Black Wednesday – 29th April 1942
Black Wednesday – 29th April 1942

Black Wednesday – 29th April 1942

Below can be found a story about the events of 29th April 1942, taken with permission from the RAF Bomb Disposal Association’s excellent website

Black Wednesday

This is a story related to me by Bernard Westbrook and will also be chronicled in his forthcoming book on the RAF Bomb Disposal Organisation. 

On Wednesday the 29th. of April 1942, the telephone rang in the office of No.15 BDS H.Q. in Ulleskelf, a small village near RAF Church Fenton. An Incident Report and map reference gave two German UXB’s to be recovered Nr.Clifton Airfield York, between Skipton Road and Green Lane. Over fifty German aircraft had bombed The City of York that night, causing many casualties and extensive damage.

The duty airman filled-in the Bomb Disposal Report and hurried with the message, the hundred yards or so to Mrs. Archer’s house, where F/Sgt. Travis is staying, and reported the Incident to F/Sgt. Travis, SNCO of No.15 BDS. He is already dressed, so without delay, walks back with duty airman to BD H.Q. F/Sgt. Travis phoned F/O Ievers, (O.C. No.15 BDS), at the Officers Mess on the RAF Camp Church Fenton.  By the time F/O Ievers arrived at BD. H.Q. it was almost 08:00hrs.

F/O Ievers decided that a reconnaissance should be carried-out, to determine the safety areas, and how many personnel would be needed. Also there would be the problem of messing facilities and sleeping accommodation for the recovery crew.  The outcome was, that F/O Ievers, a sergeant and two corporals would carry-out the reconnaissance, and will inform F/Sgt. Travis by phone as to the number of personnel and equipment needed for the incident.

This was normal procedure, so the reconnaissance crew left in the staff car for Clifton Nr.York. The recovery crew found the two German 250kg UXB’s, and had just examined the size of the holes of entry, when both bombs exploded one after the other. A rescue party raced to the site where F/O Ievers lay with fatal injuries to both legs. F/O Ievers died on the way to hospital. They found Sgt. H. Phoenix, dazed, lying on the edge of the bomb crater. When he reached hospital, he was found not to have a bone broken or scratch on him.

Although very badly shaken, Sgt. Phoenix was kept in hospital under observation for several weeks. Corporals Bonner and Williams had both their legs broken, and were hospitalised for three months. All three returned to No.15 BDS at Ulleskelf when fit. It was a traumatic experience for the personnel of No.15 BDS, and it took quite sometime for them to come to terms with the situation.

Almost a week later, the Funeral Party for F/O Ievers assembles outside the Guardroom, just inside the gates of RAF Station Church Fenton. A low-load vehicle carries the flag draped coffin of F/O Ievers, his cap, gloves and rested sword lay on top of the coffin. The Officer i/c Funeral Party gives the order for the Funeral Party to slow march. As the cortege moves off, the Station Commander gives the cortege a smart salute.

With the personnel of No.15 BDS at the rear of the coffin, the cortege turns right out of the main gates of RAF Church Fenton, on its way to Kirby Wharfe Military Cemetery. The cortege of F/O Ievers reaches the village of Ulleskelf, where the villagers have waited patiently. The villagers stand in silence as the cortege climbs the slope past the “Ulleskelf Arms”, and crosses the railway bridge on its way to Kirby Wharfe Military Cemetery. The villagers have said “Goodbye” to their gallant officer.

At Kirby Wharfe Military Cemetery, the Station Padre gives a brief funeral service. A volley of three rifle shots are fired over the coffin, the crack of exploding blank cartridges fills the air. As F/O Ievers is laid to rest, an RAF bugler sounds the “Last Post”, the crisp clear notes echo around the still countryside. The Officer i/c Funeral Party gives the order for the Funeral Party to “Dismiss”. In single file they slowly file out of the cemetery, and board awaiting transport, to be taken back to RAF Church Fenton.

The personnel of No.15 BDS pays its last respects to their brave officer, and assemble on the road outside the cemetery for the short march back to the village of Ulleskelf. On arrival at Ulleskelf, No.15 BDS are ushered into the village school-room, where a salad lunch and sweet have been prepared by the villagers of Ulleskelf. No.15 BDS stand while F/Sgt. Travis says Grace. No.15 BDS now sit in silence, while the ladies of the village serve them with hot sweet tea.

Once the meal is over, F/Sgt. Travis pays tribute to a gallant officer and gentleman. He also asks the squad to remember those airmen still in hospital. Two airmen are given orders to collect the crockery and cutlery, and place them at the end of the table. F/Sgt. Travis orders No.15 BDS to return to their billets to change into their working uniforms, and report back to BDS H.Q. for duty.

F/Sgt. Travis thanks the villagers for their kind, generous and sympathetic attitude at such a time of grief. The excellent meal must have come from the ration books of the village community. This was the kind and generous attitude the village community always gave No.15 BDS.

One week later a new Bomb Disposal Officer arrived to take the place of F/O. Ievers, and F/Sgt. Travis introduced him to the personnel of No.15 BDS. Two new corporals arrived to take the place of those badly injured in hospital. No.15 BDS is now back to full strength.

On April the 29th. 1992, Mrs. Gladys Jewitt, Mrs. Pauline Woods, (Mrs Gladys Jewitts Daughter), and Mr. Geoffrey Jewitt, placed a wreath of flowers on the grave of F/O. Ievers on behalf of the villagers of Ulleskelf and the Lads of No.15 BDS. Fifty years after the incident, they still remember their gallant officer.   The flowers here were placed by the webmaster and his wife on the reunion weekend 2001.