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

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.

 

RAF 1943-1944

August 1943 – October 1944: Royal Air Force

During this period, Dunsfold Aerodrome was HQ for the Medium Bomber No 139 Wing, RAF, comprising 98, 180, 320 (Netherlands) Squadrons, part of the Second Tactical Airforce.

No. 98 Squadron RAF

Dunsfold, Surrey  between 18 Aug 43  –  26 Mar 44
Dunsfold, Surrey between  10 Apr 44 –  16 Oct 44

Commanding Officers No. 98 Squadron:

Wg Cdr A. M. Phillips             18 Aug 43
Wg Cdr R. K. F. Bell-Irving    9 Apr 44
Wg Cdr J. G. C. Paul, DFC    15 May 44
Wg Cdr L. G. Hamer 16 Sep 44

Squadrons 98 and 180 arrived in August 1943, and 320 arrived six months later. All three squadrons flew Mitchell bombers; “They took part in a large number of bombing missions over Europe, attacking a wide variety of targets and establishing a reputation for highly accurate attacks”. (12) They were at the forefront of the Allied offensive against the V-1 sites in northern France, and. 13 (The V-1s – also called “buzz bombs” or “doodlebugs” – were flying bombs, and could be described as early guided or cruise missiles, and were aimed from the continent towards London. (14)

No. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF

In 1940 no. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF was formed by members of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service, who had flown from the Netherlands when it was invaded. On 12 June 1944 Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands visited Dunsfold to award medals  (15). In all, 320 Squadron were awarded the Dutch Military Order of William four times and the Dutch Airman’s Cross, 176 times. (16)

ROYAL AIR FORCE: FIGHTER COMMAND, TACTICAL AIR FORCE, 1943. (CH 11040) North American Mitchell Mark IIs (FL707 ‘EV-Z’ nearest) of No. 180 Squadron RAF, taxiing along the perimeter track at Dunsford, Surrey, for take off on a cross-Channel bombing sortie in support of Operation STARKEY. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210444
ROYAL AIR FORCE: 2ND TACTICAL AIR FORCE, 1943-1945. (CH 13734) Ground personnel of No. 98 Squadron RAF, who serviced North American Mitchell Mark III, HD372 ‘VO-B’ Grumpy, during its record operational career, gather at the aircraft’s nose at Dunsfold, Surrey, as Corporal V Feast paints the 102nd bomb symbol onto its tally of operations. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210585
AMERICAN AIRCRAFT IN RAF SERVICE 1939-1945: NORTH AMERICAN NA-82 MITCHELL. (CH 20592) Mitchell Mark II, FV985 ?VO-S?, of No. 98 Squadron RAF based at Dunsfold, Surrey, approaches the English Channel south of Etaples while returning from a ‘Noball’ operation over northern France. Note the deployed ventral turret. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210536

ROYAL AIR FORCE: 2ND TACTICAL AIR FORCE, 1943-1945. (CH 12862) North American Mitchell Mark IIs of No. 98 Squadron RAF taxying along the perimeter track at Dunsfold, Surrey, for a morning raid on targets in northern France. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210539

ROYAL AIR FORCE: 2ND TACTICAL AIR FORCE, 1943-1945. (CH 11991) North American Mitchell Mark II, FV929 ‘VO-D’, of No. 98 Squadron RAF landing at Dunsfold, Surrey, after a daylight raid over northern France. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210480
19 July 1944: Informal group portrait of RAF ground staff with RAAF and Royal New Zealand Air Force air crew of a Mitchell bomber squadron, 180 Squadron RAF with the Second Tactical Air Force. Left to right: two RAF ground crew, Jock (Fitter) and Alf (Rigger); 422248 Flying Officer (FO) Jack B O’Halloran, pilot of Sydney, NSW, (later Flight Lieutenant and DFC); 417379 Pilot Officer James Crosby (Jim) Jennison (later Flying Officer and DFC) of Adelaide, SA; 422175 FO Reg J Hansen of Sydney, NSW; FO Harry M Hawthorn, RNZAF of Hastings, NZ. Named ‘Daily Delivery’ https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C263114

 


The RAF 320 (Dutch) Squadron October 1943 – flying Mitchells from the UK

General Eisenhower addressing Airmen of 320 Squadron prior to D-Day in 1943 in the T2 Hangar at Dunsfold

Shortly before D-Day, on 18 April 1944, General Eisenhower, then Allied Supreme Commander, visited Dunsfold, presumably to give a pre-D-Day morale talk. (17)   The D-Day orders for Dunsfold were issued on 3 June: “to cause maximum delay to the movement by road and rail, by enemy forces at night”. 18The action started early in the morning of 6 June when all three Squadrons were in action to support the D-Day landing.

