|Milton Keynes Aviation Society
"On a Tuesday evening sometime in 1940, the weather wasn't very good, and this occurred while the blackout was still in place. During the early hours of the morning, an aircraft came very low over Wolverton, along Church Street and he may have mistaken the street for a landing strip. He flew down the street with his landing lights full on, with the engines making a terrible noise.
Dad took the blackout curtains down and we saw the street lit up with light. The aircraft made 2 or 3 circles over the houses and then disappeared. We were not sure if the aircraft was British of one of Hitlers boys. Next day we heard that the plane had crashed at Haversham. This news came as hearsay, as phones etc were then not very prevalent in those days.
A colleague Nobby Munday and myself cycled down to the meadow after school. We were both very interested in tanks and guns and to see so many aircraft in the skies everyday - these were very exciting times for young lads like us. A Warrant Officer stopped us going into the field. Well we were persistant little so and so's and eventually he let us in. The tail-plane, fuselage and wings had already been taken away, as well as the three bodies.
We searched the field and by jove they had made a very good job of clearing the wreckage. During the search I found a little brown satchel about 7 or 8 inches square and inside were the names of 3 airmen, all from Coventry and we handed this to the Warrent Officer. Also while searching the field I saw an object and dived on it immediately more to lay claim to having found it than anything else - and this turned out to be somebody's lung or other internal organ. I dropped it like a hot cake and didn't tell the Warrant Officer for obvious reasons.
The two engines were well embedded in the field, possibly 7 or 8 feet in the ground and we could see the metalwork of the engines around the two big holes in the ground and the stench of aviation fuel was very strong. After this we came away as we had seen as much as we could see. I'm not sure if they just filled in the holes and the engines or parts of them are still left in the ground.
At dawn the B-17's from the local airfields would form a group overhead Wolverton before heading out north-east to east, before we were heading off to school. Sometimes groups of 20 aircraft, which we suspect these came from Harrold near Odell and they would come back late afternoon from Stony Stratford with great big holes in the wings, with 1 prop or even 2 props feathered and only flying at about 200 to 300 feet as they made their way back to base.
Over the years I forgot about this, though when I moved to Haversham, I could see the meadow from my back bedroom window and I often wondered about the three young lads who had lost their life in the crash. I also made enquiries of some local archaeological groups about the possibility of looking for and even digging up the engines, if they were still there, but this just fell on deaf ears.
Then a few weeks a go, an article appeared in our local freebie, the MK Citizen, which carried an article about the Fen Mosquito Memorial and this prompted my son Colin to try and get in touch with the Milton Keynes Aviation Society to see if they could help find out some more information about the crash that had killed 3 young men so many years ago in Wolverton.
I suspect that it was an Airspeed Oxford that crashed whereas people in Haversham had said that it was an Avro Anson.
My mother worked on Typhoon wings at Wolverton Carriage Works, where during the war they converted part of the workshop into a shell plant and they also made glider wings for the Horsa, pontoon boats and ambulance trains that went over to France. One day during the war a German Dornier came overhead and I could clearly see the German markings as it flew over. The son of a friend of my fathers went into Germany and came back with some German reconnaissance photographs of Wolverton, due to the presence of the carriage works and also the Stephenson Viaduct from the 1800's, which carried the west coast main line, another target for German aircraft. Wolverton Works had a 120 foot chimney and the reconnaissance photo taken during the daylight, showed the shadow of the chimney going across the adjacent meadow". Stan Butler
Editors footnote - I had a very pleasant time talking with Stan, after his son Colin had been in touch, and writing up his memories of the crash event above. Now we turn to our members to see if anyone can help trace the identity of the aircraft and possibly the three airmen who lost their lives in this crash. Colin MacKenzie our resident expert on crashes in Bucks, Northants and Beds may be able to assist, or even Martin Baggott and the team at BARG (Buckinghamshire Aircraft Recovery Group), or indeed anyone else who might be able to piece together some of the missing details of this crash in our area.
Milton Keynes Aviation Society January 2008
My thanks to Stan Butler for sharing his recollection of a wartime crash and the aerial activity over and around Wolverton and Haversham (MKAS newsletter December 2007). These must have been exciting times for a young lad and are well remembered after 65 years!.
I believe that the crash he recalls is that of Airspeed Oxford (Mk.I) N4572 as so many of the details he gives are consistent with official records. This aircraft belonged to 14 FTS (Flying Training School) based at nearby RAF Cranfield and the ORB (operations record book) has the following entry for Monday 17th March 1941 ... Oxford N4572 crashed at Haversham, near Wolverton, during night flying. Both the instructor and the pupil 905218 Sgt RH M Crook and 927860 LAC Lygo G W were killed. LAC Lygo was a pupil of 15 Course. Sgt Crook was a pupil of 12 Course, which passed out from this unit on November 11th 1940, and was posted back to 14 FTS after being trained as an instructor at Central Flying School. The accident investigation summary card, held in the records of the RAF Museum at Hendon, adds the following abbreviated information ... Damage: Cat W (fire). Casualties: 2K. Place: near Haversham, north of Wolverton Railway Station. Pilot: Sgt R H M CROOK 905218 Wings 11/40 (4 months) 170 hrs solo on type/33 others. Dual Flying Time: 22.20 hrs Dark night. Details: Overshot and went round again - later into right hand turn, followed by left hand and dive, pulled out and climbed, dived again into ground. Invest. : Failed to maintain equilibrium - reason not known.
