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22nd Nov 1942 Aircraft Lost
7th Dec 1942 Beaufighter Lost
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- Lefurgey Archie Walter. (d.7th Aug 1942)
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Archie Walter Lefurgey pilot 2 (Coastal) OTU. (d.7th Aug 1942)I'm doing family history research on my uncle, Archie Walter Lefurgey, who was a Canadian RCAF pilot training at RAF Catfoss OTU during WWII. He crashed and was reported missing on 7th August 1942 near Withernsea on the east coast of England. I contacted RAF Holmpton near Withernsea and they were unable to help
Could anyone offer any suggestions on who to contact for any further information on the circumstances surrounding his crash? I'm interested in any information, even of a general nature and including usual crash procedures, that anyone may have. Other questions I have are as follows. Was there any German activity in the area during this time frame, such as German night fighters, bombers, U-Boats or E-Boats? Was his aircraft on fire when it crashed? Is there anyone from the area who is still around that may recall the crash? What are the tides and currents in the area off Withernsea like? Is it likely his body could have been swept away, but not the aircraft debris? Are there any museums in the area that might have information? Do you know where any records by the Observer Corps, Coast Guard or Air Sea Rescue may be kept? Would records even be made or kept of this type of incident? What means did Air Sea Rescue usually use to "positively identify" a downed aircraft?
According to documents and the crash report that I've obtained through Canadian (RCAF)sources and with the help of the RAF's Air Historical Branch and the RAF Hendon Museum, I've learned some of the story. The report states that the crash was witnessed by the Observer Corps, the Coast Guard and possibly by the Bridlington Air Sea Rescue Marine Division.
Details of the crash are as follows: At about 0330 hrs on 7th August 1942, Archie Lefurgey took off alone (probably) from RAF Catfoss OTU in Blenheim MkIV twin engine aircraft V.6255 with squadron markings "YH". He did 4 touch and go landings and take offs, then left the vicinity of the airfield. He didn't return.
The RAF had "fighter plots" of his aircraft leaving Catfoss and heading NW towards RAF Driffield, then returning over Catfoss, then heading SE towards Withernsea. According to the crash or accident report, his aircraft was seen by both the Observer Corps and the Coast Guard to "fall" or "crash" (not force land) into the sea about 2 miles from Withernsea at 0505 hrs. His aircraft had ample fuel for several more hours of flying. Bridlington Air Sea Rescue was preoccupied with another crash in the general area, then later attended at my uncle's crash site at 0630 hrs. There was "much debris" and his aircraft was "positively identified". The report desn't say how the debris was identified, but my guess would be that they saw the aircraft's markings on the debris. A search of the area failed to reveal my uncle's body.
My dad was an RCAF Wireless Op/Air Gunner who had just returned from India when his brother went missing. He went to Catfoss and asked about the crash. One of the air traffic controllers recalled hearing Archie Lefurgey make a radio transmission after he passed over Catfoss heading towards Withernsea. He made a comment about "seeing something and going to investigate". I have no real idea or hint of what he may have seen.
My uncle's personal diary records that there were a number of German bombing attacks in the area during the weeks before his crash, so there may have been some German activity when & where my uncle crashed. If there was any German activity during this rough time, how likely would it be that there would be any before or near dawn?
I also understand that a number of the aircraft used in training units, such as the OTU, were aircraft that had been retired from active service and were well-used, so the possibility of mechanical failure exists.
The liklihood of pilot error exists, but is small, I think. My uncle was one of those who followed the rules and wasn't prone to "fooling around" in the aircraft. The fact his aircraft was seen to "dive" into the sea makes me think that pilot error wasn't the cause. Perhaps he fell victim to some mechanical failure or enemy fire. We likely won't ever know that for sure.Dave Lefurgey
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