On September 1st 1943 the Morpeth Herald carried an article headed simply Gosforth Pilot.
The article was a report of a wartime bombing raid. After the bombs were dropped, crews reported smoke as billowing up to 12,000 feet. The resulting fires could be seen from more than a hundred miles away. The paper named the pilot as Sergeant E Mearis of Gosforth, and the plane he flew was a Lancaster bomber. During this mission, the article states, Sergeant Mearis and his flight crew were attacked twice by enemy fighters.
This flight was sergeant Mearis first operation. At twenty-three years of age Sgnt, Mearis joined the RAF after being in the searchlight battery. During this mission, the flight crew came under attack from below by an enemy fighter just as they began the bombing run.
“The Lancaster’s gunners held their fire until the fighter was well within range and then the fighter turned away and broke off the engagement.”
Sergeant Mearis brought the Lancaster back round and started the bombing re-run. The Lancaster discharged its bombs, and the plane once again came under attack from an enemy fighter.
Quote – mid-upper gunner “But I managed to get in a good burst, and it sheared off.”
September 1st 1943 Newcastle Evening Chronicle
The article refers to E Mearis first mission with his crew he may have completed missions before as a co-pilot to gain experience. The plane Lancaster EE115 took off on August 30th at 0004 hours from Wood Hall Spa and landed at 0433 hours, the target was Monchengladbach.
On September 3rd 1943 flying with a different crew, Lancaster EE115 crashed.
E Mearis flew only two more missions. On September 27th 1943, his flight to Hanover was abandoned due to icing problems.
On September 29th 1943, just twenty-nine days after the article appeared in the Morpeth Herald, E Mearis took off on what was to be his final flight.
That night the destination was Bochum a city in Western Germany. On his return, Pilot Mearis crossed the English coast without knowing his exact location. The cloud was low and made visibility difficult. Circling in low cloud at a low level he tried to try to work out his position. The aircraft lost height and at 0005 hours flew into high ground at Cadwell Hill five miles west of Mablethorpe. The Lancaster hit the ground and caught fire on impact. Sergeant Mearis was killed after just three sorties and one month after making his first solo RAF flight.
Hemswell Horrors (last verse) "Who will return tomorrow? For someone always dies, Leaving a mother to sorrow For the end of a son in the skies." Les Bucknall (no 150 sqn - 1945)
We now know that this particular Lancaster was an Avro Lancaster MKIII serial number ED983 built as part of a large order of aircraft built between November 1942 and June 1943.
There were seven thousand three hundred and seventy-seven Lancaster’s built during the war, and over half were lost. An archive exists that lists every one of these planes. Bruce Robertson a retired aviation historian published a list in his book Lancaster – The Story Of A Famous Bomber, published in 1964.
The Lancaster Sergeant Mearis piloted on the tragic night of September 29th is at the top of the excerpt below taken from that list. We can see that the following nine planes also crashed or where missing within a few weeks of delivery to various squadrons, giving a snapshot of the reality and danger that bombers crews faced.
Table of Lancaster Bombers And Their Outcome
|Serial Number||Squadron Number||Delivery Date||Outcome|
|ED 983||619||May 1943||Crashed September 29th 1943 (Pilot Mearis)|
|ED 984||83||May 1943||Missing August 24th 1943|
|ED 985||460||May 1943||Lost (Hanover) October 18th 1943|
|ED 986||460||May 1943||Lost (Berlin) August 31st 1943|
|ED 987||101||May 1943||Lost June 13th 1943|
|ED 988||100||May 1943||Lost June 26th 1943|
|ED 989||56||May 1943||Lost August 18th 1943|
|ED 990||156||May 1943||Lost September 7th 1943|
|ED 991||100||May 1943||Lost November 19th 1943|
|ED 992||57||May 1943||Lost August 11th 1943|
We have discovered that the initial E in the original news article stands for Eric. Eric Mearis lived at 36, Regent Road Gosforth and is buried at St Nicholas Church Cemetery. Eric’s story is not unusual many young pilots died during their first three missions of WWII.
Evening Chronicle 1st October 1943
Copyright Discovering Heritage
Johnny Boy (last verse) Your name among the thousands, Etched clear into the stone; "Twixt other names and many lives, Though I knew but yours alone. Your memorial stands in tribute, And I lament with saddened heart; Do echo grief of other souls, Who were, like us, to part. John Roy Walsh (January 1986)
PILOT OFFICER ERIC MEARIS
Service Number: 149942
Regiment & Unit/Ship
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 619 Sqdn.
Date of Death
Died 30 September 1943 Age 23 years old
Buried or commemorated at GOSFORTH (ST. NICHOLAS) CHURCHYARD
Sec. F. Grave 44.
- Country of Service United Kingdom
- Additional Info Son of Arthur Herbert and Eleanor Jane Mearis, of Gosforth, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
- Personal Inscription
“NOTHING IN MY HAND I BRING SIMPLY TO THY CROSS I CLING”
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9 thoughts on “Gosforth Pilot”
Thank you so much for the article, Eric was my great uncle, he also had a sister called Joyce mearis who married later to become Mcadam.
Eric was an extremely gifted mathematician as a young teenager sadly that gift has yet to be passed on.
I still have his war medals in their original boxes but sadly we haven’t been able to find his caterpillar club badges with ruby and emerald eyes.
Thank you again for the location of his grave this is something we as a family hadn’t known where to begin looking, so I will be pay a visit the next time I’m in the area
Thanks for your comment. We are happy you found our post significant and it is so interesting to piece together little more of the story!
Thanks to Chris Malkin (my husband) for his assistance with research into the Lancaster bomber planes and statistics.
I remember photographing this and all the other war graves in St, Nicholas churchyard for the War Graves Photographic Project, three or four years ago. I mention it because if you or any of your members are researching a relative in a similar way, the WGPP hold an enormous world wide photographic archive of war graves. I’m not sure just how far back it goes, but it holds photo’s right up to modern times.
Thanks David, here is the address of the War Grave and Memorial Photographic Project https://www.twgpp.org/
A very interesting article Fiona. Like so many at that time he was taken so very young. War can be very cruel. So many of our local people have very interesting stories when you start to delve.
Hi David, yes so young and really he didn’t have a chance to build up much flying experience.
So interesting. I lived on Hedley St for so long and played on Regent Rd. I bet my dad would have known Eric being approx same age.
Hi Amanda, it is interesting when you can relate so directly to these stories. It was fascinating and so sad at the same time to follow this trail.