102 (Ceylon) Squadron

Tentate et perficite (Attempt and Achieve)

Sergeant Michael Norman Reilly


1559119  AIR  GUNNER – 102 SQUADRON


Michael Norman Reilly  - 102 Ceylon SquadronThe following report was prepared in October 2004 by Sandy Reilly, cousin of Norman Reilly, and is based on information obtained from the following sources:-


  • Archives Department of Yorkshire Air Museum based at Elvington, York.  Telephone 01904 608595.
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission Telephone 01628 507200
  • Ordnance Survey Get a Map Telephone 08456 050505
  • Visit to Cemetery at Barmby-on-the-Moor.
  • Details given to me by my Father (William Reilly) who attended the Funeral along with Norman’s Father (Tom Reilly) and another uncle Michael Reilly.
  • Details obtained by Internet.
  • Details obtained from Air Historical Branch (RAF) Ministry of Defence.


The full details of the crew are as follows:-

785073 Flight Sergeant Harold Edward Richard Saunders – Captain
975703 Sergeant Brian Hill – 2nd Pilot
121554 Flying Officer Henry Farquharson-Ley-Navigator
569527 Sergeant Trevor Charles Coles – Flight Engineer
1320473 Sergeant Henry Edwin Amos – Air Bomber
1546822 Sergeant Frank Cooper – Air Gunner
1559119 Sergeant Michael Norman Reilly – Air Gunner
NZ411796 Sergeant Alvah Wilkie Flansburgh-Washbourne RNZAF – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner

The second Pilot Sergeant Hill survived the crash and sustained moderate injuries.

All of the other crew including Norman Reilly died and six of them are buried in the Cemetery at Barmby-on-the-Moor – 16th February 1943.

Sergeant Cooper was buried on the 17th February 1943 at Swinton Cemetery, Lancashire.


On the night of the accident, 11th February 1943, the Aircraft HALIFAX MK2 Serial No. W7879 took off from Pocklington at 18.08 hrs on a bombing mission to WILHELMSHAVEN.

According to Sergeant Hill’s (who survived the crash) report the take off seemed perfectly normal until they reached 2,500 ft.  The artificial horizon was then showing a bank to port of about 25 deg.  At this point Captain Saunders said an engine had failed.  The Captain asked that the bombs be jettisoned but Sergeant Hill did not remember anyone saying they had been dropped.  Sergeant Saunders decided to return to base (Pocklington).  When they were returning the Captain ordered “prepare to abandon Aircraft”.  According to Sergeant Hill the first real indication that there was anything-serious wrong was when Saunders gave the order to “bale out” - he did seem then to be worried.  Sergeant Hill got up to bale out and as he stepped over the rear spar the Aircraft appeared to lurch as it were and that was the last recollection he had.

The Aircraft crashed at 18.39 hrs. near to North Dalton – Crash sight Reference SE942516.  This Crash Site is No: 749 in the records at the Yorkshire Air Museum.


This site gives the details of the Crew and it will be noted that six are buried at Barmby-on-the-Moor and one is buried at Swinton Cemetery, Lancashire.

In discussions with the War Graves Commission I drew their attention to the point that Norman was in Row A and not Row H.  They confirmed that this was a mistake and that they in due course would correct this.



During 2003 we learned that there was a 102 Squadron Association and the Secretary was a Tom Wingham and on speaking to him it turned out that he knew my cousin Norman Reilly.

We also learned that there was a final Official Reunion planned in July and both Lillias and I attended this, which was made up of a dinner at York University on the Saturday Night and a Special Service at the Church in Barmby- on –the Moor on the Sunday Morning.  We then proceeded to a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Memorial for 102 Squadron at the old Runway. It was quite a moving occasion.

We then proceeded to North Dalton to establish the site of the crash in accordance with the Map Reference.  On arriving at the village we went to find a place to eat and on chatting to the lady we told her our reason for being there. She said I have only been here 20 years but just a minute there is an old lady called Alice and she remembers everything so let me phone her.  Would you believe it Alice remembered the crash and it was in the area indicated on the Map. We were then able to speak to the farmer and take a photo of the field, which was planted with potatoes.  There was nothing to indicate that a crash had taken place, as the crater would have been filled in many years ago. 


Below are a photo of Michael's parents, and a letter that Tom Wingham sent to Alex. (Sandy).

Other items will appear here soon.

Michael's parents



toms letter




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