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525 RAF Squadron Vickers Warwick C Mark I, BV247 was one of fourteen Warwick transports converted for use by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and reverted to the Royal Air Force in September 1943. The Squadron operated on routes throughout Europe and was mainly manned by Canadian personnel. The usual base of the aircraft BV247 was Asmera in Ethiopia (now Eritrea) where Squadron 525 also had a secondary base. The flight of BV 247, a scheduled service flight from the United Kingdom to Maison Blanche airport, Algiers, via Gibraltar, began on April 15, 1944. The point of departure was RAF Transport Command's main base at RAF Station Lyneham in Wiltshire. After a routine air- test, 1680 lbs. of freight were loaded, and in the late afternoon twelve passengers boarded for the first leg of the flight to RAF Station St Mawgan, the overseas departure point in Cornwall. The aircraft with a crew of four and twelve passengers departed RAF Station Lyneham in the late afternoon. The crew of 525 Squadron: RCAF Flying Officer Arthur Douglas Gavel (Pilot); RAFVR Flight Sergeant Michael Kingston Rowe (2nd Pilot); RAFVR Flying Officer Albert George Tracey Gardiner (Navigator); and RCAF Flying Officer Harold Calven Austen (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner). [See detail crew information] The routine for overseas flights was that unarmed transport aircraft would position at St Mawgan during daylight and await darkness before proceeding further - the purpose being to use the cover of darkness for that part of the journey down through the Bay of Biscay, and so hopefully avoid German fighters that ranged out from bases in occupied France. In the late afternoon of April 15, 1944, Warwick BV 247 arrived at St Mawgan. The scheduled time for take-off on the second leg of the flight (St Mawgan to Gibraltar) was in the early hours of 16 April 1944, but because of adverse weather, the flight was postponed for 24 hours. The aircraft, with its cargo in locked cargo-holds, was left parked on dispersal at Green Site, on the St Mawgan Village side of the airfield, guarded by fixed sentries and dog-patrols, whilst crew and passengers went into transit- accommodation. The re-scheduled time for the Warwick’s departure was the early hours of April 17, 1944, and it was one of several aircraft scheduled to leave that night (April 16/17) for such places as Lisbon, Gibraltar, the Azores, Maison Blanche, Malta, Cairo, and India. The passengers for BV 247 checked in at the Despatch Office at about midnight and according to the rule for take-offs out over the sea, were fitted with Mae Wests [life jackets]. Passengers and crew were then bussed across the blacked-out airfield to Green site, and the Despatch Officer supervised their embarkation and the re­loading of their hand-luggage. Then as a final task, he [the Despatch Officer] handed over to the pilot, Flying Officer Arthur Gavel, two Secret Mail Bags (SM18 and SM19). The bags had been delivered to St Mawgan Despatch Office late on the afternoon of April 16, 1944, with instructions that they were for conveyance to Maison Blanche - by the “safe hands of the pilot” of Warwick BV 247. The conveyance of diplomatic, departmental and secret mail bags by the "safe hands of pilots" of transport aircraft had been agreed between the Foreign Office and the Air Ministry, and although it was not a regular routine it was an occasional requirement which pilots were conversant with and didn't question. The pilot of the Warwick expressed his intention of carrying them up- front in his stowage compartment, and with that the cabin door was closed and the aircraft prepared to leave. At 0004 hrs. GMT 17 April 1944, Warwick BV 247 (Code DNY-A) was given the 'green' for take-off on St Mawgan's new main runway - on a heading straight out over the sea. A good lift-off was observed by the airfield controller in the caravan at the 32 end of the runway. The aircraft came unstuck at the intersection of runways 19 and 32. Climb-out was perfectly normal and he watched until navigation lights were routinely switched off, and then went about his other duties. Everything was perfectly normal until the Warwick reached a height of approximately 2000 feet, and then at a point about mile off the coast (still in line with the end of the runway), a Home Guard Sergeant saw an explosion, and the aircraft going down. He immediately reported what he had seen. At day break, a total of fourteen bodies were recovered from the sea immediately below the position where the explosion had been observed, and plotted, by the Home