Flight Lieutenant Dominic PAGE (64320)
8 (C) Operational Training Unit, Royal Air Force

Date of birth: 6th February 1922
Date of death: 19th September 1946

Killed on active service aged 24
Buried at All Saints Churchyard, Wittering Row A Grave 6
He was born at Canterbury on the 6th of February 1922 the youngest son of Harry Carlton Page, Managing Director of the Canterbury Gas Company, and Ethel (nee Matthewman later Hooper) of Dane John Place, Canterbury, later of 9 Grange Road, Layton, Blackpool.

He was educated at the Junior King's School from September 1931 and at the King’s School Canterbury from January 1936 to March 1940 where he was in Holme House which became Meister Omers. He gained his 1st XI Hockey colours in his first year at King's.

On leaving school he enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on the 17th of July 1940 and commenced pilot training as a Leading Aircraftsman in October 1940. He underwent courses at both 13 Elementary Flying Training School at Flying Training School Cranwell and 6 Operational Training Unit before qualifying as a Blenheim pilot in July 1941. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on the 13th of April 1941 and underwent a lecture on escape and evasion from Squadron Leader Evans at RAF Andover in June 1941. He was posted to 86 Squadron on the 29th of July 1941 where he flew Beauforts and underwent a further lecture on escape and evasion at RAF North Coates in September 1941. He was engaged to Miss Paula Read of Newbury.

On the 24th of November 1941 he and his crew took off at 4.15pm from RAF North Coates in Beaufort Mk 1 AW207 BX-H for a mine laying operation over the Frisian coast between Ameland and Schiermonnikoog with one other aircraft from the squadron. On the run in to lay the mine their aircraft was caught in searchlight beams and was hit by flak from the western most Schiermonnikoog anti aircraft batteries and Page altered course for Schiermonnikoog and the polder land on the south side of the island. The aircraft just missed hitting the farm of De Kooi but crash landed in a "perfect wheels up landing" in a meadow just beyond the farm at 6.15pm. Wreckage was spread over 80 metres with one wing ripped off, both engines lost from their mountings and with the mine being thrown clear but failing to explode. The crew were uninjured other than Sergeant McCann who suffered a broken collar bone. The crew set fire to the aircraft before they were captured.

The crew was: -

Pilot Officer Dominic Page (Pilot) (POW No.707)
Flying Officer James "Jimmy" McCrae Paxton (Navigator Stalag Luft 3 POW No.708)
Sergeant Jack Basil Green (Mid Upper Gunner) (POW No. 73 Stalag 383)
Sergeant James McCann (Rear Gunner) (POW No.79 Stalag 383)

The other aircraft from the squadron, Beaufort Mk 1 BX-T AW192, flown by Pilot Officer Denis Richard James Harper was shot down into the sea near Schiermonnikoog with the loss of the entire crew.

His brother received the following telegram dated the 26th of November 1941: - "Regret to inform you that your brother Pilot Officer Dominic Page is reported missing as the result of air operations on 24th November 1941. Any further information received will be communicated to you immediately. Should new of him reach you from any other source please inform this department. His mother and fiancé have been informed"

On the 3rd of December 1941, his mother received the following telegram: - "Your son 64320 Pilot Officer Dominic Page was mentioned in a German broadcast 2/12/41 as a prisoner of war. This information should be treated with reserve pending official confirmation. Any further news will be immediately communicated to you."

He was taken to Dulag Luft, the main Luftwaffe prisoner transit camp at Oberursel, near Frankfurt am Main, on the 30th of November 1941 where he was interrogated and was held until the 15th of December 1941 when he was transferred to Stalag Luft I at Barth in Pomerania. He remained there until being transferred again, to Stalag Luft III at Sagan in March 1942. He was involved in one escape attempt during his time in captivity but did not get outside the camp perimeter. With the rapid advance of the Red Army in early 1945 the Germans decided to evacuate the camp and to move the 3,000 prisoners further west. The march west began on the 27th of January 1945 and finished on the 4th of February at Malag-Milag Nord prisoner of war camp at Tarmstedt near Bremen. He was released when the camp was liberated in April 1945. While in captivity he was promoted to Flying Officer on the 13th of April 1942 and to Flight Lieutenant on the 13th of April 1943. He was also a keen member of the camp's theatrical troupe.

At the end of the war he returned to the UK where he resumed his flying career after attending a refresher course flying Oxfords at 21 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit and completed a Blind Approach Training course at RAF Watchfield from the 9th to the 18th of March 1946 where he was assessed as "Average". In December 1945 he returned to King's to play for the OKS XV against the school, returning again in March 1946 to play hockey for the OKS. He underwent a medical examination on the 22nd of May 1946 to assess his suitability to work in photographic reconnaissance. He passed this and was posted to 8 Operational Training Unit to convert to Mosquito aircraft.

