Collision and crash of two RAF North American Mitchell II bombers at “Pallinghurst”, Guildford Rd, Rudgwick on 7th January 1944.
Jan. 7th 13.35 hrs. North American Mitchell II, FR396, Code letter ‘K’ of 180 Squadron collided over Alfold with Mitchell II, FL682, Code letter ‘N’ of 98 Squadron. This occurred as they awaited their turn to land in bad weather after operations to bomb a target in Occupied France (180 Squadron on Primary Target a V1construction site at La Sorellerie II at 12:58hrs from 12,000ft and 98 Squadron on Alternative Target (because of cloud over the Primary) a V1construction site at Mesnil Au Val at 12:55hrs from 12,000ft). Crew members of both aircraft all killed.
Aircraft ‘K’ of 180 Squadron and ‘N’ of 98 Squadron were not noted as having or not having dropped their bomb load. Aircraft ‘B’ and ‘X’ of 180 Sqdn. and aircraft ‘V’‘P’‘S’‘U’ and ‘X’ of 98 Sqdn. did not bomb due to cloud cover obscuring the target. Each aircraft carried 8 x 500lb Medium Capacity bombs.
One Mitchell FL682 crashed 200 yds north-east of “Pallinghurst”, Guildford Rd, Rudgwick (now the Japanese Rikkyo School) on the County Boundary (nr. Stables), approx 2.5 miles south-east of Dunsfold airfield. This 98 Sqdn. aircraft had probably not dropped its bombs load due to cloud cover obscuring the target. One or more bombs exploded when the aircraft it hit the ground or fell out nearby as the aircraft descended. Other unexploded bombs were defused.
The other Mitchell FR396 crashed on open ground and caught fire 200yds south of “Pallinghurst”, Guildford Rd, Rudgwick (now the Japanese Rikkyo School) approx 2.5 miles south-east of Dunsfold airfield. This aircraft may or may not have dropped its bombs on target. If still bombed up its bombs either exploded with the aircraft as it hit the ground or fell out as the aircraft descended and landed in a nearby field and either exploded or were defused.
Witness: – Emily Harwood (nee Covey) b.1923, daughter of the Gamekeeper (Ernest Covey) to the Pallinghurst Estate, owned by Ernest and Katharine MacAndrew.
“One day I shall never forget (7th January 1944) Mitchell bombers were returning to Dunsfold on an operational flight, but, unable to find the target had bombs on board. Two collided over Pallinghurst, one crashing in front of Pallinghurst House, the other one by the stables. The bombs fell out of the plane and landed in a field close to my father. He fell behind a tree which took most of the blast. Mr MacAndrew’s daughter [Kitty] was blown into the pond and received a cut on her leg, but all the airmen died. A few years later, when we were settling down once again, Mr MacAndrews decided to plant some rhododendrons near where the plane had crashed. My brother, now home from the RAF, was the Head Gardener, and he and the other gardeners planted them”.
Witness: – Mel Reynolds, (a 5 year old boy), standing at a Tismans Common with a group of 3 other children. He was told, at the time, that the aircraft were returning from a raid on the German Forces in France and one of the aircraft had been badly damaged. Two other aircraft were in close formation with it escorting it back to Dunsfold. Just before streaming in for the landing at Dunsfold he vividly recalls seeing the damaged aircraft dip and touch wings with one of the others and then one went one way and the other went the other both spiralling down out of control. He saw one aircraft crash followed by a very large explosion which he said shook the ground. (Both the aircraft were in two separate six aircraft box formations with no escorting of a damaged plane: – 180 Sqdn. ORB “Aircraft FR396 was returning from an operation flying in box of six aircraft when it collided with Mitchell FL682 of No.98 Sqdn. in another formation. Both aircraft crashed, FR396 diving straight into the ground”.
Above: – Hambledon ARP Log.
Above: – Situation Report SE Regional Civil Defence Area.
Above: – 98 Squadron Operational Record Book, Summary of Events.
Above: – 180 Squadron Operational Record Book, Summary of Events.