Guard Sergeant. Missing on the morning of the crash were the Pilot, Arthur Gavel, and the Second Pilot, Michael Rowe. Their bodies were recovered in the following weeks. The body of Arthur Gavel was recovered on Whipsiderry Beach on April 25th and the body of Michael Rowe was recovered from the sea off Watergate on May 8th. A Court of Inquiry was convened within 48 hours but failed to consider all evidence available. The report concluded that factors contributing to the incident were “not known”. The mystery of what happened to the flight of Vickers Warwick C Mark I, BV247 has lingered for years. It began, first, as a result of the recovery of bodies and debris the following morning. “The crews of the rescue boats soon realized that the Warwick had not been engaged on a routine transport flight; a body­ belt recovered from the sea by the Lifeboat Mechanic was found to contain $69,000 in press packed $100 bills, sewn into pouches around the belt; a small suitcase recovered [… ] was found to contain £45,000 brand new £5 Bank of England notes; and from personal effects recovered from the sea, it was apparent that several of the passengers were agents of different nationalities.” The plane carried twelve passengers: Three members of 525 Squadron travelling as passengers: RAF Squadron Leader William Godfrey Tiley; RAFVR Flying Officer Noel Spencer Nicklin en route to India; and RAF Pilot Officer George William Lamb. The nine other passengers included: George Lionel Seymour Dawson-Damer, Viscount Carlow, Air Commodore, Special Operations Executive (SOE) en route to Yugoslavia; Ivor Watkins Birts, Lieutenant Colonel, Special Operations Executive (SOE) en route to Yugoslavia; Stephen Mate (Maitland), Lieutenant, British Army (General List), Special Operations Executive (SOE) en route to Hungary; Stanley Casson, Lieutenant Colonel, British Intelligence Corps, en route to Greece; Edmund J Gójski, Captain, Polish Army, Polish Courier en route to Poland; Józef Król, Major, Polish Forces (Senior Chaplain) en route to Poland; Thomas Percival Ward, Major, Royal Army Medical Corps; Roger Achille Albert Baudouin (Boudoin), Commandant, Free French en route to Algiers; and Maurice Schwob M.O.S.F.F., Free French Government Agent, travelling from London to Algiers carrying documents to meet with General De Gaulle in Algiers. [See detail passenger information] The Home Guard Sergeant, the man who had seen the explosion and the aircraft going down into the sea, stated years later: "The atmosphere in the town was electric. It couldn't have been worse if the Germans had landed. There were a few people around who were thought to be in the know, but if they were they weren't saying anything." Every story and every rumour added to the mystery. Just over one week after the crash a Coastguard Officer walking on the beach at Watergate Bay found bits and pieces of wreckage thought to have come from the Warwick, and among them was a corner section of a very well made box which had the last three letters of a word marked thereon. The letters were 'ANK', and it was immediately assumed that the full word was BANK and because of the obvious quality of the box, it must have been from the Bank of England. At this stage talk of gold turned to 'bullion', and because it appeared that the aircraft had only just cleared the cliffs before crashing into the sea, the story got around that it must have gone down like a stone because of the weight of the bullion on board. Eight days after on April 25, 1944, the body of Flying Officer Gavel was found. He had sustained serious injuries, was wearing items of clothing of a Canadian Flying Officer Pilot and a wrist-watch which had stopped at the time of the crash; however, the identification disc was missing. The body was taken to the mortuary at RAF St Mawgan and identification fell to the "Crash Officer". He contacted 525 Squadron Adjutant at Lyneham, and having established that a personal friend and squadron colleague of Arthur Gavel could identify the wrist watch taken from the body, he arranged for its immediate despatch there by air. There it was seen and positively identified as being that of Arthur Gavel, and this was communicated back to St Mawgan. All bodies recovered on the morning of April 17, 1944 had injuries consistent with those caused in an air crash; however, Arthur Gavel had other injuries which indicated “proximity to an explosion” and once the Commanding Officer was informed, instructions were issued to prevent viewing or discussion. On April 26, the body of the pilot was removed from RAF St. Mawgan, the Crash Officer being told it was for specialist post- mortem