Commemoration of the RAF Spilsby
Bomb Dump Explosion, April 10th 1944

As well as commemorating all those who served at the airfield, the Memorial* on the site of RAF Spilsby also carries an inscription referring to the accident in the bomb dump on Monday 10th April 1944 which claimed the lives of 10 airmen, of whom 3 have No Known Grave.

At that date 207 Squadron was the only Squadron in residence at the airfield. Those killed were all General Duties airmen undertaking duties as Armourers and Armourers Assistants.

All are included on the 207 Squadron Roll of Honour, as indeed are all groundcrew, both men and women, identified as having been killed whilst serving the Squadron.

* the 2001 memorial was replaced by a new memorial dedicated on 9th June 2012

Inscription on the obelisk of the original
memorial dedicated in 2001

Inscription on the new memorial dedicated in June 2012

The late Ken Smith was a Station Armourer, not a 207 Squadron Armourer. On one of his visits with his wife Barbara to Spilsby Ken said he was one of 30 Armourers posted to East Kirkby (then "parent" station when RAF Spilsby was being opened up) and who then came to Spilsby to get the bomb dump ready for operational use.

As well as being a very regular visitor to Meadowlands, Ken of course always made a point of being in Spilsby for the annual anniversary of the bomb dump explosion on the 10th April 1944. In his latter years he always placed a wreath on the memorial on the date and at the time of the explosion. As well as honouring colleagues killed whom he had known, there was also, it is believed, a very personal reason. On 10th April 1944 Ken should have been working in the bomb dump but instead was put on guard duty on the other side of the airfield, which is where he was at the time of the explosion. When returning after this duty was over Ken said he had met one of his NCOs, who went white and said to him that everyone had thought that he (Ken) was dead!

L: Kenny Smith RAFVR
above: on a visit to the site of the Bomb Dump

Some have expressed surprise that no NCO was among the casualties, since at least one should have been present in the Fusing Shed.

The late Wallace McIntosh DFC* DFM said he greatly respected Ken and his fellow armourers for the vital work that they did. “Remember too” he says “that when we returned from a raid they were up half the night clearing the aircraft and servicing the weapons.”

Those who died in the explosion were:-

AC1 John Richard Archer RAF(VR) Armourer, age 26
LAC Alfred Gallagher Barrett RAF(VR) Armourers Assistant, age 31
AC1 Walter Clews RAF(VR) Armourer, age 20
LAC Trevor Ewart Davidson RAF(VR) Armourers Assistant, age 37
AC1 Thomas Fleming RAF(VR) Armourers Assistant, age 20
AC1 Frank Haworth RAF(VR) Armourers Assistant, age 40
AC1 Idris Eufryl Jones RAF(VR) NKG Armourer, age 21
LAC Edward Thomas Rouillier RAF(VR) Armourers Assistant, age 24
AC2 Edward Rourke RAF(VR) NKG Armourers Assistant, age 23
AC1 Thomas Wright RAF(VR) NKG Armourers Assistant, age 37

6 were RAF Spilsby station airmen and 4 airmen serving on 207 Squadron.

In addition AC1 W Brent, AC2 F Walls, Cpl A Vigus, AC1 W Caldwell, LAC R Wylie, and Sgt KD Cooper of RAF Spilsby were injured.

In reference to the explosion, 207’s ORB (Operational Record Book) merely states: “13 aircraft detailed for operations. 11 took off to attack Tours and all returned to base. Explosion in bomb bay caused fatal injuries to 4 Squadron armourers and serious injuries to 1 man. Cause of accident under investigation.”

The RAF Spilsby ORB states:

“At 19:55hrs there was a terrific explosion, apparently in the vicinity of the bomb dump. The Station Commander, Fire Party and Medical Service proceeded to the scene of the incident and it was found that a 1,000 bomb, one of the bomb load of delayed action bombs which were to be used in operations that evening, had exploded.

It was nothing short of a miracle that the entire personnel working in the bomb dump at the time were not all killed as they were nearly all within a 20 yard radius of the scene of the incident. The injured personnel were rescued from the scene and conveyed to Station Sick Quarters under dangerous circumstances since there were 5-1,000 lb delayed action bombs in the vicinity of the fusing shed, and the risk was taken not knowing whether the bombs would explode prematurely or run their normal fuse delays. Fortunately they did not go off during the time rescue operations were being carried out.

