Bomber pilot who lies in the corner of a FOREIGN FIELD
ANOTHER chance discovery spurred me on to find out more about the tragic loss during World War Two of Flight Lieutenant Selwyn Henry Alcock, son of the vicar of Brockmoor, William Alcock.
The London Gazette of Tuesday 19th May 1936 records the appointment of William from his post near Leek: “Whitehall – May 18th. The King has been pleased by Warrant under His Majesty’s Royal Sign Manual, bearing the date the 12th instant, to appoint the Reverend George William Henry Alcock, Vicar of Onecote with Bradnop, to the Living of Brockmoor in the County of Stafford and Diocese of Lichfield void by the cession of the Reverend Kenneth George William
William’s son, Selwyn, was born in Edgbaston, on 16th February 1919. He went to Well’s Cathedral School on a music scholarship, where in 1935 he became captain of the rugby team. He then began a degree at Durham University but at the outbreak of war in September 1939 he volunteered for the RAF, although he wasn’t called up until 9th March 1940.
In the intervening period Selwyn moved back to Brockmoor. As Peter Edmonds wrote in an online article a few years ago, he played for Dudley-kingswinford Rugby Club and is remembered with others on a club house plaque.
Selwyn was married on 10th October 1942 to Dorothy, who he had met whilst posted in Devon. She moved in and lived with his parents at Brockmoor Vicarage.
Much of the research on Selwyn’s RAF career was done by Roger Perkins in ‘Pathfinder Pilot - the Search for Selwyn Alcock DFC’. We know that Selwyn flew seven operations with 49 Squadron before moving to 83 Squadron, but at just after 11pm on 27th January 1944, Lancaster OL-V, captained by Flight Lieutenant Alcock, was attacked and shot down by a night-fighter. So sudden and devastating was the attack that none of the crew were able to escape the stricken bomber which crashed near the Belgian town of Sautour.
Members of the crew are remembered by a plaque in Sautour Church. They were originally buried at the German airfield at nearby Florennes, from where the nightfighter was based.
Later they were moved to the War Cemetery at Hotton (Arrondissement de Marcheen-famenne, Luxembourg, Belgium, Plot: VE 10) in the Ardennes.
Very soon afterwards, a telegram boy would call at Brockmoor Vicarage to deliver the chilling message to Selwyn’s young widow and his parents:
“Deeply regret to inform you that Flight Lieutenant S H Alcock RAFVR is reported missing from air operations over enemy territory.”
But Selwyn would be remembered for his courage. He was recommended by 83 Squadron’s Commanding Officer in the following words:
“Flight Lieutenant Alcock, as captain of a heavy bomber, has completed 46 operational flights against the enemy, 15 of these being with the Pathfinder Force.
“Throughout his operational tour he has been detailed to attack most of the heavily defended targets in Germany, including 7 sorties in the Battle of Berlin.
“Without fail, Flight Lieutenant Alcock has carried out his arduous duties with determination and skill, always courageously pressing home his attack to his utmost.
“On two recent occasions, when approaching Berlin, his aircraft suffered very concentrated and accurate anti-aircraft fire which resulted in an engine being put out of action on each occasion.
“Despite this, Flight Lieutenant Alcock continued on his bombing runs and marked and attacked his target successfully.
“His exemplary operational conduct and valour have contributed largely to the success of operations in which he has taken part. I strongly recommend the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.”
His recommendation of a DFC arrived on the desk of Air-vice Marshall Donald Bennett, Air Officer commanding the Royal Air Force’s Pathfinder Force. Bennett counter signed the paper with “Strongly recommended.”
The quiet Brockmoor churchyard of St John the Evangelist still contains a simple headstone, marking the passing of its vicar, George, on 26th August 1949, and his wife, Eva May, in 1982.
It also records the passing of their son, Selwyn, whose mortal remains lie still in a foreign field.
A well-worn photograph of the wedding of Selwyn and Dorothy, October 1942
The Alcock family grave in Brockmoor cemetery
Roll of Honour at Dudley-kingswinford Rugby Club, featuring Selwyn Alcock – spelled incorrectly
Selwyn Alcock’s gravestone at Hotton in the Ardennes