examination. The personnel assumed that it was because of the injuries caused by an explosion, and which had caused the Station Commander concern. On April 27, an inquest at Newquay, accepted evidence of a Pathologist, that death was due to drowning and there was no evidence to show how, when, and where the deceased met his death. The body of the pilot was buried with a tombstone inscribed "Unknown Sailor of the Second World War" in Fairpark Cemetery, Newquay. World War II ended in 1945. The parents of the pilot were told the body of their son was never recovered and he would be commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, England. The Salvage Vessel failed to find the wreckage in 1944, but local fishermen had trawled their nets for years in Newquay Bay, hoping that one day they will haul up some of the Warwick’s ‘gold’. The flight of 525 RAF Squadron Warwick C Mark I, BV247 would become known as the “mystery flight” and the plane itself referred to the “gold plane”. Chief Inspector Derek Fowkes, one of Cornwall's most respected police officers, served in Newquay from 1970 to 1984 and became interested in the crash when he was examining wartime records. Because of the location where the unidentified body was located, he began to think it could be that of the pilot of the downed Warwick BV247, Flying Officer Arthur Gavel. In 1984, forty years after the crash, Derek Fowkes, in collaboration with Murray W. Gavel of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, the brother of Arthur Gavel, was able to ensure that the body of Arthur Gavel was identified. Derek Fowkes continued to investigate the unexplained aviation accident, and in 1995 finalized an extensive report on his discoveries. He interviewed surviving primary and secondary witness; checked all documentary evidence compiled at the time by those in authority; considered circumstantial evidence and corroborated hearsay evidence; and finally drew inferences from a series of unexplained coincidences. A Court of Enquiry was convened within 48 hours of the loss of the aircraft and its report was confusing. Derek Fowkes assumed it was intentionally in order to cloud the issues involved. Double British Summer Time (OBST) was in force in England at that time, and while most people were using it, operations personnel on the airfield, including the Flying Control Officers, were using GMT, and throughout the report there is an obvious two hour difference in what some people are talking about. For example, the Warwick departed at 0040 GMT (0240 OBST) with no problem with starting, taxiing out, and take-off, but a Mailcan Fortress which departed at 0240 GMT had flame out on one engine at starting, and was backfiring on one engine during take-off. When the Warwick took off there was no other aircraft in circuit, but when the Fortress took off there was. When the Warwick took off there was no mist on the edge of the airfield, but when the Fortress took off there was. The President of the Court of Inquiry, who presumably was responsible for submitting the report, knew of this confusion, and yet he chose to base his findings on evidence which clearly related to the Fortress. The Report speculates on fog as a factor, but failed to call the duty Met Officer or the Briefing Officer, both of whom could have confirmed there wasn't any when the Warwick departed. There was a procession of aircraft taking off that night - both before and after BV 247, and there was no problem with fog. The Court speculated on the possibility of an engine failure on a heavily laden aircraft on take-off and ignored the evidence of the airfield controller who said that lift-off and climb-out was perfectly normal. They speculated on the presence of another aircraft supposedly in circuit prior to landing at an adjacent airfield. but there was no second aircraft at the time the Warwick took off, and flight schedules for St Mawgan and the adjoining St Eval clearly show that the only time there were two aircraft in circuit at the same time was two hours after the Warwick had gone. One disturbing aspect of the Court of Inquiry Report is the withholding of the evidence of the one eyewitness, the Home Guard Sergeant. He was interviewed by crash investigators and his statement taken, but he was not called to give evidence. Surprisingly, his Commanding Officer was called to 'present' the sergeant's evidence, but there is no copy of the Sergeant's statement, or reference to the Lieutenant or the Sergeant in the report. In his statement the Sergeant described the effect of the explosion, its colours, and then what was obviously an aircraft falling away with sparks