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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 160705
Last updated: 7 November 2020
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Date:04-MAR-1954
Time:c. 10:20
Type:Silhouette image of generic SPIT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Supermarine Spitfire Mk XIX
Owner/operator:THUM Unit (Temperature & Humidity Unit fy.Short Bros
Registration: PM628
C/n / msn: 6S-68424?
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Church Pulverbach, 20 miles WSW of RAF Shawbury, Shropshire, England. -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF Woodvale, Lancashire
Destination airport:RAF Woodvale
Narrative:
Spitfire Mk XIX PM628 was being operated by the Temperature and Humidity Monitoring Flight, based at Woodvale, when its propeller overspeeded during the return from a meteorological flight. The pilot attempted to bale out but was killed when the aircraft dived into ground before he could escape. It is believed he tried to direct the Spitfire away from Church Pulverbach and delayed too long to use his parachute.

Below is a column from the "Chronicle" of 5th March 1954.

"Forty five children in the west Shropshire hill village of Church Pulverbatch heard the screaming noise of a diving Spitfire as they sat at their lessons yesterday. The plane missed their school by 50 yards, then crashed in a farmyard and burst into flames.

THE PILOT WAS KILLED INSTANTLY.... AND LAST NIGHT THE ViLLAGERS WERE CONVINCED THAT HE HAD FOUGHT AND SACRIFICED HIMSELF TO AVOID CRASHING INTO THE SCHOOL AND THE CLUSTER OF COTTAGES AND FARM BUILDINGS NEARBY.

The aircraft was owned by Short and Harland Ltd., Formby, Liverpool, and was flying from Woodville. The pilot was Flight Lt. G. T. Heyes, D.F.C., of Ruabon. He was a married man and was engaged on meteorological duties. Before the crash he sent out an S.O.S. that he was in difficulties and was about to bale out. The message was picked up by R.A.F. Shawbury, who flashed it to the police and fire brigade authorities. Soon afterwards the machine crashed with the pilot in it and burst into flames. Pieces of wreckage were strewn over a wide area.

Within a few minutes of the crash the vicar of Church Pulverbatch, the Rev. E. Marshall Taylor was on the scene to say prayers. One man who saw the machine crash was Mr. Kenneth Birmingham, a gardener. He told a "Chronicle" reporter: "The plane came in from the south-east and I heard it pass overhead. It then started to bank and I thought the pilot was doing a bit of stunting, but then it seemed to go into a sloping dive with the engine flat out. It was one mad roar. I have never heard anything like it."

The children sat in the little school being taught arithmetic, not realizing the narrow escape they had had. Said the schoolmistress, Mrs. Catherine Todd : "It was all over so quickly. The little ones didn't seem to grasp what had happened, but some of the older children were afraid for the pilot and asked questions about the crash.

"We heard a noise overhead and as it came nearer we realized there was something wrong. Then the 'plane screamed and crashed. It seemed as if the pilot must have tried to avoid the village."

In an adjoining classroom, where Mrs Todd's assistant, Miss Dilys Edwards, was teaching, youngsters could see the flames of the burning aircraft only 50 yards away.

Nearest to the crash and first on the scene was 16-year-old farm worker Tom Wagstaffe, who was in the cattle shed at the farm of Mr. J. Trevor Bebb, on whose land the machine crashed. Tom told the "Chronicle": "I was only about 40 yards from the crash. Bits of earth and pieces of the 'plane came down on the roof of the cowshed". Tom ran to the scene with 26-year-old Dennis Dudley, but just before they got there the petrol tanks exploded and there was nothing they could do. They found the machine had buried itself in the ground. There were 37 cows in the shed. "They were frightened a bit but it was not too bad," said Tom.

Mr. Bebb said: "It seemed to me like a jet breaking the sound barrier. I ran to the crash, saw I could do nothing, and then ran and 'phoned for the ambulance and the fire brigade. When the 'plane began its dive I saw the propeller disintegrate in mid-air, and I later found it yards down the field."

Farm worker Clifford Robinson (18) was in the village shop when the crash occurred. "I heard a screaming noise and thought it was going to hit the shop, so I went out through the door of the shop as fast as I could."

Miss Ivy Bailey, 22-year-old domestic worker, told our reporter: "I was doing the washing-up at Lower Farm at the time. I did not hear anything, until the doors and windows started rattling."

Several fire appliances from Shrewsbury extinguished the flames, and late last night airmen from RAF Shawbury were busy digging out the engine of the 'plane, which had embedded itself several feet into the ground."

Pilot:
F/Lt Thomas Victor Heyes DFC RAFVR, killed in a flying accident. Heyes is buried in Acrefair Churchyard, near Ruabon, Wrexham..R.I.P.

Sources:

1. Royal Air Force Aircraft PA100-RZ999 (James J. Halley, Air Britin)
2. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.154 ISBN 0-85130-290-4
3. Category Five; A Catalogue of RAF Aircraft Losses 1954 to 2009 by Colin Cummings p.41
4. Spitfire production list: http://www.airhistory.org.uk/spitfire/p089.html
5. http://derbosoft.proboards.com/thread/13889/liverpool-aviation-accidents-incidents
6. http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?10638-Thum-Spitfire-PM628-Lost-4th-March-1954
7. http://www.pulverbatch.org.uk/placesandpeople.shtml


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
20-Sep-2013 09:23 JINX Added
23-Apr-2014 08:30 angels one five Updated [Operator]
23-Apr-2014 08:32 angels one five Updated [Operator, Narrative]
02-Feb-2015 20:52 angels one five Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
11-Mar-2015 20:15 angels one five Updated [Time]
27-Mar-2015 17:35 Jixn Updated [Time, Operator, Source, Narrative]
27-Mar-2015 17:37 Digger Updated [Departure airport]
11-Jan-2016 17:20 Dr.John Smith Updated [Cn, Location, Source, Narrative]
20-Jun-2018 15:47 Nepa Updated [Operator, Location]
06-Apr-2020 16:00 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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