The last flight of Ross Gregory

Ross Gregory’s name may not be familiar to today’s cricket fans. But in 1937 he was thought to be the next big thing in Australia’s batting, scoring 23, 50 and 80 in his first (and only) three Test innings soon after he turned 21.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/5436.html

While he did not play on the 1938 tour of England, he would have been expected to play when international cricket resumed after the war. Unfortunately, he died in a wartime flying accident on June 10, 1942.

The official details of this incident are taken from an Australian military website:

Ross Gregory 001

We see that he was the observer on a RAF Wellington bomber of 215 squadron, which exploded in the air near Gafargaon. This was then in Mymensingh district of Bengal, not Assam as mentioned in some references. It was about 50 km from the Assam border at that time.

The crew of 6 included 4 Australians including the two pilots, plus 2 from the RAF. Pilot Officer Ross Gregory was the only officer aboard.

215 squadron was then known to be based in Pandaveswar (near Asansol) and engaged in bombing and supply dropping missions in Burma. Later this airfield was used by the US forces for bombing and transport missions.

A file picture of this model of aircraft:

1920px-WellingtonBomber

This appears to have been an accident, as there is no mention of enemy action. This was well within India’s territory where Japanese fighters rarely came. Probably a load of bombs or other ordnance exploded in the air.

The location map of this region is given below:

Gafargaon

The town of Gafargaon is slightly to the west of the centre. It is now the headquarters of Gafargaon upazila (sub-district) in Mymensingh district of Mymensingh division of Bangladesh.

While several Test players died in military action during World War 2, this appears to be the only such case in Asia.

As mentioned in the above military record, the location of the graves could not be found after the war and thus they are listed as “Missing with no known grave”.

Note: David Frith wrote a biography:

The Ross Gregory Story. Melbourne: Lothian Books. 2003. ISBN 0734405987.

It is currently available on Amazon co uk and other sites.

 

 

Extension: List of all Indian aviation accidents involving the loss of 20 or more lives

Continuing from my last post, here is a comprehensive list of all accidents in India and to India-based aircraft which resulted in the loss of 20 or more lives. Both civil and military aircraft are covered. The list is here:  List of Indian aviation disasters with loss of 20 or more lives  I intend to move further down the scale so that all such accidents resulting in the loss of 5 or more lives (plus a few more with other features of interest) are covered. These will form part of a more comprehensive survey in a book which will come out some time in the future.

Looking into the history of aviation disasters in India-2

Getting a full record of accidents of the IAF and its earlier avatar RIAF is not possible from official documents. The results of enquiries rarely make it to the press. However, newspaper reports have been compiled into this resource: http://www.warbirdsofindia.com/crashes.html . It stops at end-2008, but aviation-safety.net more or less lists everything after that. However, the Warbirds data has been updated up to 2013 and can now be seen at  http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/Databases/Accidents.html . Apart from the IAF, there are a sizable number of aircraft operated by the Navy and smaller numbers by the Army, Coast Guard and the top-secret Aviation Research Centre. (But then, many top-secret organizations have articles about them in Wikipedia).

Regarding civilian crashes (Passenger and freight airline flights, general aviation, some government and paramilitary aircraft) we have the DGCA which investigates them and there is some record of the enquiries. They also cover accidents to foreign aircraft occurring in India from the 1960s onwards. Conversely, accidents to Indian aircraft outside India are generally investigated by the country where the crash occurred, though Indian authorities are involved.

To see accident summaries, click on http://www.dgca.in , then on Aircraft and then on Summaries. These are mainly in pdf form from 1960 to 2009. There must have been summaries from 1950 to 1959 as well. but they are not on the net.

More detailed accident reports from 2008 can be seen by clicking Reports rather than Summaries.

Coming back to the summaries, they give the very bare details and the inquiry reports may not have been released to the public. Perhaps RTI applications would help if one was really interested. Anyway, here are a few accidents which would be of interest:

19 Sep 1965, Expeditor VT-COO which was the plane carrying the Gujarat CM Balwantrai Mehta which was shot down in the course of the Pakistan war. (This has received a lot of coverage in the news media in the last few years)

23 Jun 1980, Pitts S-2A VT-EGN in which Sanjai Gandhi and another was killed.

26 Apr 1979, Indian Airlines Boeing 737 VT-ECR near Chennai. Fortunately no one was killed or badly injured, but it was clearly a terrorist bomb. There does not seem to have been any subsequent report as to who was responsible.

In closing: there is no single book or online resource which gives a listing and details of aviation accidents in India and involving Indian aircraft. Perhaps it is time someone wrote such a book. Watch this space.

Next, I will provide a list of all Indian or India-connected aviation disasters in which 30 or more persons were killed. This list does not appear anywhere else on the net or in any publication.

Looking into the history of aviation accidents in India-1

Today I will mention the resources available for anyone wanting to find out more about the history of civil aviation accidents in India. Perhaps the most convenient is the US-based http://www.planecrashinfo.com which attempts to cover every accident with the loss of 10 or more lives and many other significant accidents all over the world. It covers both civil and military aircraft. You can search for various regions or airlines. Remember that India has a large number of airlines which lasted for some years and then vanished or were taken over, right from the 1950s. Then there is the Netherlands-based site http://aviation-safety.net/index.php which has somewhat better coverage of less serious accidents all over the world, and includes a wiki where readers can add details and accidents which the compiler missed. This will get you some of the lesser-known accidents in India and elsewhere. There are a number of books by David Gero (see his listing in Amazon.com) which offer more details of selected accidents. These books are a bit costly by Indian standards. Basically he has 4 titles which have gone through several revisions “Aviation Disasters”-last revised 2006; “Military Aviation Disasters” (2010), “Flights of Terror” (ie hijacks and other terrorist incidents)-also 2010 and “Early Aviation Disasters” (accidents before 1950) (2011). All major accidents involving India (as well as Indian aircraft abroad) are covered in these books. What remains to be discussed are primary sources for accidents involving Indian civil aircraft. Here there are some documents in public domain.  For Indian military aircraft  you can forget even that (except for RAF and USAAF records) and your only source is the newspapers. One must admire the dedication of some researchers who seem to have gone through the newspaper morgues in Hyderabad right from the 1940s and have got a reasonable database together. Will conclude the discussion of the primary sources the next time we meet.