and flame trails behind. He held the position of the explosion with his arm out raised till soldiers with him placed a five-foot length of antenna against crossed bayonets in the ground to hold the line and angle. He did a flash to bang count which gave an approximate distance measure, and he described the bang, when it came as a sort of woolly - bursting paper- bag sound. The Sergeant was an experienced radio engineer/operator engaged in training regular soldiers in the use of radio equipment, and immediately reported what he had seen and heard on an Air/Sea Rescue frequency to an Air Sea Rescue Unit at RAF St Eval. The fact that the Home Guard Sergeant's report of an explosion was received, understood, and acted on, is confirmed, by coded signals sent in the early hours of April 17, 1944, by OAC (Overseas Air Control) 44 Group Gloucester. The first signal in REKOH SYKO (code) was to DNY-A, asking - "Are you in trouble", and when there was no response, the second was sent to Gibraltar, and after giving details of the departure of DNY-A said "Explosion reported from direction of sea shortly after take-off. Signal urgent if, repeat if, this aircraft arrives". Two other records are at variance with the finding of the Court of Inquiry. 525 Squadron O.R.B., and 44 Group Transport Command accident report for April 1944, both refer to the loss of BV 247, and both state this was due to an "explosion" shortly after take-off. While the Court of Inquiry was in session, there were two happenings, both of which should, one would have thought, at least in the mind of Derek Fowkes, have been referred to the Court, but which were not. First a Salvage Vessel arrived in Newquay Bay with terms of reference: "find the wreckage of BV 247 at all costs" and the second, the body of the missing Warwick Pilot Arthur Gavel was recovered. With regard to the Salvage Vessel Joy Bell III on charter to the Air Ministry, enquiries by Derek Fowkes indicated that this was an operation organized by the American OSS (Office of Strategic Services; a wartime intelligence agency of the United States during World War II) and two of their officers were on board throughout a four day search. They were hoping to recover a diplomatic bag which one of two French passengers had been carrying to General de Gaulle in Algiers. At the same time an RAF Salvage Officer (RAF St Mawgan) was interested in recovering a valuable British cargo, but the operation failed because they couldn't locate the wreckage. Fowkes’s investigation into the recovery and disposal of the body of Arthur Douglas Gavel raised a number of questions. The body of Flying Officer Arthur Douglas Gavel was found on the beach at Whipsiderry Beach, Newquay Bay on April 25, 1944, just eight days after the crash. The body had sustained serious injuries, was clothed in a RCAF uniform, and wore a wrist watch which had stopped at the time of the crash. The WWII routine for bodies recovered from the sea was for them to be taken to a Newquay Urban District Council mortuary, but if the body were obviously that of an airman, it would be taken to the mortuary at RAF St Mawgan, and that is what happened to the body found on April 25, 1944 on Whipsiderry Beach. It was obviously the body of an airman. The Crash Officer had forwarded the wrist watch for identification and whilst awaiting the reply,he ascertained that the FCO (Flying Control Officer) at St Mawgan had spoken with the Pilot of the Warwick during his stop-over at St Mawgan, and so it was arranged for him to view the body. The Flying Control Officer was contacted by the Station Medical Office who said:- "We think we have the body of the big Canadian Pilot from the Warwick". The Flying Control Officer visited the mortuary and confirmed that in his opinion it was the body of the pilot. Because of the very brief contact, and the fact that the identification disc was missing, he was happy to think that his identification was to be confirmed by the watch, and that was the end of his involvement. The Medical Officer concerned by the condition of the pilot’s body had “put a clamp” on the mortuary and issued instructions to prevent viewing or discussion. The routine which should have been followed at that point in time is clearly set out in Home Office Circular No.987 of 13th August 1942. This says: "any male member of any air force who dies from injuries sustained by him in the course of his duties which are ascribable to an accident in which an aircraft belonging to an air force is involved, shall be deemed for the purposes of paras 3 to 6(A) of the Defence (Burials, Inquests and Registration of Deaths) Regulations 1942 