YORKE, Donald Henry

  • 29 years
  • United Kingdom
  • Sergeant
  • 1467118
  • Ventura I, AE742
  • 15th March 1943
  • West of Guernsey
  • Allied Aircrew Memorial, Guernsey

Donald Henry Yorke was a Sergeant with 21 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve whose service number was 1467118.

Born 13th October 1914 in Felixstowe, Donald was the fourth of five children of Harry Yorke and Eleanor Mary nee Taylor. In 1939 the family were living at The Cottage, Church Road, Felixstowe. is father a retired Postman died in 1940 and his mother appears to have moved to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

During the early part of the war, 21 Squadron, flying Blenheim IVs, played a prominent part in 2 Group’s offensive against shipping in the English Channel and the North Sea, and “fringe” targets on the Continent. The squadron went to Malta in December 1941, and, flying from Luqa, attacked shipping in the Mediterranean and land targets in North Africa. It was disbanded on 14th March 1942, and re-formed the same day in England. Later that year it received new equipment in the form of the Lockheed Ventura, and on 6th December, operating from Methwold, was one of the squadrons which made the daring low-level attack on the Phillips radio and valve factory at Eindhoven. 21 Squadron continued daylight operations with Venturas-albeit spasmodically. until early September 1943.

On Monday 15 March 1943 weather was misty in the morning clearing about midday. Operations were ordered that day for 21 Squadron, instructions were received for 12 aircraft to carry out a Circus operation on aerodromes at St, Brieuc and La Plaine in Brittany. Eventually 11 Ventura aircraft led by Wing Commander King took off from Methwold at 16:45 and flew down to RAF Exeter to refuel and collect a 10 Group fighter escort. One of the aircraft was Ventura AE742, the crew were Sgt. Edward Denis Lloyd Critchett, Sgt. G A Targett, Sgt. J Denyer and Sgt. D Yorke.

The target was bombed from 10.000 to 10.500 feet at 17:47 bursts were seen on the south east side of the aerodrome, near buildings and on the south west dispersals. A twin engined enemy aircraft was also observed as hit. On leaving the target aircraft code “M” Ventura AE742 was damaged at 17:55 hrs in the port engine, black smoke was observed from other aircraft in the flight and it was presumed the engine was on fire. This aircraft was seen to fall behind and loose altitude. The plane was seen to ditch at 18:05 hrs 6 miles west of Guernsey. At least 3 of the crew were seen in a rubber dinghy by an air-sea rescue Walrus aircraft. The remaining 10 aircraft all landed safely at Exeter between 18:50 and 19:10 hrs.

10 Group RAF carried out three unsuccessful air-sea rescue searches for the crew. Air Gunner Sergeant Yorke was killed in the aircraft, Sgt. Critchett and Sgt. Targett were taken prisoner the dinghy washing up on the French coast. There appears to be no mention of Sgt. Denyer being killed or captured, so it is assumed he must have been rescued but those details are unconfirmed.