23rd November 1942
A Lancaster bomber crashed on Sark
Stuttgart suffered heavy bombing on the night of 22nd to 23rd November 1942, with more than 200 bombers dropping their payloads onto the city. One of those bombers – Lancaster W4107 of the 49 Squadron – didn’t make it back to the mainland. Instead, it came down on Sark.
Sibyl Hathaway, Dame of Sark, described what happened in her autobiography:
There was great excitement one night when a Lancaster bomber made a forced landing in a field near the Seigneurie. The plane circled round and we were awakened by the noise… the German patrol appeared in our drive, running madly in order to take a short cut through the field… we heard no shots, although Bishop [the farm bailiff] said he could hear English voices… later I got details from the German doctor who confided to me that the plane was returning from a raid on Stuttgart. The navigating instruments had been shot away and four of the crew had bailed out over France, leaving only the pilot and two others to land here. They were taken off next day to a prison in Germany.
49 Squadron was disbanded in May 1965, but its Association website records many stories of its various members, including the tale of W4107’s hard landing.
A welcoming party
Having dropped its bombs on Stuttgart, the Lancaster was hit by several rounds of anti-aircraft fire, which set one engine and part of the fuselage burning. After four members of crew bailed out, two of the three remaining members put out the fire while Sergeant Eric Singleton concentrated on keeping the plane in the air.
Only when he saw what he believed was “friendly” land – by which he meant the mainland – did he bring W4107 down to land. Unfortunately, without navigational instruments to help, he’d made a miscalculation and actually landed in enemy-occupied Sark. As the crew left the plane they found themselves confronted by the officer who had run up Sibyl Hathaway’s drive.
“I thought it was the Home Guard,” Singleton is reported as saying. “But as they asked us to put up our hands we realised they were Germans.”
According to the Dame, “as they went they [the crew] signalled ‘thumbs up’ to our fishermen, the only people allowed to see them taken off from the harbour.”