Above: – 98 Sqdn. Operational Record Book, Record of Events 7/1/44. Operations on La Sorellerie II. Alternative – Mesnil Au Val which was attacked by F/L. Wilson’s box. A/c “N” of 98 Sqdn was in collision with a/c “K” of 180 Sqdn on return from the raid and crashed 3 miles S. of base. All crews killed.
Above: – Station (RAF Dunsfold) Summary of Events 7/1/44.
Above: – West Sussex County Council Action Minute Book – Chichester 7 Jan 1944
13.45 RUDGWICK 2 planes crashed at approx 13.35 hrs. Bomb or bombs exploded as a result. Region notified at 13.48.
14.40 RUDGWICK One plane crashed at Pallinghurst Fire. N.F.S. on spot (National Fire Service). Some bombs exploded, others unexploded. One slight civilian casualty S.C. (Sitting Cases) car dispatched.
15.18 RUDGWICK 2 Mitchells from Dunsfold Aerodrome crashed at Pallinghurst at 13.35. One crashed 200 yds NE of the house right on the County boundary, the other 200 yds S of the house. One bomb exploded after crash. 4 UXBs [unexploded bombs] found and dealt with by RAF. 3 bombs not found. 4 bodies from one plane found. Damage to stables, cottages and Pallinghurst House. Region notified at 15.25.
16.15 RUDGWICK All bombs now detonated. Total bodies found 5.
Region notified 16.20.
16.30 RUDGWICK Nothing further to report. Incident closed.
No. 98 and 180 Squadrons both based at RAF Dunsfold.
Crew of Mitchell FR396 of 180 Squadron
Flying Officer Ernest Fooks, pilot, 32, from New Zealand, Buried at Brookwood
Pilot Officer Leonard Taylor, navigator, 24, from and Buried in Birmingham.
Flight Sergeant Charles Forsyth, wireless op/gnr, 23, from Peacehaven, Buried Newhaven.
Flight Sergeant George Ormandy, gunner, 20, from and Buried in Beckenham.
Crew of Mitchell FL682 of 98 Squadron
Warrant Officer Terence Riordan, pilot, 22, from Abergavenny, Buried at Brookwood.
Flight Sergeant Douglas Morris, navigator, 23, from and Buried in Abergavenny.
Flight Sergeant Stanley Norton, wireless op. /gnr, 22, from and Buried in Lincoln.
Flight Sergeant William Cross, gunner, 22, from and Buried in Preston.
FORSYTH, CHARLES HENRY (Mitchell FR396 of 180 Squadron).
CROSS, WILLIAM JAMES (Mitchell FL682 of 98 Squadron)
FOOKS, ERNEST BERJEU, (Mitchell FR396 of 180 Squadron).
Flying Officer Ernest Berjeu Fooks, 146328, pilot, 32, from New Zealand,
Buried at Brookwood
Service Number: 146328 Name: Ernest Berjeu, Surname: Fooks, Rank: Flying Officer
Date of Birth: Not known
Next of Kin: Mrs Adele Catherine Fooks (mother), Flat 17, Belvedere, Maisonettes, Salisbury Street, Christchurch, New Zealand, Son of Alfred Augustus Fooks, and of Adele Catherine Fooks, of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. B.E.
Unit: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 180 Squadron
Date of death: Friday7 January 1944, Age: 32, Cause of Death: Accidentally killed on active service
Relatives Who Are Also Casualties: Harry Gordon Compton Fooks (Brother) – 21 Jul 1941 –
“Pallinghurst” (shown below in 1930 from the air) looking north east, had a very productive garden and orchard (to the right, with the timber-framed Garden House, where the head gardener lived, and (white) glasshouses for peaches and grapes as well as bedding plants and flowers, in line with the other buildings. The park landscape and avenue to the main road are shown clearly, as is the foreground planting that keeps the view from the house open to the southerly view.
On the left is the tennis court. The stables on the right would have been home to a dozen or so hunters. The lodge, just visible in the background was home to the head chauffeur. Some oak trees visible at the top of the drive were ‘county oaks’ marking the boundary, thought not to be there now. To the left, just off the picture was the wild garden, woodland managed for attractive walks along the rides.