Sgt Henry Thomas Joel

Sgt. Henry Thomas Joel
Sgt. Joel's gravestone in the graveyard of St. Mary Magdelen, Great Burstead
Airspeed Horsa glider
A Stirling towing a Horsa

Born December 1921 in West Ham, son of William Henry Joel and Dorothy Joel (nee Alderton) of Billericay. He is remembered on the Billericay War Memorial.

Sgt. Henry Joel was one of two pilots of Airspeed Horsa 1 Serial No. LG999 which crashed on a training mission on 4th April 1944. Sgt. Joel was a member of the Glider Pilot Regiment Army Air Corps. 2nd Wing based at RAF Keevil, Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

On that fateful day he was part of a Group training exercise code named Dreme. His Horsa glider LG999 was being towed by a Short’s Stirling Bomber LJ842. The exercise consisted of cross-country night tow consisting of three legs after which the gliders were to be released over Brize Norton. On the flying leg from Lewis to Winchester low cloud was encountered and the pilot of the Stirling decided to fly below the cloud base. This being wartime it would have been extremely dark below cloud and unfortunately the tow aircraft and glider hit the top of a tree. The Horsa glider was immediately released and crashed at Warnford, Hampshire, just west of Petersfield. The Stirling flew on for about 15 minutes before crashing at 21.00hrs near Romsey, Hampshire. The site of the glider crash is on the Warnford Park Estate in a field which is well away from roads and thus not accessible. There is no marker.

Sgt. Joel and the other pilot Sgt. William Walker were killed. Also on board were 24 members of No. 3 platoon, A Company, 7th (Airborne) Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers who were also killed. The pilot and 5 crew of the Stirling were also killed.

My Uncle, Sgt. Henry Thomas (Harry) Joel, was born in London East in December 1921. He was an Airman in World War 2 and was shot down in Droxford, Hampshire on April 4th 1944. Harry is buried in St. Magdalene Churchyard, Great Burstead in the Basildon District.
My family lived in Billericay. My mother was Dorothy Joel and my father was Sidney Capon.
I was born in Billericay but my parents migrated to Australia when I was three. I came over to Billericay in 2008 and found Harry’s grave. What a beautiful town!

Kathleen Roffey (nee: Capon)

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  • I have been researching the very sad and tragic crash of Sgt Joel’s Horsa Glider and its Stirling tow tug. It is hard to comprehend that no one survived.
    We recently visited Sgt Joel’s grave in the sadly very neglected church yard at Great Burstead (there are 12 WW2 burials located here), and will soon be visiting the crash site of his glider. We haven’t yet found the Stirling’s exact crash site, but hope to locate this.
    If a loss of life (32 men) of this scale happened today, it would be front page headlines for days, but back in 1944 it would have been heavily censored.

    By Richard (10/03/2019)

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