Tan Y Bryn Farm -The Crash Site of WWII Handley Page Halifax HR723 M Mother.
The Tan Y Bryn Farm Campsite at Bryn Pydew, near Llandudno, Conwy has within it's boundary the crash site where M for Mother a Handley Page Halifax Bomber came down on the 27th October 1944.
The above is Halifax DK148 'MP-G' "Johnnie the Wolf", of No. 76 Squadron 'resting' at RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Yorkshire, after crash-landing on return from an operation to Essen on the night of 25/26 July 1943. This aeroplane is not the one of interest below, but was a picture I found on the web of a crashed Halifax that seemed to show how scary it must have been to fly in one.
The aeroplane that crashed at Tan Y Bryn, Bryn Pydew was Handley Page Halifax HR723, M Mother.
At some point this Halifax mkII 1a, was retired from bomber duty and switched to a training role with the 1666 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) at Wombleton, Helmsley. It is suggested this transfer to training duties happened around May 1944 when RAF Heavy Bomber Squadron 77, moved from RAF Elvington to RAF Full Sutton, Yorkshire where it is believed 77 Squadron received newer Halifax mkIII's and mkIV's versions as part of the move.
It was on a training flight as part of 1666 HCU in October 1944 that HR723 crashed at Tan Y Bryn Farm. The mostly Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) crew had already baled out prior to the crash, all surviving except the Canadian wireless operator.
The plane took off from Wombleton, Helmsley at 19:25 on the 27th October 1944 on a training/navigation exercise. The crew comprised Flt Lt Harold D O'Neil as pilot; Flying Officer Dunlop, navigator; flying Officer W A Steele, bomb aimer; Pilot Officer H W Ferris, wireless operator; Sgt Jack Wagstaff, flight engineer; Sgt Mike Gurcia, mid‐upper gunner; Sgt Norm Miller, rear gunner.
Wagstaff was the only RAF member of an otherwise all Canadian crew.
The proposed route was Wombleton to Reading, onto Bath then over the Bristol Channel, then north and then northeasterly back to Yorkshire. The plane experienced various technical difficulties which meant that it could not maintain the height required (17,000ft).
The superchargers did not seem to function and so the aircraft began a series of ascents and descents, and course changes to avoid cumulo‐nimbus clouds and possibility of further icing. Eventually, they were unable to climb and the last descent began. The crew were ordered to bale out. They waited until the H2s radar showed that they were over land. The crew exited in an orderly fashion and the pilot, who was last to leave, set the controls so that the plane would head out over the sea.
However, the Halifax had other ideas and started to veer to the right, causing it to make a number of descending circular patterns over Llandudno, Conwy. On its last pass, it flew back inland over Llandudno North Shore and hit Bryn Pydew hill at 23:25hours, almost exactly four hours after taking off in Yorkshire. The crew all landed safely, apart from Pilot Officer H W Ferris (wireless operator) who was sadly killed after his leg straps failed to stop him sliding through the harness when the parachute opened.
His body was found in a field of what is now Pinewood Riding Stables. Dunlop came down in the river Conwy; Steele and Gurcia on mudflats on the east bank of the river, Miller and Wagstaff came down in fields near Hendre Wen farm. O'neil came down near Dinerth Road, Rhos on Sea.
Source: Doylerush, E, 1999, No Landing Place Volume 2: More Takes of Aircraft Crashes in Snowdonia, pg90‐2
The aircraft crashed into Bryn Pydew hill at Bryndulas cottage, slid up across the road, the port wing slicing the roof off Cil Wllidiart cottage after it crossed the road and ended up in Tan Y Bryn farm field, where it burnt out. Although Bryndulas cottage was undamaged, the adjoining animal sheds were detached and moved by the impact and the nearby hedge caught fire. The remains of the aircraft were scattered widely.
When Cil Wllidiart cottage was rebuilt after the War, the owner's son, David, cleared up a large amount of wreckage including engine parts, which he buried in an adjoining field. He was not able to remember exactly where it was buried. The author looked over the field and found a number of pieces of engine casting and many other unidentified fragments.
Source: Hill, 1994
Air Ministry Form AM 1180 contents :
This HALIFAX was one of 250 MkII 1a specials with Rolls Royce Merlin XX engines delivered to the RAF by Handley Page of Radlett, between December 1942 and August 1943. The MKII 1a was first version that properly overcame the handling and performance issues of earlier Halifax versions. Its service life included assignments to Squadrons 405/35/77/1666 HCU. The aircraft was abandoned after icing caused loss of control at Tan Y Bryn Farm, Bryn Pydew, near Llandudno on October 27th 1944.
By an amazing coincidence, the aircraft crashed barely a half-mile from the home of Jack Whiteley who flew in HR723 on bombing missions as mid-upper gunner in Cecil Manson's 77 Squadron when it was still a front line bomber.
The photo below is of Halifax HR723 during it's earlier war career with it's then bomber crew. Jack Whiteley, the upper Gunner at the time, can be seen second from right.
Bomber crew of Halifax HR723 KN-M at Elvington with their aircraft in November 1943.
Left to right: Paddy Jackson (Bomb Aimer); Gerry Angel (Rear Gunner); Cecil Manson (Pilot); John Diffley (Wireless Operator); Clifford Smith (Navigator); Jack Whiteley (mid-upper Gunner). It is not recorded who the Flight Engineer was.
As can be seen from the markings on the aeroplane it had already covered 14 bombing missions by the time of the photo at the end of 1943. That the aeroplane made it through those very hazardous missions, shows that "M Mother" did a good job of looking after it's crews.
RAF 77 Squadron went on to be equipped with Halifax mkIII and mkIV's and took part in many big raids, but their casualty losses were huge. In WWII this one squadron suffered 890 killed in action when the total staff compliment at the base was only 1,800.
Although this web page is dedicated to Halifax HR723, 'M for Mother' and all who flew in her, it also marks the loss of all those of WWII, both at Sea, on Land and in the Air.
Let us remember them all, especially in 2019 the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings of 6th June 1944.
If anyone has any information about Halifax "M Mother" or her crew please use the Contact Us page.