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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 193561
Last updated: 26 November 2021
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Type:Boulton Paul Defiant Mk I
Owner/operator:96 Squadron Royal Air Force (96 Sqn RAF)
Registration: T4008
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Moelfryn, Rhayader, near Llangurig, Wales, -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Wrexham, Denbighshire
Destination airport:
Defiant T4008 Aircraft became lost on a patrol & was abandoned low on fuel.3.11.1941
S/Ldr R.J.B BURNS (C.O. pilot) Ok
F/O W R SMITH (AG) : injured;
Motto Latin: Nocturni obambulamus; ("We prowl by night")
No. 96 Squadron was formed on 8th October 1917 at South Carlton as a training unit of the Royal Flying Corps aircrew. The Squadron was disbanded on 4th July 1918 but was reformed at RAF Wyton on 28th September 1918 as a ground attack squadron of the Royal Air Force.
On 18th December 1940 No 422 Flight, a night fighter unit stationed at RAF Shoreham was renamed to No. 96 Squadron. The unit operated as a night fighter squadron. Its area of operations was over Merseyside and the Midlands. During the following 12 months the Squadron was posted to various location in the UK. 96 Squadron came to RAF Wrexham at the beginning of 1941.
The first noted involvement of aviation with Wrexham was in 1912 when Gustav Hamel visited the Racecourse ground to entertain the public with air displays. The local council discussed transforming the racecourse into a municipal airport.
During the period 1917 - 1920 fields at Borras Lodge were used by Nos. 4 and 51 Training Squadrons/Schools of the RFC and after 1918 by RAF training squadrons based at RAF Sealand and Hooton Park. The same location was also used by the Lancashire Aero Club and the Liverpool and District Aero Club for air displays during the 1930s, and two visits from Sir Alan Cobham’s National Aviation Day Circus.
As the entire area was on a plateau, the field was largely dry, unlike RAF Sealand and RAF Hawarden, both reclaimed from the River Dee. This dryness encouraged visits from several training squadrons, such as Supermarine Spitfires from RAF Ternhill. After the initial breakout of the War, N* 5 SFTS RAF, used the ground as a relief strip, and in 1940, three grass runways of approximately 550-660 yards existed. The wet conditions of surrounding airfields usually caused training groups to send planes to Wrexham, which had no air traffic control, which caused several incidents.
The main period of construction at the site took place between December 1940 and June 1941, which often saw floodlit operations during the dark winter. The airfield was upgraded with hardened concrete runways and appropriate lighting for them, with defence against any possible ground invasion provided by the ring of defences surrounding the nearby Royal Ordnance Factory. The Airfield was primarily built to house a Night Fighter squadron for the air defence of Liverpool and Manchester in 1941.
To the West, on Esclusham Mountain, a decoy airfield existed. This was only in operation from 1941-43, however the mountain was bombed several times by incendiary bombers during the war, causing mountain fires. The waves of bombing were caused by a single bomber jettisoning its bombs after missing the Monsanto Chemical Works in nearby Cefn Mawr followed by several targeted raids against the ensuing fire, with Luftwaffe crews believing the fires to be from a burning Liverpool.
96 squadron were kept busy, and they were successful in the shooting down of enemy aircraft or simply scaring them off to try to bomb easier targets down south. Sadly, one such victim of ‘Target of opportunity’ was the small Rhondda village of Cwmparc where 26 civilians, men women and children were killed from bombs dropped blind into the inky blackness of South Wales.
RAF Form 540. 96 Squadron Operations Book. Page 1.
“Wrexham. 2-11-41.
Quite a lot of flying was done this evening. A dozen sorties logged in between 10 & 11 hours.

Within a week of the successful emergency parachute jumps by P/O Phoenix & Sgt Seales, two more jumped and, with the exception of one air gunner, who was injured, landed without injury.
At 01:40 hours. Squadron Leader R. J. B. Burns & his air gunner F/O W. R. Smith were forced to abandon their A/C over Wales. They were lost owing to R/T failure & eventually were faced with fuel shortage. They had been unable to get a searchlight bearing as they were lost over an area where there were no searchlight posts.
S/Ldr Burns baled out from 6500ft & landed about 4 miles south of Llangurig, near Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire. He landed uninjured, his air gunner F/O Smith landed about the same time about 5 miles from Dolfar, near Newton. F/O Smith broke his ankle when landing on rough ground.
Neither Burns or Smith were found until the following morning & therefore F/Lt Verity and Sgt Scott took off in two Defiants to search the Welsh mountains for traces of their commanding officer.
S/Ldr Burns received a promotion to Wing Commander on the 1st of December 1941".
Further into the records this written account by another officer reads:

“Dec 21st. Normal flying, etc, etc.
We had a very enjoyable farewell dinner to Wing Commander R.J.B.Burns. The station commander, S/Ldr A.A.Dennison ordered a dining in night & all the officers in the squadron were present, with the exception of one or two on leave. F/O W.R.Smith, air gunner to the squadron commander, heard during the afternoon of the dinner & came post hast to Wrexham for the function. He arrived on time. At the time he was on sick leave:
He broke his ankle when baling out!”

By June 1944 however it was in Kent and able to provide night fighter defence over the Normandy invasion fleet and beaches. From June 1944 the squadron became involved in countering V-1 flying bombs. On 12th December 1944 the squadron disbanded.

S/Ldr Robert John Barrow Burns 34142 RAF. Pilot. Baled Out. Safe.
F/O W. R. Smith RAF. A/Gnr. Baled Out. Slight injury.

Some remains in the woods near the site of T4008.
Additional information:
W/Co Robert John Barrow Burns saw out the war and continued to serve, he was promoted to Air Commadore in July 1962 and he finally retired in 1966. He sadly passed away on the 14th of November 1993.


Down in Wales - Terrance Hill

Revision history:

13-Feb-2017 14:24 ORD Added
03-Sep-2017 15:53 Nepa Updated [Operator, Narrative]
17-Aug-2020 21:55 soucek56 Updated [Other fatalities, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative, Operator]
30-Oct-2021 09:52 Davies 62 Updated [Source, Narrative]

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