Lancaster bomber crash on Worthing beach

The crew of Lancaster PB355
The crew of Lancaster PB355

On December 17, 1944, aircraft from 49 Squadron took off from Fulbeck, bound for Munich.

It was another exclusive 5 Group attack using 280 Lancasters led by eight Mosquitoes.

Although there was some undershooting, most crews reported the bombing to be fanning out from the sector as planned.

Four Lancasters from the group failed to return.

Back at Fulbeck, the squadron’s aircraft started landing at around 2am on December 18.

Flying officer Edward Essenhigh and crew in Lancaster PB355 were overdue and reported as missing.

It was established, later in the day, that their aircraft had, in fact, crashed on Worthing beach, to the west of the pier, at 5.55pm the previous evening, en route to Munich.

The aircraft had blown up, luckily without loss of civilian life, although much damage had been caused to buildings in the area due to its full payload of bombs on board exploding on impact.

Only one crew member was found in the wreck; that of flight sergeant Gordon Callon.

His body was recovered from the rear turret and at the time caused some consternation to those at the scene, as he wore pilot wings.

Sergeant Callon was one of the volunteer pilot/rear gunners operating the ‘Village Inn’ turret.

The bodies of the rest of the crew have never been found; their whereabouts, and indeed the reason for the aircraft’s demise, still remains a mystery.

Gordon Callon is buried in Littlehampton, while his fellow crew members are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.

The crew have been remembered in Worthing, by having roads in West Durrington named after them.

I am keen to hear any further information on this incident, including anyone who may remember visiting the site to see the aftermath.

• If you can offer Graham any more information about the Lancaster crash on Worthing Beach, please call him on 07793 435428 or email: grahamlelliott@hotmail.co.uk