On the 19th of September 1946 Dominic Page, and his Navigator, Flying Officer Francis Colin Ashworth, were briefed for a cross country photographic reconnaissance sortie to be conducted at 24,000 feet. They were to fly a route from their base at RAF Chalgrove via St Abb's Head - York - Bury St Edmonds and to return to Charlgrove. They were to climb to their operation height and take photographs between Newcastle and St Abb's Head. They were fully briefed on the prevailing weather conditions. Dominic Page took off from RAF Charlgrove at 2.04pm in Mosquito Mk PR34 PF651 for the mission. At 2.22pm he informed his base that his radio reception was very weak and that he was returning to base. He cancelled this message at 2.38pm as the radio was apparently working satisfactorily again. During this time Francis Ashworth was routinely passing messages to control and at 2.46pm he reported that he was changing frequency to RAF Abington although he did not make contact with them. The aircraft was next heard by witnesses on the ground who heard it when it was above cloud in the area of Wittering and the village of Pilsgate. The engine was heard to be "screaming" and it was thought that the pilot was doing aerobatics. Then an explosion was heard after which the engine noise ceased. The aircraft was then seen just below the top cloud layer at 10,000 feet in a diving attitude and with the starboard wing breaking away. The aircraft then climbed momentarily before immediately entering a slow flat spin to starboard during which both engines broke away from the aircraft while the aircraft was still very high. The aircraft continued to disintegrate until it hit the ground at 2.52pm where it exploded into flames, killing both men instantly. Pieces of wreckage continued to come down for some time after the crash.

A Court of Inquiry was convened into the cause of the accident by the Air Officer Commanding, No. 12 Group on the 23rd of September 1946, at which a number of statements were taken from both experts and from witnesses on the ground.

Statement of Mr. G. Barrett, a former Corporal clerk (D.D) Royal Air Force: -

"On the afternoon of 19th September 1946, I was driving a tractor in Mr. Smalley's farm to the S.E. of Uffington Station. I stopped the tractor and looking up towards the west I saw an aircraft flying at high altitude. I watched it for a moment or so and notice small parts coming from it. I then watched it more intently and noticed that it was deficient of a wing. As it got lower and I was able to get a better view, the aircraft appeared to be climbing, but this was only momentary and the nose dropped. The aircraft then went into a very flat spin and disappeared from my view. The next thing I saw was a cloud of black smoke. I estimate the time from the commencement of the spin to the crash as two minutes. Pieces continued to fall after the aircraft had crashed. I noticed one large piece fall and hit the ground and rushed up to look at it. I found it to be part of a wing. It was covered with ice. I estimate the thickness of the ice to be 1/4"

Three German prisoners of war, who were working nearby, attempted to rescue the two men but were beaten back by the flames. Statement of German POW Ulrich Wolfe: -

"At about 14.55 hrs. (he looked at his watch at that moment) on 19.9.46. I was working in a field about half a mile south east of Pilsgate Grange when my attention was attracted by the roar of an aircraft and a bang to the north west. On looking up I saw it at a height of approximately 3 - 2,000 metres. I noticed a wing was off - I think it was the port one. I could see pieces of the aircraft in its immediate vicinity - they were all small pieces. The aircraft immediately put up its nose and went into a spin - I cannot remember which way. It continued spinning until it went out of view behind some trees. I then saw the smoke from the crash. About half way to the ground the engine on the side with the complete wing came out - I knew it was the engine as I could see the propeller turning. I rushed to the crash and found the fire raging. With the help of two comrades we pulled the occupants out but they were dead. the body of the navigator was wearing an oxygen mask but I did not see any safety straps."

The Court concluded that: -

"The accident was due to loss of control followed by the collapse of the starboard wing. Technical evidence suggests that the wing failed due to overstressing probably caused during the pull-out from the resultant dive. Evidence shows that icing conditions were a contributory cause of the loss of control."

The gallant conduct of the three German prisoners was commended by the coroner and they were recommended for early release. On the 3rd of December 1946, during questions to the Secretary of War in the House of Commons, Mr Anthony Greenwood MP asked the Secretary whether the arrangements for the repatriation of the three men, Ulrich Wolfe, Fritz Oeder and Joseph Schoensteiner, had been made. Mr Bellinger replied, "Yes sir, the conduct of these three prisoners of war has resulted in arrangements being made for their repatriation on the 21st December".