to have died in the consequence of "war operations". The circular continues: "In these cases, therefore, no person is required to inform the coroner of the death and a coroner shall not be obliged or authorised to take any action in relation to the death unless the Secretary of State otherwise directs". Fowkes concluded this routine was clearly understood by the Station Commander, and in fact he had complied with the regulations on April 17 when fourteen other bodies from the Warwick had been taken to his station. There was no post-mortem and no inquest on any of those bodies. He merely forwarded a list of names to the Registrar of Deaths at Newquay, certifying death as due to "war operations" and thereafter made arrangements for proper service-burials. With regard to burial, Fowkes understood that it was normal to consult next of kin, in cases where this was possible, or in the case of Commonwealth and Foreign nationals, their governments, and some of the crew and passengers from BV 247 are buried at Newquay, some at Brookwood Military Cemetery, and others in their home-cemeteries. One body was taken to London and lodged in a catacomb to await transfer home, overseas, after the war. Fowkes could not think of any reason why this routine wasn't applied to the pilot, Arthur Gavel. Instead on the April 26 "someone" arranged for the body to be taken away, with the Staff Medical Officer and the Crash Officer being told it was for specialist post-mortem examination. Fowkes concluded they assumed that it was because of the injuries caused by an explosion, and which had caused the Station Commander such concern. What happened to the body when it left RAF St Mawgan is not known, but on the April 27, just one day later and then described as being that of an 'unknown male", it was subject of an inquest at Newquay. The evidence of a Pathologist was accepted by the HM Coroner and the death was recorded as due to drowning. He then added a rider; "there being no evidence to show how, when and where the deceased met his death". Derek Fowkes was told that all HM Coroners records for this period had been destroyed, and Fowkes was unable to establish the identity of the pathologist who certified the cause of death of an 'unknown male' as being due to drowning. In WWII there was only one person engaged in that line of work in the County of Cornwall. He had no deputy. He was responsible for all post- mortem examinations, civilian and service. Those involving airmen from St Mawgan were carried out on the Station. According to Fowkes, the pathologist knew all about the crash of BV 247 and said “everyone did, but denied all knowledge of Pilot Arthur Gavel and the unknown male, and claimed to have no records for that period”. Derek Fowkes believed the circumstances of the disposal of the body of Arthur Gavel, have the hallmark of a conspiracy, and there are questions that remain unanswered: Who authorised the removal of the body of a Canadian Air Force Officer from the mortuary at RAF St Mawgan? Who notified the Local authority that it was that of an unknown male? Who was the pathologist who wrongly recorded the cause of death as drowning? Who informed HM Coroner that - "there was no evidence to show how, when or where the deceased had met his death”? Who gave the Commonwealth War Graves Commission information which resulted in them erecting a tombstone over Arthur Gavel's grave inscribed "Unknown Sailor of the Second World War"? It has been suggested to Fowkes that all this could have been due to wartime sloppiness, but if so, who by? The Station Commander, the Station Adjutant who knew about the identification of the watch, the Pathologist, His Majesty's Coroner, the Officers of the Local Authority? Fowkes believed there were too many people involved for that to be the case. he believed the problem lay with the pilot’s injuries. An explosion had occurred on board Warwick BV 247, but a 'decision' had been made to conceal that fact and all evidence of it had been excluded from the Court of Inquiry report. Fowkes concluded there had to be influence exerted from a pretty high level to organise that sort of thing, and it obviously had. Then just as the President of the Court of Inquiry was submitting his 'cover-up' report, in came the body of Arthur Gavel with explosive-injuries to the trunk, and consternation reigned again. The Station Commander put an immediate embargo on the mortuary, ordered the Station Medical Officer to say nothing of the injuries to anyone and within twenty-four hours the body had gone. That had to be a pretty quick move by any standards. Fowkes could only conclude that the body was