It is remarkable that the instructor pilot was so relatively inexperienced in night flying (22 hrs including his own training time presumably) and also that he was a former pupil of the same flying training unit. He must have displayed exceptional skills to have progressed to this level of responsibility so quickly after gaining his wings, and it is sad that things went so terribly wrong. 25 year old Roy Henry Mark Crook was buried at St Lawrence & All Saints Churchyard, Eastwood, Essex. His pupil, Gregory William Lygo, RAFVR, aged 19, lies in St Helen Churchyard, Gumley, Leicestershire. They were the only casualties so I can only speculate that the three airmen who's names Stan found in the satchel were those of friends, acquaintances or other pupils.
In looking through my records for this area I note some other local incidents and casualties during the Second World War years that may be of interest to local residents or fellow historians. These are the brief details I have, in chronological order:
Tuesday 13th February 1940. Fairy Battle K7624 (Mk I) of 1 SFTS based at Netheravon in Wiltshire, forced landed near Wolverton due to engine failure. The pilot, A/Sub/Lt Devonald, was uninjured and the aircraft subsequently repaired to fly again.
Monday 15th April 1940. 25 year old pilot Sgt Ernest Clarke of Wolverton was lost on this day, together with his crew, when Hampden Mk.I L4152 of 83 Sqn. (coded OL-S) went missing on a mine laying mission to the 'Little Belt' area of the English Channel. RAF Bomber Command Losses, Vol.1 1939-1940 by W R Chorley has the following additional details. T/o 19.45 hrs Scampton. Last heard on w/t at 04.00 hrs sending distress calls and trying to home on Mansion airfield, Kent, following operations over the Western Baltic. Presumed down in the sea. F/O K R H Sylvester (k), Sgt E R Clarke (k), LACJH Edwards (k), Sgt G C Perry (k).
Monday 29th December 1941. AC2 Albert L Moseley of 819 Sqn RNAS (Fairey Swordfish) based at Lee-on-Solent, died on this day. He was the husband of Edith Nellie Moseley, of New Bradwell and he lies in Wolverton (New Bradwell) Cemetery. Cause of death not known at present.
Friday 17th July 1942. Wellington T2569 (Mk 1C) of 12 OTU, based at Chipping Warden, Oxfordshire, crash landed at Hill Farm near Haversham at 12.50 hrs. while on a cross country training flight. The aircraft had been unable to maintain height following loss of power in the port engine due to an oil leak. Two of the crew were treated at RAF Cranfield's sick quarters for the after effects of inhaling stanic-chloride gas from a smoke bomb that went off, but were otherwise OK. The aircraft was salvaged and repaired but later lost in a crash on take off from Moreton-in-the-Marsh on 3rd June 1943.
Sunday 19th July 1942. 20 year old Sgt (Air Gnr) Maurice Cooke, son of Frederick John and Marguerite E Cooke, of New Bradwell, lies in Wolverton (New Bradwell) Cemetery. The circumstances of his loss are contained in RAF Bomber Command Losses, Vol.7 : Operational Training Units 1940-1947 by WR Chorley ... 19 Jul.1942. 27 OTU. Wellington (Mk.IC) DV800. Training. T/o Lichfield for a night navigation sortie. Crashed 03.08 hrs into houses near the fish dock at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire. Crew. Sgt K H C Steinbach RAAF (k); Sgt E D R Jennings RAAF (k); Sgt W H Condon RAAF (k); Sgt K J Bradley RAAF (k); Sgt G E Warburton RAAF (k); Sgt M Cooke. The five Australians were laid to rest locally in Pembroke Dock Military Cemetery, while Sgt Cooke was taken back to Buckinghamshire. Police eyewitnesses say the Wellington was firing off red Verey cartridges and appeared to be flying on one engine.
Saturday 7th August 1943. Sergeant (W/Op) George Vincent Sigwart, son of Emil and Sophie Sigwart, of Wolverton; husband of Joyce Eileen Sigwart, of Wolverton, was killed when Oxford LX304 RAF Church Lawford collided with Whitley BD221 of RAF Abingdon over a landmark beacon near Cranfield at night. The Oxford crashed near Stagsden, Beds and its crew of three all died (Instructor Pilot D L GATES, Pupil Pilot F/Lt W J SMITH and Wireless Operator Sgt SIGWORT). Whitley BD221 landed safely at Cranfield and the crew were returned to Abingdon by air ferry. Sgt Sigwart is buried in Wolverton Cemetery.
Also on this day (Saturday 7th August 1943) 19 year old Sergeant Stanley Knight, the son of the Revd. Stuart Knight and Vera Knight, of Wolverton, was killed on a bombing mission to Messina on the island of Sicily in southern Italy. His unit, 150 Squadron, were based at Kairouan in Tunisia, North Africa, and lost two Wellington aircraft on the raid (HF466 and HF535). I do not known which aircraft Sgt Knight was on but all ten casualties are commemorated on the Malta Air Forces Memorial.
Wednesday 22nd March 1944. 124519 Flg Off (Nav) John Henry Wyborn (28) was killed when Lancaster (Mk.I) JA964 (coded MG-P) of 7 Sqn was lost on operations to Frankfurt. His wife lived at Wolverton. The aircraft took off from Oakington at 18.58 hrs. Four of the crew were killed and three became prisoners of war. Those that died lie in Rheinberg War Cemetery.
Monday 18th September 1944. 21 year old Sgt (Nav.) Allan Thomas Rogers of New Bradwell was killed when Lancaster I NG126 of 57 Sqn (coded DX-L) crashed at 22.06 hrs at Schiffdorf on the eastern outskirts of Bremerhaven. It had taken off at 1827hrs from East Kirkby. One crew member managed to bale out and became a pow. Four of the six crew killed, including Sgt Rogers, lie in Becklingen War Cemetery, Soltau, and two are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
Colin Mackenzie. Web site for local aviation research information and guidance: www.mackz.net