255 Squadron

16 October 1941 shortly after 05:00 :

A Bristol Beaufighter Mk.II two-seat night fighter of No.255 Squadron, Royal Air Force, serial R2377, crashed about 100 yards offshore of Hasbro’ Gap. The aircraft was equipped with the still-secret Mk.IV “AI” (Airborne Interception) radar and was flying a night defence patrol out of RAF Coltishall.

The cause of the crash has never been conclusively determined. Possibly enemy action, possibly engine problems or pilot error of some sort. No.255 Squadron had experienced considerable mechanical problems with the Mk.II Beaufighter, especially with the engine superchargers.

Both crew were killed in the crash. The body of 977495 Sergeant Tom VARLEY (Radio and Radar Operator) was recovered by the Cromer Lifeboat the same day; he was subsequently buried at Church and Clayton-le-Moors Joint Cemetery, near Accrington in Lancashire.

The body of the pilot, 748632 Flight Sergeant Walter BARKER, was believed by the RAF to have been lost at sea, in consequence of which – according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – there is no known grave and he is commemorated as such at the Runnymede Memorial. However, research by 255 Squadron Association conducted in 2015, triggered by the work of the late Mary Trett of Happisburgh, suggests that a body washed up on 19 October 1941 may have been that of F/Sgt. Barker. As at Easter 2015, enquiries are ongoing.