Accident Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb (3x) ,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 166712
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Date:Thursday 22 October 1942
Time:c. 12:00
Type:Silhouette image of generic SPIT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb (3x)
Owner/operator:41 Sqn RAF
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Tarren Hendre, near Towyn, Merionethshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Llanbedr, Gwynedd, Wales
Destination airport:RAF Llanbedr
At 1120 on the 22nd of October, 1942, three Spitfires took off from Llanbedr on an authorized cloud training flight.
The fighters were last seen over the sea off Aberdovey, about 20 miles south of Llanbedr and the last radio contact came shortly after that.

At 1430 the Spitfires were declared overdue and an air search was initiated, but the search was hampered by the extensive cloud layers in the area, ranging from a cloud base at 800 feet above sea level to tops at 18,000 feet.
Nothing was found, and on the following day weather conditions were so bad that aircraft could not take off at all.
On the 24th however, the weather had improved and the search was resumed. At 1300 the three missing planes were sighted wrecked and burned out on Tarren Hendre, a 2,077-foot mountain about 7 miles northeast of the coastal town of Towyn.

It appeared that the planes had flown into the terrain in level flight and in near-zero visibility. The Spitfires were completely destroyed by impact and fire and the pilots must have died instantly.

Flight-Lieutenant Frank Gillitt (in BM573), Flying Officer Ronald Harrison (in R7296), and Flying Officer Thomas Scott (in BL518), all killed in a flying accident.

The tale of the three presentation Spitfires.

Newbury II - Spitfire Vb (R7296) ‘Newbury II’. EB-B.
On the 3rd of April 1941, R7296 flew its first flight and would undergo rigorous flight tests. On the 4th of April 1941 flown to No.9 Maintenance Unit at RAF Cosford by the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) ready to be allocated a squadron.
On the 4th of May she was assigned to No.91 (Nigeria) Squadron at RAF Hawkinge in Kent, carrying out reconnaissance missions. Two days later, the aircraft was placed in No.42 Group Deposit Account.
9th of May 1941 Reassigned to Air Service Training at RAF Perth in Scotland. Then on the 15th of June 1941, R7296 arrived at No.6 Maintenance Unit at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. Before going to No.611 (West Lancashire) Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch in Essex on the 2nd of November. She was engaged in sweeps and bomber escorts until the squadron moved north to RAF Drem in Scotland on 12th November 1941. R7296 was left to be passed on to another based at the same location.
14th of November 1941, R7269 was transferred to No.64 Squadron at RAF Hornchurch, to take part in offensive fighter sweeps and bomber escorts over northern France.
26th March 1942 While on a mission over northern France and five miles west of Dunkirk, pilot Sargent J.K Stewart was involved in a dogfight which resulted in him shooting down a German Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighter.
22nd May 1942 The aircraft was given code JH-J and joined No.317 Squadron, a Polish Fighter Squadron based at RAF Northolt, London.
On the 10th of June 1942 Wing Commander Stefan Janus, the Northolt Wing Leader who was attached to No.317 Squadron for maintenance purposes, had his personal Spitfire (EN916) coded JH-J for Janus, so R7296 had to be re-coded to JH-I.
15th July 1942 Flying-Officer T. Szymankiewicz, was engaged in a battle with a Focke-Wulf FW-190 over the sea off Boulogne in northern France. He opened fire and destroyed the FW-190, resulting in a victory for him. R7296 suffered Category A damage while on a non-operation sortie when flown by the same pilot, the repair was done on site a RAF Northolt.
3rd August 1942 Sent to Rollason Aircraft Service at Croydon, Surrey.
11th August 1942 A major inspection was undertaken when the aircraft was sent to the Civilian Repair Organisation, Heston Aircraft Ltd. repairs commenced two days later. The work on R7296 was completed and awaiting collection on 8th September 1942, when it was delivered to No.33 Maintenance Unit at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire the same day.
Finally, on the 1st of October 1942, she was assigned to No.41 Squadron at RAF Llanbedr, Gwynedd, and issued code EB-B.

Spitfire Vb BL518 ‘The Gay Gordon’.
Another Castle Bromwich Spitfire and the second presentation aircraft, built with funding from a yet unknown source, but there are two possibilities. One being the Gordons drinks company the other, the Royal Scottish County Dance Society. Both are of Scottish background, and both use the ‘Gey Gordons’ Monika. By the end of the war, well over fifteen hundred Spitfires are known to have carried presentation names, and allowing for those still not traced, donations totalled something in the order of £8,000,000 (around £175,000,000 in present-day values). Sadly, the serials of nearly two hundred of these are unknown, largely because most of the relevant official documentation was scrapped in the early post-war years. The only surviving evidence of a presentation name may therefore be on a snapshot in an old photograph album, and then sometimes only when examined under a magnifying glass. BL518 was sent to No.5 MU on the 12th of December 1941 and allocated her first squadron which was No.313 (Czech) squadron RAF on the 28th of December. The following year she suffered a night landing accident at RAF Hornchurch on the 10th of January 1942, her pilot, Flying Officer J Muzika (Czech) RAFVR was injured. After repair she went to No.154 squadron on the 24th of June 1942 but only for a short stint leaving for 71 squadron, arriving on the 18th of July 1942.
She came to 41 squadron

Spitfire Vb BM573 ‘Nigeria Abeokuta Province’.
Sent to No.37 MU on the 2nd of May 1942. Then allocated to No.610 squadron on the 8th of June and issued the radio codes ‘DW-P’. Another short spell and then off to No.41 squadron on the 17th of July 1942.