ROYAL AIR FORCE: 2ND TACTICAL AIR FORCE, 1943-1945. (CH 13809) Squadron Leader K Eager (centre), an experienced flight commander of No. 98 Squadron RAF, discusses a model of a flying bomb launch site with two newcomers to the unit at Dunsfold, Surrey; Squadron Leader R Wood (left) and a Canadian pilot, Pilot Officer Freeman (right). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212762

News correspondents had been frequent visitors to Dunsfold in the build up to D-Day and Ronald Walker from the News Chronicle flew in one of the Mitchell bombers from Dunsfold, his report appearing in the newspaper the next day. He wrote:

“The crews of three Mitchell bomber squadrons of this station who were sent on bombing missions to France in the early hours of this morning did not know that they were taking part in the invasion of Europe.” (19)

The next night, 60 Mitchell bombers were dispatched against the enemy. (20)

Following D-Day, in September 1944, all three squadrons of Dunsfold bombers were also involved in the unsuccessful Operation Market Garden, best known for the bitter battle for the bridge at Arnhem. 139 Wing lost several aircraft to enemy flak and fighters in these operations. (21)

By the end of the war “at least 1/3 of all crew lost their lives, and 40% of all Mitchells were lost” (22). During the six months 320 Squadron was at Dunsfold, it is reported that 156 members died and 57 were lost. (23) The casualty rate amongst airmen was generally very high: “Half of all aircrew were lost before they had even completed ten missions”. (24) Not all losses were due to enemy action and there were many accidents).
Link to record of crashes.

The three squadrons — 98, 180 and 320 — departed for the continent in October 1944 (25)

There are two plaques in Dunsfold commemorating the presence:

For 98 Squadron: on Rose Cottage (now Canada House):

  • “From its wartime headquarters in this cottage in 1944. No.98 Squadron, RAF was launched the invasion of Europe led by Wg Cdr G J C Paul”.

For 320 Squadron: a plaque in Dunsfold church along with its colours. (26)


 

Operation Exodus

Operation Exodus was the repatriation of British Prisoners of War (POWs) from the continent. Dunsfold Aerodrome was designated an “Air Arrival Centre” where No. 2 Hangar was decorated with flowers to welcome the troops home and a medical inspection tent was set up. Between the 15 April 1945 and 25 June 1945, 47,529 ex POWs passed through Dunsfold Aerodrome. This accounted for 85% of the POWs repatriated by the RAF. On one day alone – 9 May – 160 aircraft delivered 3,953 personnel: just 24 per aircraft, in accordance with Bomber Commands’ Operation instructions. But the daily count was often over 100 flights. As can easily be imagined, there were emotional scenes, with men falling to their knees to kiss the ground.(27)


References:


10 Delve, 1985: p81; McCue, 1991: p289. But the details given differ. 11 McCue, 1991: pp33-62.
12 Delve, 1985: p79.
13 McCue, 1991: p73.
14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-1_flying_bomb
15 Manschot, 2016: p27.; McCue, 1991: pp128-129.
16 Wings & Wheels, 2016. For a film of Squadron 320 at Dunsfold in 1944, see Imperial war Museum: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060021111 [Accessed 31 January 2017].
17 Wings & Wheels, 2016; Delve, 2005: p79.; McCue, 10992: p107. There is film of his visit in the Imperial War Museum: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060019799 .
18 McCue, 1991: p117.
19 McCue, 1991: p121-125.
20 Ashworth, 1985: p83. McCue, 1991: pp125-126. For other details of action from Dunsfold, see Jacobs, 2009: pp195-198.
21 Jacobs, 2009: p198. McCue, 1991: pp160-169.
22 Manschot, 2016: p27.
23 Wings & Wheels, 2016. 24 BBC, 2011.
25 Delve, 2005, p79.
26 Delve, 2005: p81.
27 Clutton-Brock, 2003: pp 149-150; McCue, 1991: pp 190-194; Ashworth, 1985: p83.