John Walter Ronald Griffiths
JOHN WALTER RONALD GRIFFITHS F/Sgt.RAF d.11 September 1941 aged 20 650725
JOHN WALTER RONALD GRIFFITHS was the son of George Griffiths and of Eva Griffiths (née Upton), of Boothstown. His parents were married at Leigh in 1916 and John was born towards the end of 1920, the eldest of four children. At the start of World War II, he was posted to 102 squadron which was based at RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire, near to RAF Linton-on-Ouse. Topcliffe was opened in September 1940 as a bomber station within Bomber Command. From there, 102 Sqn flew the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley heavy bomber, a twin-engined aircraft which was at the forefront of the early bombing raids over Germany.
On 15th August 1941, one of the Whitley bombers (serial number Z6746) overshot the runway at Topcliffe on return from operational duties to Hanover at 05.01hrs while landing in poor visibility. The undercarriage collapsed when the aircraft swung out of control and it sustained damage considered serious enough that it had to be written off. All five members of the crew escaped serious injury. It included Sgt. Griffiths who was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.
A month later, on 11th September 1941, another Whitley bomber Mark V (serial number Z6870) crashed at 22.50hrs within Topcliffe airfield boundary while the crew were practicing overshooting during a dual-instruction part of a night flying exercise. Three of the crew were killed and two others injured. Whitley Z6870 was taken by 102 Squadron at Topcliffe in July 1941 and remained with them until the accident on 11th September 1941. The aircraft was written off by the Air Ministry as suitable only for scrap as a result of a flying accident (officially Cat.E2/FA).
The names of the crew were:
Pilot - S/Ldr. Joseph Damien Reardon DFC RAF (43042), aged 26, of Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Pilot - Sgt. Harold Edwin Moore RCAF (R/70734), aged 23, of Lawson, Saskatchewan, Canada. Wireless Operator / Air Gunner - F/Sgt. John Walter Ronald Griffiths RAF (650725), aged 20, of Boothstown.
Two other crew members, whose names are unknown, were injured.
Researched and written by Paul R Speakman