The event.
22nd of October 1942, three Spitfire 5’s was being made ready. The Newbury II Spitfire was being prepared for flight, F/O Harrison. Also being prepared was Spitfire 'Nigeria - Abeokuta Province' BM573 for F/L Frank Gillitt, and Spitfire BL518 for F/O Thomas Scott.
At 11:20am The three Spitfires took off from RAF Llanbedr on a cloud training exercise. They flew 20 miles south over the Irish Sea at Aberdovey and made radio contact with RAF Llandedr at mid-day, this was to be the last radio contact.
2:30pm An air search was initiated when RAF Llandedr declared the Spitfires were overdue. Due to the extensive cloud layers ranging from a cloud base at 800 feet at sea level to 18,000 feet, the search was unsuccessful with no radio contact, and nothing being found.
23rd October 1942 The weather conditions were so bad that the aircraft taking part in the air search was unable to take off.
24th October 1942 The weather conditions had improved enough to allow the aircraft taking part in the air search to take off.
At 1pm the air search made radio contact with RAF Llandedr to report the that three missing Spitfires had been sighted, wrecked, and burnt out near the Welsh coastal town of Towyn.
On route back to RAF Llandedr, they had flown into the side of the 2,077-foot mountain at Tarrenhendre in the bad weather conditions. The pilots would have had near-zero visibility on impact, they would have died instantly.

The following is taken from the squadron records.
“22-10-42 ‘B’ flight at dawn readiness with ‘A’ flight at 30 mins, one section took off from ‘B’ flight at 09:20hrs on formation W/T, returning at 09:55hrs as the weather conditions were bad. At 11:20hrs, 3 A/C T/O from ‘A’ flight on cloud formation but R/T contact with them was negative & later they were overdue. The pilots were F/Lt Gillett, P/O Harrison & P/O Scott. Search parties took off but failed to contact them.
23-10-42 ‘A’ flight at dawn readiness, ‘B’ flight at 30mins. No news received of the missing A/C & the weather continued to be poor, which prevented any search parties taking off.
24-10-42 ‘B’ flight at dawn readiness ‘A’ flight at 30mins. Fair weather with strong winds allowed local flying to be carried out. At 13:00hrs word was received of the finding of the missing A/C 9 miles from Towyn, where they were discovered burnt out. The remains of the pilots were carried down the mountainside & conveyed by transport to Barmouth.
25-10-42 The weather was very poor, the squadron state at 30mins. At 10:00hrs a party left for Towyn to collect the remains of the aircraft.
26-10-42 ‘A’ flight at readiness. The burial of P/O Scott took place at Porthmadoc cemetery. The chief mourners were Mr Scott & Mrs Scott, the station funeral party was led by S/Ldr Neil. The ceremony was impressive, Mr Scott expressing his appreciation for the tribute & sympathy of his sons’ co-pilots.”

Four days later the squadron moved for two months to RAF Tangmere, nothing recorded of the other two burials within the squadron records. This then points out that the service was held privately with a station representative to provide the military honours.
R7296. F/O Roland Harrison 22yo 119918 RAFVR. Pilot. Killed. 1
Son of William and Catherine Harrison of Slough.
BM573. F/Lt Frank Norman Gillett 23yo 108132 RAFVR. Pilot. Killed. 2
Son of Frank Sydney & Phyllis Ivy Gillett of Wellingborough; nephew of Margret Gillett also of Wellingborough.
BL518. F/O Thomas Roland Scott 20yo 115515 RAFVR. Pilot. Killed. 3.
Son of Oswald Arthur Scott D.S.O. and Hermione Monica Scott of Winchester.

1 Slough (Stoke Road) Cemetery. CofE. Plot. Grave 676.
2 Wellingborough (Doddington Road) Cemetery. Block 5. Grave 47.
3 Porthmadoc Public Cemetery. Grave 602.

Small fragments remain hidden in the heather and tussock grass.

Additional Information:

No. 41 Squadron. The squadron was formed in 1916 during WW1 as part of the RFC and served on the Western Front as a ground attack and fighter squadron. Disbanded in 1919 as part of the post-war draw down, No. 41 Squadron was re-formed as an RAF squadron in 1923 and remained on home service until 1935 when it was deployed to Aden during the Abyssinian Crisis.
During WW2, the squadron flew the Spitfire fighter (All marks) and saw action over Dunkirk and then during the Battle of Britain. Combat operations were flown from Britain over German-occupied Europe during 1941–1944, before the squadron moved to the continent after the D-Day landings. During 1944–45, the squadron supported the Allied advance into Germany, and it remained there until mid-1946 as part of the occupation force following the end of hostilities. In the post war years, the squadron was disbanded and re-formed several times, operating a variety of jet aircraft in the fighter, reconnaissance, and interceptor roles. In 2006, the squadron was re-rolled as the Fast Jet & Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit. It remained in this role until 2010 when it became the RAF's Test and Evaluation Squadron.
Current Aircraft.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both air superiority and strike missions.


'Blood, Sweat and Valour-41 Squadron RAF 1942-1945' by Steve Brew, Pub. Fonthill Media Ltd, 2012.

Revision history:

03-Jun-2014 08:03 angels one five Added
03-Jun-2014 23:36 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
18-Jun-2014 02:32 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
06-Jun-2015 21:06 Angel dick one Updated [Time, Operator, Departure airport]
14-Mar-2020 00:43 angels one five Updated [Departure airport, Narrative]
09-Oct-2022 06:10 Davies 62 Updated [Source, Narrative]

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