disposed of in furtherance of a conspiracy to conceal that an explosion had taken place on board BV 247. Whatever the reason, the cruellest act came when Arthur Gavel's parents back in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada, were notified, that he was missing, with a date of death presumed to be April 17, 1944. His loss, and the realisation that there was no known grave where the family could pay their respects was a final blow. Sadly, the Gavel family - thousands of miles away in Canada, were not able to question what had happened, but this changed in 1980 as a result of what can only be described as 'an intervention of fate'. Arising from RAF reunions of those who had served at RAF St Mawgan in 1944, and those who had flown with 525 Squadron, it was learned that Arthur Gavel's body had in fact been recovered and identified in April 1944. An investigation to find out what had happened to it quickly focussed attention on a grave at Fairpark Cemetery, Newquay, which was marked as being that of an 'Unknown Seaman'. The attitude of the 'authorities' to a request for information, and for exhumation for identification purposes was for Fowkes, unhelpful to say the least, but in 1984, forty years after the crash, exhumation went ahead and was positive. The authorities paid for a proper re-burial service, and the placement of a correctly inscribed tombstone, but no-one offered any apology to the family or explanation for what happened. It was just left for them to accept that it was one of the sort of things that happened in war. But, according to the investigation by Derek Fowkes, it wasn't quite like that. There had been an explosion, and if it was a 'normal ‘act of war’, there was no requirement for the Court of Inquiry to organise a cover up - but it had. Fowkes learned that several top secret signals, using RAF Form 683 Secret Cipher, were sent on the night of April 16/17, 1944, to Air Ministry, Transport Command and Group HQ reporting that an explosion had been seen and reported shortly after the Warwick had taken off and when it was over the sea. There was concern later that day when the Station Commander issued an instruction that there must be no further reference to 'explosion' in any station records or in any further signals and this led to a belief that some sort of 'Sikorski' operation was involved “to get rid of someone”. Fowkes learned that the situation was reviewed, following the event and there was a knowledge that an explosion had occurred at about 2000 feet when the Warwick was out over the sea and that all evidence of it was to be excluded from the report of the Court of Inquiry and the Court's report was a cover-up. The crash had been written off as due to possible fog or engine failure, but this was not true - it was due to sabotage and not by the enemy. Because of a concern such an event could happen again, the passenger list was reviewed to see if it included the sort of person some secret organisation might want to get rid of, and the result was a focus on Roger Achille Albert Baudouin (Boudoin), Commandant, Free French and Maurice Schwob M.O.S.F.F., Free French Government Agent, travelling from London to Algiers - simply because the Americans had been seeking to recover the French diplomatic bag from the wreckage and at that time just six weeks before D-Day, everyone was paranoid about security and de Gaulle's Free French were considered a risk. A lot of time was spent trying to work out what sort of device could have been used; how it could have been taken on board; where it had been placed; and how it was triggered. But, timing and mechanical devices were out because of the twenty-four hour delay, and it became impossible to determine how an explosive device would be used. Fowkes considered the unusual aspect of the crash. It was subject of an investigation by the American Counter Intelligence Corp. Under normal circumstances the Warwick would have been no concern, but RAF St Mawgan was a joint RAF/USATC base, and the Americans were told it was suspected that an explosive device had been placed on board the Warwick, and that it had detonated just after take-off when the plane was out over the sea. There investigation, Fowkes learned, was not so much aimed at establishing the cause, as covering their backs. While the British and Americans were Allies in the war and generally got along quite well, each service tended to protect its own and did not ask or get any help from the other in time of trouble. The American investigator was given clearance for enquiries round the base but was asked to oblige with a report which just negatived any