North Carolina, USA
|Death: ||Oct. 25, 1944|
Mercer was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces
89th Squadron, 438th Troop Carrier Group Service # O-680153
He entered the Service from North Carolina; Awards: Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters; he rests here amongst his fallen comrades, one of whom is Flight Officer John E Wright
On the morning of Wednesday, October 25, four C47s took off from Greenham Common and formed a diamond formation with Lilly Bell II in the right-hand position behind the lead aircraft. In command of the aircraft was 28-year-old 1st Lieutenant Mercer Wilson Avent, in civilian life a shipping clerk, from the town of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He entered the army in July 1941 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and by May 1943 had become a pilot. On December 24, 1943, at the Post Chapel, Fort Bragg, he married Lillian Bell, who was also from Rocky Mount, and after whom the aircraft was named. The four men on board were: pilot, 28-year-old 1st Lieutenant Mercer Wilson Avent; acting co-pilot, 32-year-old Flight Officer John Edmund Wright; crew chief/flight engineer, 21-year-old Technical Sergeant John R. Hillmer; radio operator, 21-year-old Staff Sergeant Dale E. Dellinger.
The formations destination was the northern French airfield at Denain / Pouvry (code number A83) south east of Lille near the Belgian border. The weather that day in southern England was total cloud cover at about 1,000 ft height and visibility of 2,000 yds. Flying below the cloud level, the formations route would entail clearing the 600 foot high North Downs. As they flew from west to east they approached the high ground just after 11 am. The formation commander decided to lead the four aircraft up through the cloud. What happened next is best described by the pilot of the rear aircraft of the formation, 2nd Lt. Harry E. Watson: The last time I saw him (Avent) he was at approximately 1,300ft and was climbing in an effort to go up through the overcast. His aircraft seemed to be in trouble. It appeared that Lt. Avents ship would collide with my ship, so I dropped the nose, opened the throttle and got out of the way. I then lost sight of him in the clouds, and our formation continued on its flight.
It appears that Lt. Avent may have seen a gap in the cloud and climbed too steeply to get through it. The aircraft then either stalled and/or the load in the fuselage shifted rearwards leaving it momentarily vertical.It then did a tail slide dropping straight down until the tail surfaces developed enough lift to bring the nose down. The aircraft, now upside down, then dived towards the ground. At such a low height the pilot had no chance of regaining control or the crew any chance of baling out. The aircraft crashed into a field about 85 yards north of Clay Lanes present-day junction with Queenhythe Road at Jacobs Well, two miles north of Guildford, Surrey. The engines, propellers and nose section became buried in the ground while the centre and rear fuselage together with the wings remained on the surface. Fire broke out upon impact and much of the forward and centre section were burnt out despite the efforts of the National Fire Service. They could do nothing for the crew who would have all been killed in the impact.
Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
South Cambridgeshire District
Plot: Plot E Row 2 Grave 88
Maintained by: Martin Douglas Packer
Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
Record added: Aug 06, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56287068