Accident Avro Lancaster B Mk III GR SW363, Thursday 12 January 1950
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Date:Thursday 12 January 1950
Type:Silhouette image of generic LANC model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Avro Lancaster B Mk III GR
Owner/operator:236 OCU RAF
Registration: SW363
Fatalities:Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 5
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Tarras Farm, 2 miles SSW of RAF Kinloss, Scotland -   United Kingdom
Phase: Initial climb
Departure airport:RAF Kinloss, Morayshire
Destination airport:RAF Leuchars, Fife
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Avro Lancaster B.Mk.III (GR), 236 OCU RAF: Written off 12-1-1950. Caught fire on take off and dived into the ground, Tarras Farm, 2 miles South South West of RAF Kinloss, Scotland. All five crew on board killed. According to a Statement of Squadron Leader Alan John Laird Craig to the Air Ministry/RAF Board of Inquiry into the accident:

“I am Chief Flying Instructor at No.236 OCU, RAF Kinloss. On the evening of 12th January 1950, I was present at a ‘Dining-in Night‘. After the ‘Port‘ had been passed, I was advised by Wing Commander Holgate that the Station Commander had excused my further attendance at the table since the OCU had been ordered to Stand-by a Crew to fly on a special Sortie that night. He asked me to choose a Crew for a possible flight in a Lancaster from Kinloss to Manston via Leuchars and return.

I left the Dining Room and warned the Officer in Charge of Night Flying to prepare an Aircraft for such a Flight, and started to consider the selection of a Crew. At this time, the Dinner concluded and I was joined at the Telephone in the Hall by Wg Cdr Holgate, and several of my Flying Instructors. We were then informed that the purpose of the Flight was to ferry 12 Naval Divers and their equipment from Leuchars to Manston for rescue work in connection with ‘HMS Truculent’.

There were many volunteers to form the Crew of the Aircraft, and I selected Flt Lt Harris as Captain, Flt Lt Williams as Co-pilot & Flt Lt Stevens as Flight Engineer. This selection was approved by Wg Cdr Holgate.

Nav II Cunningham & Signaller I Geal were selected by the Leaders of their Sections. The Crew members had been selected because of their ability, experience and fitness to carry out this particular Flight. About this time information was received from Wg Cdr Holgate that the Aircraft should take off as soon as possible for Leuchars.

The detailed Crew dispersed to prepare themselves for the Flight. I remained at the Telephone in the Mess to make further administrative arrangements, such as Parachutes for the Divers and victuals for the Crew & Passengers etc. When these were completed I left the Mess intending to go to the Hangar in my Car to see the Aircraft off.

As I opened the door of my Car, I heard the Aircraft Engines ‘rev up’, and reflected as to whether the Engines were being test-run, or being opened up for take-off. In a few seconds, it was clear to me that the Aircraft was taking off. Knowing that No.21 Runway was in use I decided to remain by my car to watch the final stages of the take-off over the trees at the windward end of 21 Runway.

No. 21 Runway is not normally used for Flying Training, since the trees at the windward end of the runway make a gradient of obstruction equivalent to 1 in 27 instead of the regulation maximum gradient for obstructions of 1 in 50. I saw the Aircraft clear the 1st trees by about 50 feet and climb steadily away in a perfectly normal manner. I last observed the Aircraft at between 300 & 400 feet before getting into my car.

I started the Car, backed out of its parking position, drove in front of the Mess, a distance of about 30 yards, and intended to proceed to the Hangar to check administrative details such as ‘Duty Crew’ for their return. As I was turning away from the Mess, my attention was attracted by a steady and increasing ‘bright yellow-orange glow‘ in the sky. I stopped the Car, opened the door, and got out, whilst continuing to watch the glow. Almost immediately I heard the Engines ‘whine’ as though going into ‘fine pitch’ under increased power. Within 2 or 3 seconds there was a cut in noise as if the Engines had been throttled fully back, or cut.

Approximately 3 seconds afterwards I saw an explosion of flame & smoke, and heard after a few seconds the noise of the Crash. In conclusion, I have retimed my actions from the stage when I first saw the glow in the sky, to the time when I saw the explosion in the ground, and estimate that this time interval was ’10 seconds’, and so assessed by the Court.”

Crew of Lancaster SW363:
Flight Lieutenant Richard Gwynn Williams
Flight Lieutenant Leslie George Harris,DFC
Flight Lieutenant Alfred Enos Stephens
Navigator II John Cunningham
Signaller I Ernest Geal.


1. Halley, James (1999). Broken Wings – Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents. Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.98. ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Last Take-off: A Record of RAF Aircraft Losses 1950 to 1953 by Colin Cummings p 28
3. The Lancaster File (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1985 p 138)
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/5:
5. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/30/S2479:
10. .

Revision history:

27-Sep-2008 01:00 ASN archive Added
21-May-2010 13:36 TB Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Nature]
04-Jun-2011 11:37 Anon. Updated [Source, Narrative]
10-Mar-2013 15:57 Dr. John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
21-Jun-2016 15:08 TB Updated [Operator, Location, Source, Narrative]
10-Oct-2018 01:56 Dr.John Smith Updated [Operator, Location, Source, Narrative]
02-Nov-2018 20:05 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
22-Dec-2019 19:38 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Location, Source, Narrative]
23-Dec-2019 20:46 stehlik49 Updated [Operator, Narrative, Operator]
25-Sep-2020 21:37 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
27-Jun-2023 10:18 Cobar Updated

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