The Wartime Memories Project - RAF Tranwell / Morpeth

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Morpeth airfield was actually situated 3 miles SW of Morpeth and was an air gunners school. The site was home to No.80 (French) Operational Training Unit.

Monday, 16th November 1942. A Botha took off on the wrong runway at Morpeth airfield and collided with another similar aircraft. One man was killed and another injured.

The following article appeared in the September 2nd 1992 edition of the Northumberland Herald& Post:

'50 years on ... an airman remembers' - A longed-for visit to the grave of a wartime friend was paid last week when ex air-gunner Saul Muller returned to Morpeth. Saul, a British national who was born in Belgium, decided when he retired that he would visit the graves of his wartime comrades and try to trace any who may be still alive. In an emotional tribute Saul, now sixty-eight years old, laid flowers at St Mary's Church at the graves of friends and room-mates who died during a training flight over Morpeth on March 29th 1943.

Saul had escaped from Le Havre as the Germans occupied Europe when he was a teenager. In the spring of 1942 he heard from the Red Cross that his sister and mother had been arrested and taken to concentration camps. This led to him volunteering for the RAF and eventually he joined the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service.

He was given a train ticket to Morpeth where he would be trained by the RAF to become an air-gunner. One week before passing out, an Air Vice Marshal visited the Morpeth aerodrome. It was a cloudy morning and the trainees would not normally go up in such conditions, but because of the visit, they did. On board each Botha aircraft was a pilot, an instructor and three trainee air-gunners. The plane which took off after Saul's crashed into another, which was coming in to land. Ten people died, five of them Dutch trainees and one English. Their average age was twenty. Two of the dead were Saul's room-mates.

" It was a moving experience for me to visit their graves " said Saul " the memories flooded back, when the funeral was held at St Mary's, the entire town seemed to be there. Everyone was moved by the circumstances of their death "

Today the site has reverted to agriculture, several of the buildings remain and are used for storage. Parts of the hardstanding remain and are used for a weekly car boot sale.

On the 29/3/1943 Blackburn Botha Mk I W5137 and Botha Mk I W5154, both of 4 AGS (Air Gunnery School), collided over base. Of the 10 dead, five came from The Netherlands. Their names:
  • Rudi van den Bron, Lac, born 28/11/1925 in Soerabaja, Java, NOI (Nederlands Oost IndiŽ, Dutch East Indies), grave A/E/35.
  • Arie Willem van Egmond, Lac, born 4/7/1921 in Batavia, Java, NOI, grave A/E/41.
  • DaniŽl Johannes Kooij, Lac, born 2/12/1919 in Rotterdam, NL, grave A/E/37.
  • Bernardus Eduardus van Opdorp, Lac, born 8/12/1920 in Hoek, NL, grave A/E/39.
  • Frans van Westenbrugge, Lac, born 29/9/1920 in Den Haag, NL, grave A/E/33.
DaniŽl Kooij is recognized as an 'Engelandvaarder', a person who escaped from occupied territory to the UK, to fight the enemy.

All are buried at SS Mary & James Churchyard, Morpeth, GB, grave references above. None of them is known to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Sources: Sectie Luchtmachthistorie (Air Historical Branch), NL, unpublished documents; and Oorlogsgravenstichting (the Dutch CWGC).

Rob Philips

I am trying to find a missing relative. His name is Edward (Teddy) LLM THOMAS. He was a Sgt.Pilot RAF based at RAF Morpeth in 1945 and he married a girl called Margaret (Peggy) CHANT in Rickmansworth, Herts. in 1945. If anyone knew him or knows the whereabouts of him or his family, please contact me .

Hazel Jones


Aircraft tie-down points at dispersal

Aircraft tie-down points at dispersal

Fire point at dispersal

Fire point at dispersal

Remains of large building

Remains of a large building.

Remaining blister hanger

Remaining Blister Hanger.

Hut near dispersals

Hut near Dispersals.

Hut now in woodland

One of a number of huts now in woodland

Hut now woodland

Hut now in woodland.

If you have any Photographs you would like to share please get in touch.

List of those who served here.

  • William Bates. rear gunner. 4 AGSRead his story
  • LAC Rudi van den Bron. 4 AGS (d. 29th March 1943)
  • Ft Sgt Peter James Daly
  • Read his story
  • LAC Arie Willem van Egmond 4 AGS (d. 29th March 1943)
  • WAAF Georgina Keenan
  • LAC DaniŽl Johannes Kooij 4 AGS (d. 29th March 1943)
  • LAC Bernardus Eduardus van Opdorp 4 AGS (d. 29th March 1943)
  • Edward "Teddy" L Thomas. pilot
  • LAC Frans van Westenbrugge 4 AGS (d. 29th March 1943)

If you have any names to add to this list, or any recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.

If you have a story which you would like to share, or a website dedicated to an airfield or aircrew, please get in touch.

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