I am the nephew of Flt Sgt Jack Tritt of Montreal, Canada, the navigator of the Wellington Bomber (Serial Number BJ894) that crashed near Benfleet on November 16, 1942. During a recent Internet search, I found the Benfleet community web site and a request from Ronnie Pigram for information on the loss of the aircraft.
The aircraft belonged to 425 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, known as the Alouette Squadron. 425 Squadron was officially a French-Canadian squadron, although it had members from English Canada and the occasional RAF member as well.
The aircraft was on a training exercise known as the Bullseye Cruise. This was the final training exercise before being sent on combat missions. The crew was meant to fly from their base in Dishforth, Yorkshire, and to find and make a mock attack on a target in the South of England. According to the RAF accident report, the aircraft was caught in the searchlights over the target. While the pilot was taking violent maneuvers, the fabric covering was torn off the aircraft’s elevators and other surfaces, causing loss of control.
During my research, I found a considerable amount of information, largely from the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa. The summary of the Court of Inquiry came from the RAF Archives, and the initial Air Raid Warden’s report on the crash came from the Essex County Archives.
I have seen reported in several places (including the community page for Canvey Island) that the aircraft had been lost due to enemy action. According to the archives, this was not correct: the crash was purely due to mechanical failure.
I should add that my late mother – Jack Tritt’s youngest sister – was the first family member to visit the grave, arriving in England several months later as a Lt. (N/S) RCAMC. My late grandmother visited in the late 1940s, as part of a program by the Canadian government to allow mothers who had lost their sons to visit their graves.
As my wife is a native of London, I have had occasion to visit Southend-on-Sea on several occasions during family visits.