Sergeant Alexander Little was the pilot of Armstrong Whitley V EB389 from RAF 24 OTU at RAF Honeybourne, between Redditch and Cheltenham in Worcestershire, England. RAF 24 Operational Training Unit was formed there on 15 March 1942 as part of RAF 7 Group Bomber Command to train night bomber crews using Armstrong Whitleys. During 1942, the unit carried out three normal bomber command operational sorties.
On the night of 2/3 January 1943, the aircraft and crew took off for a high-level bombing training sortie. It is believed that a Photoflash flare exploded prematurely leading to a catastrophic crash at 00.05 hours. The aircraft came down near Cherington, three miles SSE of Shipstone-on-Stour, Warwickshire.
The crew on board Armstrong Whitley EB389:
Sergeant Alexander Little RAFVR (1365959) pilot, age 25
Pilot Officer Richard Patrick Mason RAFVR (129350) navigator, age 34
Sergeant John Davidson RAFVR (1369345) wireless operator/air gunner, age 32
Sergeant Kenneth John Fielding RAFVR (1332345) air gunner, age 19
Sergeant Douglas Bell RAFVR (1432116) air bomber, age 20
Little was born in Lanark and educated at Clunie School, Blairgowrie High School and then went to Edinburgh University where he graduated BSc in Agriculture in the summer of 1940. Alexander played for the Blairgowrie High School football team and was twice runner-up in the boys’ sports championship.
In July 1940, whilst he was temporarily employed by the Department of Agriculture, Little received the King’s commendation for his bravery in rescuing the pilot of an aircraft that had crashed on a farm where he was working. He received a letter from the Air Ministry, dated 27th February 1941:
‘I am commanded by the Air Council to inform you that His majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve the award to you of a commendation, in recognition of you brave conduct in rescuing the pilot of a Royal Air Force aircraft which crashed on July 20th, 1940.“The Air Council wish me to convey to you their warm congratulations on this mark of His Majesty’s pleasure. “The award will be announced in a supplement of the London Gazette to be published on the evening of February 28th, 1941.’
During the summer of 1940, it was announced that he had won a Stevens Scholarship in Agriculture. Sergeant Alexander Little joined the RAF in October 1940 and was sent off to the United States to get his ‘wings’.
Little was the youngest son of William and Nellie Little, Craigie, Clunie. HE was buried on 9 January 1943 at Clunie Churchyard where he was a Sunday school teacher before joining up. Every home in the central Stormont area was represented in addition to mourners from Blairgowrie, Dunkeld and Birnam.
A Photoflash device was dropped along with the bombs and would activate at a variable time–setting, based on the bombing height. A vertically mounted camera on the aircraft would expose the film for up to eight seconds to allow for the correct timing of the flash illuminating the appropriate bombing area. On the aircrafts return, this film was interpreted, and the results of the raid was plotted and analysed.
WITH A WHITLEY SQUADRON OF THE BOMBER COMMAND (CH 689) Original wartime caption: [For story see CH.674] A hangar filled with Whtiley Is undergoing overhaul. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205442373
WHITLEY NIGHT BOMER OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (CH 1214) Original wartime caption: [For story see CH.1210] A Whitley bomber in flight. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205442713
WHITLEY NIGHT BOMER OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (CH 1215) Original wartime caption: [For story see CH.1210] Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205442714