suggestion of American involvement and asked it "kindly" not refer to rumours and explosion. The "Crash of British Warwick Aircraft", together with a confidential covering report which gave slightly more detail was submitted and as a matter of routine ended in the US Army Intelligence and Security Command Archives at Fort Meade, Maryland. Unfortunately, a fire in 1973 destroyed more than 75% of the records, including the 'Warwick' report. The open report negated any American involvement. But, once again the Sikorski crash at Gibraltar was still very much in everyone's mind, and this prompted the belief by the American investigator at the time that the British Secret Service or some such organisation had been involved with the intention of getting rid of someone. In one interview during his investigation, Fowkes was told: “Let me cast grave doubts on sabotage. First, why? None of the people on board looks like a target for such an act. Secondly the technical problem of causing a devastating explosion undetected at that time, almost insuperable". Fowkes accepted that for sabotage, there would have to be a target. If the objective were to get rid of someone on an aircraft in flight over the sea there would have to be a device capable of achieving that objective and there would have to be a means of placing it on board without being detected or arousing suspicion, and finally there had to be an "organisation" involved in that line of business. However, from the research by Fowkes, he learned of a likely target among the passengers and knowledge that a barometric-device for getting rid of an aircraft in flight, and the means of infiltrating it on board an aircraft did exist in 1944. The barometrically detonated explosive device, specially manufactured to destroy an aircraft in flight could have been placed on board a guarded aircraft such as the Warwick in a diplomatic bag. Two diplomatic bags had been put on board the Warwick just prior to take off. If those bags were genuine their loss would be recorded in a Foreign Office Index in the Public Record Office at Kew. If they were not genuine, there will be no record. Fowkes checked he index, found the section which recorded the losses of diplomatic, departmental, and secret mail bags, but there is no record of the loss of SM 18 and SM 19. The two bags on the night of April 16/17, 1944, were addressed to an office at Maison Blanche known by the letters I.S.L.D (Inter Services Liaison Department). The bags were of normal brief-case size, of canvas, and with specially weighted bottoms, said to ensure they would not float off into enemy hands in the event of the aircraft crashing into the sea. The despatch of such items was routinely signalled all the way along the line, and their despatch was signalled to 44 Group HQ Gloucester in signal timed 170040 (0040hrs April 17, 1944), but after the crash the details of the two bags were queried by Group HQ. It was then found that the information on file at St Mawgan was insufficient to identify the office of origin and rules and regulations were tightened up to cover the future receipt and despatch, but the question as to where those bags had come from and what they had contained was never resolved. The only record that the two bags existed is to be found in the Court of Inquiry report and this refers to the handing over to the pilot of secret bags marked SM18 and SM19. No issue was made about the bags at the Inquiry, but the evidence clearly indicates that two 'mysterious' bags went on board minutes before take off. One or other could have contained an explosive device. There is one other reference to the barometric-device and that is in a book "Clandestine Warfare" published 1988, "The inventors had in mind its use behind or under a pilot's seat in a plane carrying VIPs who after the explosion would be killed when the plane crashed". The Investigation by Derek Fowkes concluded: Most of Art Gavel's friends in 525 Squadron assumed that he had suffered an engine failure during climb out, and that with a heavy load, passengers, freight, and fuel. He went straight down into the sea, but it did not happen like that. The possibility of an "engine blow-out" was also discussed within the Squadron. A 525 Pilot had a nasty experience during take-off when this occurred, leaving bits and pieces of the engine and a load of oil all over the runway, but the Engineering Officer put that down to 'hydraulicing'. Hydraulicing arises when those responsible for servicing a radial engined aircraft, fail to drain off accumulated oil in the bottom cylinders in between flights. As soon as pressure is applied at run-up, or at