John Hampden Grammar School

Roland Harrison

harrison

Roland Harrison was the son of Edward Albert and Matilda Ethel, who ran the Old Red Lion Cafe in Wycombe Marsh. He married Georgena and they lived together in 96 Mill End Road, Sands. Before the war he worked for Venesta Ltd in Wycombe Marsh and ran for Wycombe Phoenix Harriers.

 

He volunteered into the RAF in April 1942 and was an instructor. He was killed during a training flight on July 24th 1946. The website 'Yorkshire-aricraft.co.uk' describes what happened:

 

At 15.35hrs the crew on this aircraft took off from Leconfield airfield for its crew to carry out a fighter affiliation exercise with a Spitfire. The aircraft flew in a northerly direction, met up with the Spitfire over Driffield and then owing to low cloud the exercises were carried out at 10,000 feet over the Scarborough area. On board the Wellington was a pilot (Roland), a gunnery instructor and three trainee air gunners. During the exercise the Wellington was practicing taking evasive action when attacked by the fighter, it was thought that the pilot of the Wellington was making such a turn downwards, believed to have been the last of the exercise, but immediately after the last attack the Wellington went into a near vertical dive from between 6 to 7,000 feet from which the pilot did not recover. At 16.45hrs the aircraft crashed into the grounds of Wykeham Abbey and while not catching fire it disintegrated on impact creating a large crater. All five on board stood no chance, they were killed instantly and the body of one of the crew was not found. The resulting crash investigation reported that the aircraft had been reported as being nose-heavy in the weeks leading up to the crash, it was checked but was passed as serviceable.

 

The investigation listed a number of previous incidents when the aircraft had been inspected. It had been used in the prototype bouncing bomb trials and had its bomb doors removed for this. It was later converted back and on 1st December 1943 repairs were completed at Vickers factory, Weybridge. On 17th July 1946 it was test flown and rear doors found locked up. A day later on 18th July 1946 it was test flown and the elevator trim for level flight was found incorrectly set, the cables were adjusted for correct movement. On 23rd July 1946 it was flown by F/Lt Meikle, who reported the aircraft nose heavy and the port engine was running slow. Extra ballast was added and the port engine revs were adjusted. On 24th July 1946 it was flown by W/O Schwedoski, who reported aircraft was satisfactory but later that day the fatal crash at Wykeham occurred. The crash report concluded that the aircraft should never have been in the air on the day because of known problems with it.

 

Roland was 25 when he died and is buried in High Wycombe Cemetery. His listing with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission can be found here.