Is this the missing Stirling LJ850?

A recent report has identified what is believed to be the wreckage of Stirling LJ850 ‘QS-Y’ of 620 Squadron (RAF), that crashed whilst on a mission to drop paratroopers behind German lines.

Crew of Missing Stirling LJ850

The crew of LJ850 *1

The aircraft was part of a three ship formation and disappeared on the night of 17th / 18th June 1944, with a number of RAF personnel and the 1st SAS Regiment servicemen on board, – there were no survivors*2.

There has been considerable speculation about the fate of this aircraft and a number of theories as to what happened to it.

It was last heard from whilst over the English Channel, and initial thoughts were that it crashed into the sea. Other reports state it crashed into high ground on the run-in to the drop zone in the Morvan Mountains area near Les Valottes. A further report states it crashed 100 miles off course in the Savoy Hills, but there were never any reports by the German authorities at the time and no substantial wreckage has as yet been found.

Fragments form this particular wreckage may have been located a few miles inland of what was Omaha Beach, a possible location if LJ850 did come down shortly after its last transmission.

It is known that there were very few heavy bomber activities that night, and no bomber casualties were reported. Early indications are that the wreckage is of a Stirling bomber, so could this be the wreck of LJ850?

Before any investigations can proceed, a permit is required, but French officials are refusing to grant permission for any detailed search of the site, as the site is a “war grave”. They also quite rightly raise concerns over the conservation of the site, safety issues, and also jurisdictional considerations. So, for now, the story and final closure of LJ850 looks set to continue for some time yet.

620 Squadron was formed on 17th June 1943 at Chedburgh, and were initially involved in night bombing duties. In November 1943, they converted to airborne operations, dropping supplies, Paratroops and performing glider tug operations. Between March 18th 1944 and 18th October 1944, they operated from RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, before moving to Great Dunmow and subsequently to the Middle East at the end of the war.

The crew of the Stirling were:

Wing Commander R.W. Crane  RAAF (s/n 413535) (Pilot)
Fgt. Sgt. F.N. Johnson  RAFVR (s/n 1395038) (Nav.)
W.O. II J.P. Clasper RCAF (s/n R159971) (B/A)
Sgt. D.W. Evans RAFVR (s/n 1407968) (Flt. Eng)
Flt. Sgt. G.W. Stopford RAFVR (s/n 657479) (W/O – A/G)
Flt. Sgt. B.J. Profit RCAF (s/n R189226)  (A/G)
Sgt. P. Wilding RAFVR (s/n 1345156) (Parachutist Dispatcher)*2.

The crew are represented on the Runnymede memorial.

Included on that flight when it crashed was Sgt. Reginald Wortley, (s/n 4863732) of the 1st Special Air Service Regiment. Wortley was one of the founder members of the SAS.

The names of the paratroops appear on the Bayeux Memorial.

The reported story can be found here.

*1 photo from CBC News website.

*In Dennis Williams’ book “Stirlings in Action with the Airborne Forces“, the crew list omits Wilding, the dispatcher, and lists 15 SAS troops killed on the night. Many thanks go to reader Darren Sladden for the further information and book recommendation, which I too recommend to anyone with an interest in this area of aviation. The Book was published by Pen and Sword Books, 2008, ISBN 184415648-6,

35 thoughts on “Is this the missing Stirling LJ850?

  1. Unsure if my comment will be 4 yrs too late for an answer. My sister in laws father G.W. Stopford W/O. was on that Sterling, sadly she died in 2005 thinking it crashed into the mountains. Her husband ,my husbands brother is still alive and he has never mentioned about the Sterling could possibly have been found, so sure it will give him some peace of mind . His own and my husbands father was killed in a Lancaster of 460 squadron in Sluipwijk on 12th June 1943 , just 1yr and 1 week earlier, fortunately a Dutch Aviation society were allowed to dig for small parts of his aircraft W4960.Their 7 bodies were recovered even though the Lanc blew up mid air. Just thinking would there have been bodies of 28/29 men

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Josephine. Thank you for adding your comment, rest assured it’s never too late. I sadly don’t know what the outcome of this was, I imagine that permission was not granted for the dig which would have no doubt solved the mystery as to whether or not this was indeed LJ850. You are of course correct in that an aircraft full of paratroopers would indeed reveal a lot of bodies along with items that may be used to identify them. There was no mention of this at the time. As far as I am aware the official line for the fate of LJ850 is still ‘missing’ and may well remain as so for some time to come. I think the only way to know for sure is indeed to dig the site. The Dutch are very much more willing to excavate these sites, using professional people including the armed forces, treating them with dignity and respect for those who died. As such, more answers seem to be found there than in cases like this. So, in answer to your question, yes there would have been a number of bodies if it was LJ850 assuming they were all on board at the time which it is believed they were. I hope this helps. Thank you again, if I do hear of anything I will of course add it here.

      Like

    • Please do not be conned by Mr Graves “so called” caring attitude. He is using the emotions of the relatives only to try and get the go ahead to dig this site for his own ends. Look deep into his excavation of Lancaster ND739, also in France, and the way it was carried out. I had correspondence from a volunteer on that dig, who, with others, came to the conclusion that all he was really interested in was the engines and props. Hopefully, the French will not give him permission.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t personally know of the dig, however I do know there are many unscrupulous ‘collectors’ out there who will stop at nothing to gather parts of, or make money out of these sites. Mr Graves sounds like one of these in which case, I certainly hope that he is stopped, and that the site is left either untouched or excavated by professionals in the proper, decent manner. I shall certainly look into ND739 and see what is said. Thanks again Cliff, let’s hope the French see sense. Andy

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  2. I am kind of on the French side here but I am torn on the subject. I think the decision should be given to the families since it is their relatives and essentially their family’s war grave. It is a shame because it doesn’t feel like there’s closure yet.

    (Shared on DotR’s Facebook page)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know what you mean. In light of the recent ch 5 show, I don’t know how much of an amateur this guy is, and just anyone digging up wrecks is not good. There will be a lot of munitions down there, and the bodies if found, need to be dealt with appropriately and with a great deal of respect. Closure is needed for the families and maybe once confirmation is made a final decision could be made. Thanks for sharing it Tony.

      Liked by 2 people

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