The fire party were not permitted to deal with the camouflage netting which had caught fire, but were standing by at a safe distance until the danger period had passed. Two of the bombs exploded at approximately 04:30 hrs and two others at 06:30 hrs, which was the extent of their delay. One has not exploded at the extent of its delay”.

A Court of Enquiry to investigate the cause of the explosion was convened later in the day on 11th April, by which time the last bomb still had not exploded!

Any further information or other comments/recollections of the event would be most welcome. Please contact the editor.


Not all those present stepped up for the group photo: in all there were about 30 there, including Vera Willis, Fred & Renee Pearce and John Pearl.

Luke Smith again laid the wreath: his Dad and Grandmother Barbara and other members of the Smith family have been staying nearby on Meadowlands.

For the first time Spilsby RBL branch had 4 members there. The Spilsby Standard sent a photographer.

Rev Harry Orchard led the commemoration and spoke of his memories of the disaster.
He was a Flying Control Officer at the time.

Luke Smith, grandson of the late Ken Smith, Armourer 9/43-5/45

Luke Smith with wreath, in front of Mrs Barbara Smith and members of the Smith family:
also shown Rev Harry Orchard (Sqn Ldr RAF Retd),
Fred Pearce, John Pearl, Roger Aston, Vera Willis, Anne & John Frank of Meadowlands, and RBL members, among others.
Apart from the Smiths and those in italics, those named were serving at RAF Spilsby at the time -
Vera Willis was blown over by the explosion.

Tuesday 10th April 2012

As shown elsewhere the memorial dedicated in 2001 was coming to end of its life as the brickwork was crumbling. The 2012 commemoration of the bomb dump explosion was the final public event to take place at the original memorial (the new memorial was dedicated on 9th June 2012).

It is poignant to note that Rev Harry Orchard's sister was among those at the dedication of the new memorial. Harry died in 2010.

In 2012 the Spilsby Airfield Memorial Service took place at the earlier time of 2.30pm when Rev Bryan Keyworth, Minister of the Monksthorpe Baptist Chapel alondgside the airfield, not far from the Bomb Dump, lead a short service of Remembrance and wreath laying at the Spilsby Airfield Memorial.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight provided a Lancaster Fly-By. Because it was a training/test flight and they don’t fly the Lanc anywhere near dusk, this is why the service was timed for earlier in the day than usual.

The BBMF Lancaster approaches ...

... and turns

Mr Jim Daplyn from Wainfleet had learned of the event. On the day he came along with his daughter and son-in-law. Among those he met were Fred and Renee Pearce. Jim is described as a very sprightly 93 years young! He very much enjoyed the day.

Jim (Harcourt J) Daplyn was a Sergeant Armourer, one of the 50 Armourers brought in to RAF Spilsby after the explosion in April 1944.

He also got a Mention in Despatches for disarming bombs accidentally discharged live from an aircraft at dispersal. This may have been from a 44 Squadron aircraft since the dispersal was near the Headquarters buildings.

Jim stayed for the rest of the war and can be seen on the photo of Armourers taken in May 1945.
He is the Sergeant 2nd from the right on the front row.



Kevin Mapley, from the Summer 2013 207 Squadron Association Newsletter

The Spilsby Airfield Memorial, taken at 8pm on 10th April, the anniversary of the Bomb Dump explosion in 1944: source Mapley

The middle two wreaths were laid on behalf of the Association and by the family of the late Ken Smith, a survivor by chance of that night. The other wreaths and crosses had been at some time laid by others. It is gratifying to note the memorial is fulfilling its function and its presence means something to those whom we may never know.

The following day, on BBC Breakfast, Auschwitz survivor Eva Schloss told of her time in Amsterdam. She recalled how she listened to the BBC in the latter stages of 1944 when in hiding, describing the broadcast with a dah, dah, dah, dahhh!

see also:
20 April 2013: 2001 Memorial Obelisk at Monksthorpe Chapel
207 Squadron in the life of the Spilsby area
Skegness Standard report

page last updated 19 Aug 13
images unless otherwise specified: Raymond Glynne-Owen