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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 158844
Last updated: 13 January 2020
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Type:Bristol Blenheim Mk I
Owner/operator:A&AEE Royal Air Force (A&AEE RAF) (Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment Royal Air Force)
Registration: L1253
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Minor
Location:Icklingham, Suffolk -   United Kingdom
Phase: Landing
Departure airport:RAF Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, Suffolk
Destination airport:RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk
Bristol Blenheim Mk.I L1253, A&AEE Martlesham Heath: Fatal flying accident 19/6/39 when some of the crew bailed out, over Icklingham, Suffolk. Aircraft landed by the pilot (who stayed on board) at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk. The aircraft record card (Air Ministry Form F1180) has the summary of the Cause of Incident, which states the pilot had "climbed to 10,000 ft, venturi iced (knew from weather report ice at 7,000 ft). Blind flying instruments not functioning correctly, not fitted with de-icing equipment. Lost control twice but recovered and eventually landed OK. Two crew down - pilot not able to countermand order in time." One of the crew was killed, one was injured:

AC1 Jack Maurice Forsdyke (W/Op./Air Gunner, Service Number 546715 aged 22) killed
AC1 Christopher Stoddart injured
Squadron Leader Ian Grant Mackay (pilot) unhurt landed aircraft safely.

Observer/Nav Aircraftman (1st Class) Christopher Stoddart (service #522002) bailed out of top cockpit hatch OK: he landed in a tree on Lord Iveagh’s estate at Icklingham, Suffolk and suffered bruises.

Squadron Leader Mackay knew something hit the tail, and assumed it was the crewman who escaped from rear hatch (Forsdyke was in the turret); looks like he probably went over the side of the aircraft, and somehow hit the tail fin.

Forsdyke is buried in West Row Baptist Chapelyard, Suffolk but his gravestone shows his date of death as the 20th, not the 19th. This is an error - he was definitely killed on 19/6/39. A fuller account of the incident appeared in the local newspaper ("Bury Free Press" Saturday 24 June 1939, Page 10):

"Airmen's Nerve-Wracking Ordeal.
Bomber Dives Out of Control Over Icklingham.
Two Aircraftsmen Jump Out.
One Killed : Parachute Ripcord Not Pulled.
THE DRAMATIC STORY of how two Martlesham airmen took to parachutes and jumped for their lives when a Blenheim bomber, its blind-flying apparatus frozen up, came hurtling down out of control through dense clouds was told at a Mildenhall inquest on Wednesday evening.

Aircraftsman Christopher Stoddart landed safety in a belt of trees on Lord Iveagh’s estate at Icklingham, but his companion. Aircraftsman Jack Maurice Forsdyke, aged 22, whose home was at Collingwood Road, Lexden, was killed. The ripcord of his parachute had not been pulled.

During the course of a two hours' inquiry, Squadron-Leader Ian Grant MacKay, was flying the bomber from Martlesham to Scotland, told the Coroner for Liberty of Bury St. Edmund's (Mr. Thomas Wilson) and a jury that directly after the two men had jumped he felt something hit the tail fin, and, assuming it was the dead aircraftsman who had to leave by the rear hatch, it would before he had time to pull his ripcord

The Squadron-Leader described how just before noon on Monday, he took off from Martlesham in a heavy rain with clouds at 600 to 800 feet. Stoddart sat beside him in the navigator’s seat while Forsdyke was in the aft gun turret. For approximately quarter of an hour he flew at 500 feet and then started to climb above the rain clouds.

These however, were very much thicker than he expected. At 10,000 feet he was still in the clouds and it was then that he lost the use of his blind-flying apparatus through ice formations. He had expected to get out of the clouds at 4,000 feet.

"I continued to climb thinking I must be getting almost to the top"" he went on "but I did not see anything from the time we went into the clouds at 600 feet until we came out at Mildenhall. In endeavouring to come out of the climb I must have dropped a wing. The 'plane started to dive."

He felt certain that from both the noise and feel of the machine and after trying in vain for three or four seconds to recover he decided that they had better make preparations to leave the plane. Being afraid that the machine would become completely out of control. He told Stoddart to be prepared to leave and to pass the order on to Forsdyke. Stoddart opened the hatch in readiness. Then the speed of the 'plane decreased. This was at about 5,000 feet.

Thinking he had some control over it now, and hoping to remain at this height until the ice thawed to give him back the use of his blind-flying instruments, he indicated to the men to remain in the machine. But the speed increased again, and the bomber would not respond to the stick. By then they were getting near to the ground-the clouds underneath were getting much darker and he realised that with the machine travelling at 300 mph at about only 400 feet from the ground there would not much time for all three to jump out.

"I again warned Stoddard to prepare to leave the machine "" the Squadron-Leader continued ""and he stood on the seat looking through the hatch. Forsdyke got out of the other hatch. Then the machine began to lose speed once more. I felt I had control of the dive, so I tugged on Stoddart’s parachute harness to get him to come back, but he jumped out.

Almost at the same time we came out of clouds at approximately 800 feet in a slight dive. Directly I came the clouds I had control. At the time Stoddart jumped witness felt a sharp blow on the structure of the aircraft,and he thought one of the two men had hit the tail on leaving.

He afterwards flew round and round until he found a railway station which he was able to read as Mildenhall, and he then returned to Martlesham. Then marks were found on the outside of the ’plane. These definitely pointed to Forsdyke having hit the tail. This would be before he could pull the ripcord of his parachute.

Dr. Hugh Llewellyn Jenkins Medical Office at Mildenhall RAF Station said it was almost certain that Forsdyke hit the tail fin. Stoddart said that Forsdyke was half way out of the machine as he prepared to leave. He jumped when they were at a height of between 800 and 1,000 feet.

Answering Squadron-Leader MacKay, the aircraftsman agreed that he felt a tug on his harness just before he left, but it did not occur to him to look down to see what the pilot wanted.

Thomas Linney, an Icklinghham labourer, stated that he and a workmate heard the 'plane go over making a louder noise than usual. Directly he saw it, two objects which he thought were bombs left the machine, then all at once a parachute opened. A crash followed. "We ran across`"" Linney went on, "and saw an airman hanging over a wire fence. He whistled to us and said he was hurt a bit. His parachute was hanging up in a tree."

James Wright, an Icklingham tractor driver, said that Linney had just started off to take the airman to the police station when he found the other man lying dead near an alder stub. His unopened parachute was underneath him.

Police Constable A.E. Long (Icklingham) said he was the men leave the 'plane from Icklingham Street, where he was on duty and came to the conclusion exercises were being carried out. The machine was making a very unusual noise Sgt H. E. Reave (Mildenhall) said the ripcord of the dead man's parachute had not been pulled.

John Thomas Forsdyke, the father said his son had been in the R.A.F. nearly two years. The jury, over which Mr. J. C. Turner presided as foreman returned a verdict of ""Death by Misadventure"" Supt. Hammond (Newmarket) watched the proceedings on behalf of the police.

Note: 'Blind Flying apparatus icing up' (sic), I asked on another forum about this and someone replied "I think the Artificial Horizon gyro was powered by a vacuum (certainly the usual Sperry Mk.1 type was). This was probably maintained via a venturi, which might ice up"


1. Royal Air Force Aircraft L1000-N9999 (James J. Halley, Air Britain, 1983)

Related books:

Revision history:

23-Aug-2013 09:01 JINX Added
15-Dec-2014 10:53 Jixon Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Destination airport]
29-Mar-2018 17:58 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Registration, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
29-Mar-2018 18:01 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
29-Mar-2018 18:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Damage, Narrative]
26-Sep-2018 10:31 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]

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