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North Devon in 100 Objects: 23. The Wellington Bomber Gun Turret

The gun turret of a World War II aircraft.

This is the rear turret of Vickers Wellington serial number Z.8721, which crashed into the cliffs at Beckland Bay, near Hartland Point, on 13 April 1942. The turret was occupied by 26 year old Sergeant Charles Trevor Daniel, RAFVR. He died instantly in the crash, as did the other four crew members, the Canadian pilot, Pilot Officer (P/O) “Bill” Russ, RACF, the New Zealand Second Pilot, Flying officer “Tony” Blair, RNZAF, the Observer, P/O Les Noble and the Wireless Operator P/O Freddie Le Bon.  Their bodies were not found until 21 April, and all are buried at Heanton Punchardon, near Braunton.

Trevor Daniel was born in Kent on 12th April 1916, but he grew up in Essex and Yorkshire. He went to Sedburgh School, and in September 1939 he was living in Leicester and working for Fyffes (the banana importers) as a representative.

The five men were members of No.172 Squadron (Barnstaple’s Own), which was formed that month at R.A.F. Chivenor, near Barnstaple.  The Squadron was equipped with Wellington bombers, fitted with Air to Surface Vessel radar, and a large searchlight called a “Leigh Light”. Their purpose was to search for, locate and attack German U-boats (submarines), which were on the surface at night.  Prior to this, U-boats were impervious to attack when surfacing at night.  At least eight U-boats were sunk by the Squadron, and many more were damaged. In September 1944, No.172 Squadron moved to R.A.F. Limavady in County Londonderry.

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