‘Courageous and resolute’ WWII pilot officer from Cringleford dies aged 94

Mr Cranefield returns to Arnhem in 2014

Mr Cranefield returns to Arnhem in 2014 - Credit: Archant

Knivett Garton Cranefield DFC, from Cringleford, was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for an act of unwavering bravery and valour in 1944.

Knivett Cranefield, known by friends as Ken, is pictured here at age 23

Knivett Cranefield, known by friends as Ken, is pictured here at age 23 - Credit: Archant

One of the last surviving pilot officers at Arnhem in the Second World War, Knivett Garton Cranefield DFC, has died aged 94.

Mr Cranefield, from Cringleford, was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for an act of unwavering bravery and valour in 1944.

As the pilot and captain of an aircraft attempting to drop supplies to UK forces in Arnhem, W/O Cranefield was unexpectedly hit by German fire. He later wrote about the terrifying moment: 'We were sitting targets for the German guns, we were moving so slowly in broad daylight only a thousand feet or so above them.

'First we were subject to anti-aircraft fire, which sounded like peanuts raking the length of the fuselage.


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'A few minutes later there was a jolt and the aircraft became difficult to handle. My wireless operator shouted over the intercom: 'skipper the starboard wing is on fire'.'

A high explosive shell had ripped a hole in the plane's wing, but Mr Cranefield was determined to drop the much-needed containers.

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While trying to complete the mission, he felt a sharp pain in his right leg and realised he had been hit. Not only was he able to drop the supplies in the target location with a battered plane, he also refused morphine – tying up his wound with a flex from a microphone – and flew the aircraft back to base at RAF Blake Hill Farm in Wiltshire. All crew members were safe.

Though Mr Cranefield was in and out of hospital until 1954 with osteomyelitis, a type of bone infection, from the wound, luck was again on his side.

He met his wife, Marjorie Douglas, when she worked as the RAF senior nursing sister who supervised his care. The couple celebrated 70 years of marriage in 2015.

Mr Cranefield went into the Civil Service after the war and was promoted to senior posts with the Department of Employment. In September 2014, 70 years after his nearly doomed flight, he returned to Arnhem.

Dutch children saw his medals and came up to him, thanking him for his service and for delivering them freedom.

In an article after his DFC was awarded, the London Gazette put it simply: 'W/O Cranefield proved himself to be a courageous and resolute captain, setting a very fine example.'

Mr Cranefield, who died on September 17, is survived by his daughters Gillian and Adrianne and their families.

Amanda Ulrich

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