the commencement of take-off, the bottoms are blown out of one or more of the bottom cylinders but this didn't happen to BV 247. The question of the Pilot being caught out by the 'up-draught' which occurred at the cliff-edge when taking off out over the sea was discussed, but this was a problem which appertained at RAF Station Portreath further down the coast where the runway went right up to the top of the cliff. There was not the same problem at St Mawgan where the end of the runway was away from the cliff. An explosion was seen, heard, reported, and acted on, and that "explosion" is recorded as the cause of the crash in 525 Squadron ORB and in 44 Group crash-records. The Court of Inquiry excluded evidence which clearly indicated that an explosion had occurred on board BV 247, and that the Court's report was a cover-up, and there had to be a reason for it. The body of Art Gavel was recovered and identified and disposed of, and there had to be a reason for it. The "authorities" were unhappy about his "historic investigation". He was asked "why are you poking your nose into this"? and "do everyone a favour and leave it alone"; When he asked to see a copy of The Court of Inquiry report, he was told that those sort of reports had long since been destroyed. The report had not been destroyed. With regard to the exhumation of what he believed to be Arthur Gavel's remains, he was told he would never get a Home Office Licence for exhumation for identification purposes; and when he applied for Arthur Gavel's medical and dental records for identification purposes, he was told the next of kin was not entitled to them, nor was he, their personal representative. Senior officers on the station, and the Americans were talking of sabotage, not by the enemy, but by the British Secret Service or some similar organisation. There were some fascinating people on board the Warwick. One of two French passengers M. Maurice Schwob, was carrying a secret file intending to present it to General De Gaulle in Algiers and publish it. It contained information authorities would not want made public. The second French passenger - Commandant Roger Achille Albert Baudouin, a cryptanalyst, had worked at the Top-Secret Government Communications HQ at Bletchley Park and had knowledge which could prejudice the security of the D-Day. The British and American security services did not trust General de Gaulle and his 'Committee' . From midnight of the day of the crash April 17, 1944, a complete travel ban came into force to protect the security of D- Day, and under the circumstances it is hard to understand why the Foreign Office had granted an Air Passage Authority for such a man to travel on what was to be 'the last plane to Algiers'. A Mark II barometric device had been manufactured specifically to destroy an aircraft in flight. The two mysterious Secret Mail Bags were taken on board the Warwick just prior to take-off, and they could have provided the means whereby an explosive device was inveigled on board and into a position behind the Pilot's seat. Derek Fowkes concluded the loss of the aircraft was due to sabotage and covered up and not by the enemy. The Warwick flight, however, remains a 'classic deniable accident' by official agencies, and with no clear evidence, it is officially “deniable”. In January 1997, the BBC presented the documentary “The Gold Plane” “In 1944 a transport plane carrying secret agents and gold bullion crashed under mysterious circumstances into the sea off the north coast of Cornwall. Now, more than 50 years after this unexplained aviation accident occurred, retired policeman Derek Fowkes sets out to reinvestigate the crash” One commentary of the document: the film is an account of his … work, which has involved exhuming the pilot’s body and travelling as for as Canada to talk to witnesses. At the end, it comes up with a theory about the crash which is improvable and will delight believers in conspiracy theories. The 50 minute programme is not currently available to view.
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Mystery Flight Royal Air Force Squadron 525
Sources: An Investigation into the Cause of the Crash of British Warwick C. MK. I Aircraft BV247 of 525 Squadron, RAF Transport Command Derek Fowkes (December 1995) Additional Information: Detail Information on Passengers and Crew Remembrance Page: Arthur Gavel The Mystery Flight - BBC2
Mystery Flight Royal Air Force Squadron 525 Vickers Warwick C Mark I, BV247
Joy Bell II - Converted to a mooring and salvage vessel for the Ministry of Transport in 1944; Renamed Rafmoor, re- registered and transferred to Air Ministry in 1947.