This aircraft, captained by Squadron Leader Drummond Wilson, was one of 18 Stirling bombers which were part of a raid on the German city of Essen on the night of the 10th/11th April 1942.
Over the city they were 'coned' by searchlights and badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire.
Drummond, and his co-pilot 19yr old Sgt David Southey, coaxed the stricken bomber back to RAF Alconbury. However with wheels down on final approach they were ordered to go 'around' as there was an aircraft on the runway without permission.
As they flew over Godmanchester a damaged oil pipe broke, both starboard engines cut out and the plane came down in an area close to the A14/Cow Lane.
Drummond and the Mid Upper Gunner, Sgt Edgar Gould, were killed. Of the six that survived, three would not live to see the end of the war. The Navigator, Flying Officer Clifford Reeve, went back into the burning aircraft to rescue two crew members despite being severely injured himself.
For his actions that day he was awarded a military MBE which he received from the King in December 1942 at Buckingham Palace.
This site is dedicated to the crew of Stirling N3703, their fellow XV Squadron colleagues and the men of Bomber Command. My book 'Stirling to Essen' tells their remarkable tale.
Norman and Drummond had an enduring friendship, this came from their time training together in Scotland having joined the RAF. Whilst Drummond would eventually go into Bomber command, Norman would join Fighter Command with 72 Squadron flying Spitfires. When the opportunity arose, they would meet up, as they did in 1941 when Drummond was pictured driving 'Elmer' (see Squire Supercharged page for image)
Norman was born on the 5th February 1914 at 27 Cliff Town Road, Southend on Sea, Essex. Amazingly this was the day after his best friend Drummond Wilson was born in Kilmarnock. Here is the would be 'Spitfire' pilot of the Battle of Britain
And Norman in the School 'Pierrot Party in 1924, he is sat in the middle (without the hat!)
And a wonderful photo of Norman with his sister Marjorie.
Norman (left) canduing with a friend, Norman actually built a canoe in the basement of 27 Cliff Town Road but had to take an axe to it when it proved to be too big to get it out!
A wonderful portrait of Norman Robson, taken in June 1932, when he was 18.
Despite initially being interested in joining the Navy due to his seaside connection through life on the Essex coast, his friends at the Yacht Club suggested he joined the RAF. Which he did on 17th January 1938 at 11 Civil Flying School in Perth, Scotland, as one of the earliest pupil pilot intakes. It is here where he first met Drummond Wilson. Drummond front row third left, Norman front row third right.
Below: Summer 1938 and men of the Flying Training School, Tern Hill, Shropshire look very much the finished product. And the two friends are still there, Norman third row far right, Drummond front row third right. They are all Acting Pilot Officers now!
Below: Norman at the controls of a 72 Squadron Spitfire RH-H taken in April 1939, RN was their call sign from October 1938- April 1939 when it was changed to SD.
Below: Spitfire K9927 of 72 Squadron which crashed on landing on the 19th July 1939 after it suffered undercarriage failure on landing. Norman wrote 'What a memory!' against the photo. Norman is possibly the man stood directly beneath the crane hook.
Norman and Grace's wedding at St John the Baptist, Kirkby Wharfedale, 2nd September 1939.
A wonderful photograph taken just after the Dunkirk evacuation in June 1940. 72 Squadron had been based in the North East but moved to Gravesend to support the withdrawal from the beaches. This would have been Normans first action of the war. Grace (centre with sunglasses) cannot hide her pride at the part her husband played. The Squadron then returned to RAF Acklington where it covered the North East against Luftwaffe raids.
Normans first recorded 'kill' was during the Luftwaffe's raid on the north East Airfields, Ports and Factories on the 15th August 1940. Normans squadron, along with other squadrons, engaged a large formation of enemy bombers and their escort fighters. 30 miles off the Farne Islands he attacked a Heinkell 1-11 (similar to the ones pictured here) and after a few bursts watched it go down into the North Sea.
The Farne Islands as seen from Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
Squadron leader Norman Robson photographed in 1953
A 72 Squadron Spitfire as photographed by Norman's son Drummond Robson. This aircraft is on display at the Cosford Air Museum, whilst there he mentioned to one of the staff there that his father flew with 72 Squadron. On checking the log book they found one entry dated 29th November 1939 'Dawn Patrol 07.20hrs - 08.25hrs, no enemy sighted' written by none other than Pilot Officer Norman Robson.