ACOMBE-HILL, Cyril Arthur

  • United Kingdom
  • Sergeant
  • 1586706
  • Lancaster I, W4315
  • 28th January 1944
  • North/West of Guernsey
  • Allied Aircrew Memorial, Guernsey

On 28 January 1944 a Lancaster Mk. I numbered W4315 belonging to No. 61 Squadron was making its way back from a target in Germany, German Flak (anti-aircraft) had hit the aircraft when still over Germany. The aircraft was badly damaged and limping back. It was lost and came out over the coast of France, unsure where it was it asked for a heading for England. It laboured its way up towards and slightly to the North West of Guernsey when it finally ran out of fuel.

It ditched very badly in horrendous seas snapping the plane in two, the tail section almost immediately started sinking. In that section was the 21 year old flight engineer Sergeant William BEACH (156712), 19 year old Sergeant Terence BOWDEN (1591660) and Sergeant Cyril Arthur ACOMBE-HILL (1586706). The other four members of the crew got into a dingy from the starboard wing, they stayed for as long as they could attached to the main fuselage and wing, but with lots of jagged metal, they had to cut loose. They whistled for the other three that were never seen again. The survivors were the Pilot, Pilot Officer Eric Albert Williams (157067)aged 23, the Navigator, Flight Sgt. Douglas Richard Beesley (1391522) aged 22, the bomb aimer, Sgt. A.D.M. Anderson (1394596) and Wireless operator, John Lewis Parker (1146642) aged 23.

The four in the dingy had a number of rescue attempts made and eventually after nearly two days in the water of the west coast of Guernsey they were picked up by an air-sea rescue launch. Sergeant William BEACH’s body was washed up in Portinfer Bay on Guernsey and he was subsequently buried at Fort George. Sergeant’s Acombe-Hill and Bowden have no known grave.

The Pilot, Pilot Officer Eric Albert Williams was subsequently awarded the DFC on 2 June 1944 for his actions that night. The survivors remained together as a crew, but were again shot down on the 12 April 1944 in Lancaster JA695 whilst attacking Aachen this time only F/Sgt. A.D.M. Anderson survived to be taken Prisoner of War. The remainder of the crew were originally buried in Antwerp-Deurne but since have been reinterred at Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp.