Willards Farm Spitfire Crash

A Spitfire Mk XIV of the Flying Training Wing crashed at Willards Farm Dunsfold on 19th January 1945. The pilot – Flying Officer Fisher – bailed out and was injured.

Has anyone further information and about the cause of the crash and what became of the aircraft?

Spitfire Mk XIV similar to that involved in the crash at Willards Farm Dunsfold

Mystery Mitchell Crash Summer 1944

Bill Allom has asked for some more information on a number of incidents at Dunsfold during 1944 that don’t appear in our limited records.  Bills father was stationed at Dunsfold with 180 Sqdn.

1 – The first is about a Mitchell FL 217 that crashed on landing on 20/6/1944. Bill states: I think this date is correct my ORB copy is poor and hard to read”

2 – The second query:   Bill says:  ” My father returned on a mission with the hydraulics shot out. While the ORB does not indicate the plane crashed on landing it appears to never fly again.   This occurred on 24/7/1944 in Mitchell FW 185.  Dad records 40 hits a/c badly holed, hydraulics shot up. Could the undercarriage still be lowered with damaged hydraulics?   I am unable to confirm if this aircraft returned to service or was written off.  I hope you can help solve these mysteries.”

Continue reading “Mystery Mitchell Crash Summer 1944”

CONSERVATION AREA STATUS TURNED DOWN

Press Release:

Waverley Borough Council’s Executive decided at its meeting on Tuesday 6th June that it was ‘not suitable’ to establish a Conservation Area at the historic Dunsfold WW2 Airfield site, the birthplace of the Harrier Jump Jet, and now used among other things for filming TV’s Top Gear.

The proposal to consider the site for conservation on the basis of its heritage value and the history associated with it, had come from local residents in late 2016 and the Council carried out a public consultation which ended in April this year.

87 responses were received, including support from 3 Parish Councils, and a letter from Historic England. The report presented to the Council on Tuesday explained that 84 were in favour and only 1 response was against the proposal, but went on to summarise that objection and agreed with several of its assertions.

One of the key supporters of the idea of a Conservation Area is the Dunsfold Airfield History Society (DAHS). A spokesperson for DAHS said; ‘This decision by Waverley is hugely disappointing and clearly flies against the overwhelming views of the local population, and people interested in the proper conservation and celebration of the heritage of this unique site’.
While the Council pointed out that there are no set criteria for assessing the merits of a Conservation Area, they did cite the extensive guidance provided by Historic England. In their report, Council Officers agreed that the site is of historic importance and that it is already an Undesignated Heritage Asset. ‘The problem with that’, said the DAHS spokesperson, ‘ is that it adds absolutely no level of protection.

We asked that question of the Executive in writing but our question was not read out and no answer given at the meeting’. Council Officers had visited the site for one day to assess the heritage assets, and concluded that the condition of the majority of them was ‘poor’.

Historic England has recently listed Primemeads Farm within the site and is still separately assessing several other structures for potential listing. According to Historic England ‘another mechanism by which the significance of an airfield can be highlighted, as a historic landscape, is through conservation area status’.

Making former military airfields into conservation areas does not stop development and change but adds a level of protection and control for the local authority when changes happen.  There are 9 other former military airfields across the country that do have conservation area status, and DAHS said ‘It seems a no brainer that Dunsfold, now under threat of complete demolition, should be afforded at least the same level of protection that these other airfields have’.

Detail of DAHS proposal for designation

History:
Dunsfold Aerodrome was built in 1942 by the First Canadian Army as a temporary airfield for use by the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII. The site was completed in just 20 weeks. The layout of the airfield consisted of three standard runways (one 2,000 yards and the other two 1,400 yards), laid out in a triangular pattern with a perimeter track surrounding it. Dispersal sites clustered off to the south and east and a main technical area was located to the north. The airfield was opened on 16 October 1942 by Lieutenant General A.G.L McNaughton of the First Canadian Army with a commemorative stone placed in front of the control tower that still exists. The first arrivals were three Mustang squadrons from the RCAF in December 1942. They mainly carried out reconnaissance as part of the army cooperation.In June 1943, Army Co-operation command was disbanded and the airfield became a fighter station allocated to the new 2nd Tactical Air Force.

Dunsfold was one of five airfields used by No.2 group and was home to three Mitchell II squadrons. These squadrons were part of bombing missions aimed at the Germans’ long range weapons sites, and, in the months prior to D-Day, aimed at sites which could reinforce German positions after the invasion. By the end of October 1944, the Mitchell squadrons had left and Dunsfold was placed on care and maintenance.

After the war when the airfield was used as a landing ground for DC3 Dakotas bringing back over 47,000 prisoners of war. In August 1946, the Aerodrome was declared inactive and the airfield was leased to Skyways Ltd, a charter airline. Skyways used the airfield to refurbish, test fly and deliver Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft for the Portuguese Air Force, it also played a Major part in the Berlin Airlift between 1948 and 1949, making 2,730 of the total 21,785 flights to Berlin.

Following the liquidation of Skyways in 1950, the lease was acquired by the Hawker Siddeley Group. The company used the airfield for final assembly work and flight testing of its Sea Hawks, Hunters, Sea Furies, Gnats, Harriers and Hawks. From the 1960s, the company became involved in developing Vertical/Short Take-off and Landing (VSTOL) planes (Harriers). Much of the work was carried out at Dunsfold and some of the engine testing bays still survive. It is around this time that the runways were lengthened/widened to allow for testing. On 21 October 1960, the first P1127 (the forerunner of the Harrier Jump jet) made its first tethered flight at Dunsfold, which led to its first conventional flight in November of the same year.

In 1969, the Harrier was introduced into the RAF Service with the ground training phase taking place at Dunsfold. Until 2000, when BAe Systems ceased activity at the aerodrome, all derivatives of the Harrier family of aircraft evolved from Dunsfold. The airfield was also used by the Royal Observer Corps (ROC). A monitoring post was constructed in 1961, in the south western corner of the airfield for nuclear reporting during the Cold War. The post was closed in 1991 following the break-up of the Communist Bloc.

 

Mitchell Bomber flying over Dunsfold in 1944. Source; Public Archives Canada

Harrier in private hands – XZ439

The legacy of the Dunsfold Harriers goes far and wide.   50 years on, and the Harrier is still flown in American skies.   Significantly the point is made that the Harrier was the only non-US aircraft used by the US Military since World War 1.

This story shows the passion of one man for the Harrier.    Art Nalls has had a life long dedication to flying. His addiction to the sky has lead him to an honourable military career and an even more adventurous retirement. Nalls has had the unique opportunity to purchase his own British Harrier Jump Jet. Now this retired Lt. Col test pilot uses his passion for flight to help preserve military history with the maintenance and upkeep of the last three remaining Sea Harriers. Continue reading “Harrier in private hands – XZ439”

Memories of a Dunsfold Photographer

I looked up at the gleaming red paintwork, and the black letters ‘ XX154 ‘ on the side.  I knew I was very privileged, few people outside Hawker Siddeley Aviation, and almost certainly no other twelve year old had seen this.
I’d had to duck down low in my seat as my father drove us through the lesser security gate by the Three Compasses pub, the back way into Dunsfold Aerodrome.

Dad was an assistant foreman here for Hawkers, working on famous aircraft such as the Hunter, Gnat and lately ‘ The VTO ‘ – Vertical Take Off, as the workforce called the P1127 prototypes which developed into the Harrier fighter.  He had sneaked me in after school on the evening of Tuesday the 20th August 1974.   The next day would see the first flight of the new Project 1182 Advanced jet trainer – the Hawk.

Continue reading “Memories of a Dunsfold Photographer”

David Lockspeiser

David Lockspeiser, Obituary 2014

David Lockspeiser who has died aged 86, was a leading test pilot and an innovative aircraft designer and engineer who designed and built the Boxer utility aircraft, an “Aerial Land Rover”.  Originally named the LDA-01, or Land Development Aircraft, the Boxer was intended as a multi-purpose aircraft for developing and agricultural regions. A single-seat monoplane of metal and fabric construction, it had a canard foreplane, which was the same size as each mainplane mounted at the rear of the box structure fuselage, itself fitted with a four-wheeled landing gear.

Continue reading “David Lockspeiser”

VC10

VC10 ZA150 at Dunsfold  Jelle Hieminga, VC10.net

The Dunsfold VC10 K.3 was purchased from the RAF upon its retirement by the Brooklands Museum as it was the last VC10 to be built at Brooklands. Dunsfold being the nearest airfield to the museum that could accept such a large aircraft. Continue reading “VC10”

Hugh Merewether FRAeS

Hugh Merewether FRAeS   (1924-2006)
Merewether was appointed Deputy Chief Test Pilot at Dunsfold in 1956. He was the second pilot to fly the P.1127. In 1963, he was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air for crash landing the P.1127 rather than ejecting and thereby saving the machine to be examined to locate the fault. He became Chief Test Pilot in 1967. Continue reading “Hugh Merewether FRAeS”

Neville Duke DSO, OBE, DFC & Two Bars AFC

Neville Duke DSO, OBE, DFC & Two Bars AFC, FRAeS  (1922-2007) 
Duke had a “remarkable record” as a World War II fighter pilot, flying Spitfires over France and later, North Africa and Italy. He became a test pilot for the Hawker Aircraft Corporation in 1948. He held the world air speed record in 1953 flying a Hunter but had to retire as a test pilot in 1956 following a serious accident. Nevertheless he continued flying to the day he died, aged 85 – and not as a result of an air accident. He wrote several books including Sound Barrier, Test Pilot, The Crowded Sky and The War Diaries of Neville Duke; and even endorsed a card game named after him in 1955! Continue reading “Neville Duke DSO, OBE, DFC & Two Bars AFC”

Records of aircraft crashes at Dunsfold in 1943-45

Canadian aircraft crashes at Dunsfold Aerodrome

In 1943, Tom Gold, Hermann Bondi and Fred Hoyle were living in a cottage on the edge of Dunsfold Aerodrome. Later, Tom Gold wrote:

“As the preparations for the invasion of France were proceeding, the French Channel coast was of course under almost constant bombardment by our airplanes. One such striking force was a Canadian contingent who flew these bombing missions early every morning, mostly with chemically timed bombs that could not be disarmed in any way. An acid inside was just going to eat its way through a diaphragm and when it did, the bomb would explode. Nothing you could do from the outside would stop it; the most sophisticated bomb disposal squad could do nothing with it, even if it knew all the details of its design.

The trouble for us was that this Canadian contingent was operating from an airfield adjacent to the house in which Bondi and I, and Hoyle some of the time, were living. In fact, it was our house that was the first object the heavily laden planes had to clear on take off. When we had rented the house, we did not know of this particular drawback, but now we were stuck with it. After a while of being awakened by twenty planes in succession just clearing the rooftop at 4:30 a.m., we got quite used to this, and could sleep through it.

But then one morning I woke up in a state of shock – there had evidently been a very nearby and very violent explosion. I must have been sleeping with my mouth wide open, for a large chunk of the plaster from the ceiling had fallen into it. As I was spitting it out, my bedroom door opened, and Fred Hoyle, who was staying there at the time, stuck his head in and said ‘Did you hear that!’ I said, ‘what do you mean, did I hear that? The house nearly collapsed!’ He said, ‘I know, but I heard, about twenty minutes ago, all the planes taking off except for one, where I heard the take off noise just suddenly stop, and then nothing more. So,’ he said, ‘I went back to sleep, and then came this noise, which of course, woke me up.’ I said to him, ‘How can you be so stupid, to go back to sleep, when clearly what must have happened was that the plane failed to take off, caught fire, and its bombs exploded?’ He said, ‘Well, of course, I know that now, but I couldn’t have done anything about it anyway’.

We later learned, of course, that this is exactly what happened. The crew had been able to save themselves, but the burning wreck eventually exploded its bomb load. It was only a hundred yards from our house.”

Burbidge (2003: pp218-219)

Records of aircraft crashing at Dunsfold in 1943- 45

Below is a list of aircraft crashes on the Aerodrome. More planes crashed in the vicinity.
18 January 1943: A Curtiss Tomahawk Iib of 430 Squadron RCAF blew a tyre on take-off and crashed. 109

21 January 1943: A Curtiss Tomahawk Iia of 430 Squadron RCAF crashed after forced landing due to mid-air engine failure.110

14 February 1943: A North American Mustang 1 of 430 Squadron RCAF aircraft flew too low and hit trees, crashing 111

28 February 1943: A Curtiss Tomahawk Iia of 430 Squadron RCAF aircraft force landed after engine failure and crashed. 112

19th March 1943 – damaged aircraft

23rd December 1943 – aircraft crash near Dunsfold

1944:

21 February 1944: A Handley Page Halifax III of 78 Squadron RAF crashed on landing at Dunsfold. 113

24th March 1944 – Lancaster crash landed

5th May 1944 aircraft crashed at Old Rickhurst

21 May 1944: an Avro Lancaster III of 156 Squadron RAF crash landed and caught fire after damage over Duisberg.114

12 July 1944: a North American Mitchell II of 98 Squadron RAF crashed on take off. 115 13 July 1944: An aircraft of 613 Squadron RAF crashed.116

13th July 1944 – aircraft crashed 613 Squadron

 8 September 1944: A North American Mitchell II of 98 Squadron RAF carrying bombs and exploded on touchdown, killing all the crew and badly damaging the runway. 117

14th September 1944 – Mitchell 180 Squadron crashed

1945:

9th February 1945 – Hawker Typhoon crashed pilot killed

17th April 1945 – Hawker Typhoon broke in half

19th April 1945 – Hawker Tempest crashed

14th June 1945 – Hawker Typhoon dived vertically into the ground on the bank of the Wey & Arun Canal

Source: Surrey County Council Monument Full Report ref, SHER 350/16 Dunsfold HER Monuments (5 December 2016).


109 SMR No 17145 – MSE17145; McCue, 1991: p39 (Includes photo). 110 SMR No 17148 – MSE17148; McCue, 1991: p39.
111 SMR No 17151 – MSE17151; McCue, 1991: p44
112 SMR No 17153 – MSE17153; McCue, 1991: p45
113 SMR No 17191 – MSE17191.
114 SMR No 17202 – MSE17202.
115 SMR No 17208 – MSE17208.
116 SMR No 17209 – MSE17209.
117 SMR No 17215 – MSE17215, Ashworth, 1985: p83; McCue, 1991: p161-163.