here in case not yet on your radar - Pete incidentally living on Anglesey's W coast and thus potentially a fount of local knowledge relevant to this case. I found him very helpful & obliging but then I took care to break the ice by ringing him in the first instance (c/o 'Contact us' link not especially prominent at bottom of home page.

  19. archivist

    archivist Well-Known Member

    Hello Steve

    I think your idea of the Holyhead Port records is a good one. I didn't know that fishing vessels had logs but it seems reasonable though! If I can get one detail that will lead me to CLIP that might be very productive. It all hangs on the response from the Holyhead Lifeboat crew.

  20. Red Goblin

    Red Goblin Senior Member

    Hi Neville,

    Just to clarify, I suspect your trail won't actually lead you to CLIP - mainly mentioned for Pete's local nautical knowledge likely to prove useful if you get stuck. What led me to him was checking out a trawler's contemporary registered home port for Peter Clare's thread (Searching for a photograph of the trawler 'GLENOGIL' - General - WW2 Talk) - rather more esoteric info than you'll probably need and all incidentally just to help identify where best to look for general port photos not web-indexed for every trawler seen in them.

    Re logbooks, I'm not 100% sure but think it reasonable to infer, unlike for smaller fishing smacks &c if further justification needed, the need for a trawler to keep one tracking stuff like maintenance, crew & catches to commercially satisfy their owner(s), insurers, &c. I also reckon the odds stacked against any trawler involved actually being registered at Holyhead but possibly docked there to offload its 'human catch' - with bureaucratic harbourmaster consequences. Such logs may only survive in private collections - e.g. those of owners - but that's maybe straying into Pete's more people-centric records area of expertise ...


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