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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 20684
Last updated: 9 August 2020
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Date:13-FEB-1954
Time:15:00 LT
Type:Gloster Meteor F Mk 8
Owner/operator:600 (City of London) Squadron Royal Air Force (600 (City of London) Sqn RAF)
Registration: WF754
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Lock Farm, Partridge Green, near Hurstpierpoint, Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF Biggin Hill, Bromley, Kent
Destination airport:
Narrative:
Gloster Meteor F.Mk.8 WF754/"I" of 600 (City of London) Squadron, RAF: Written off (destroyed) 13/2/54 when crashed at Lock Farm, Partridge Green, near Hurstpierpoint, Sussex. Pilot killed. The weather was fine, and the pilot competent (he had amassed 275 flying hours of which 162 were in the Meteor). From witness reports, and technical examination of the wreckage, it appeared that WF754 had suffered from a failure of the hood locking mechanism leading to decompression of the cockpit - this was a technical issue with the Meteor, and various accidents had already occured due to the hood unlocking in flight and moving backwards on its runners. The only detached portions of the wreckage that were found was the hood, side frames and hood perspex approximately 2000 yards line of flight behind the main impact crater.

Salvage operations were hampered by the fact that the aircraft had struck the ground in the bed of a small stream amid trees - continuous pumping was necessary, and after digging to about 20ft in heavy waterlogged clay it became obvious that a major salvage operation with earth-moving equipment would have been necessary - salvage was therefore abandoned. The RAF stated in the Inquiry that "...it is probable that fragments of the front fuselage, including the hood side rails and locking mechanism, still remain in the crater."

According to the following eyewitness report:
"On the afternoon of Saturday 13th February 1954 I was at Maryland Farm with my school friend David Moffatt when baker‟s roundsman Alec Porter told us that a jet fighter had crashed at Lock Lane.

We jumped on our bikes and ten minutes or so of furious peddling saw us at the scene of the accident, a large crater, on the edge of a spinney, partially filled with water. There were no big pieces of wreckage to be seen, but the whole area was littered with small bits of debris, a policeman was walking around the field putting small fragments of clothing and human remains into a sack, and I clearly remember a leather flying helmet being collected.

We surreptitiously trousered some interesting bits of wreckage, but to our dismay were made to empty our pockets by the military when we returned to our bikes in the lane.

I had often wondered over the last fifty or so years what caused the crash, but I think I now have a fairly clear idea of the sequence of events that led to the disaster. Martin Mace, writing in "Britain at War‟ magazine, reports that at 2.30 pm two Meteor 8 jet fighters, of 600 Squadron, took off from RAF Biggin Hill on a routine “dog-fight” exercise, to be carried out between 25,000 and 30,000 feet.

One of the aircraft was piloted by Pilot Officer John Robert D‟Arcy, the other, the ill fated WF754, by 24 year old Pilot Officer Michael James Bridge. The weather was fine with scattered small cumulus clouds, visibility was good. The two aircraft flew in tight formation at 2,000 to 4,000 feet for 20 minutes to burn off some fuel then climbed to 29,000 feet.

Each pilot was to take turns, in five minute spells, to be the “tail chaser”. To begin the exercise P/O D‟Arcy overtook P/O Bridge “at a considerable speed”, Bridge was to be the first pursuer. D‟Arcy then put his aircraft into a shallow dive and was travelling at about Mach 0.76 (approx.550 mph). He then climbed and turned to look for Bridge, but could neither see him nor raise him on his radio.

An ex RAF man in Worthing was observing the manoeuvres through a telescope and described seeing a puff of vapour coming from the following aircraft which then went into a diving turn, followed by a steeper dive until a wing dipped violently and the aircraft commenced a violent spin. Other witnesses on the ground saw the plane spinning down until it stabilised into a dive in an inverted position which it maintained until it struck the ground.

The subsequent Court of Enquiry found that the puff of vapour observed was the result of the sudden decompression of the cockpit when the Perspex canopy was torn away, possibly as a result of an ineffective locking mechanism; three similar failures had occurred on other Meteors in the previous twelve months. It was thought that Pilot Officer Bridge was probably incapacitated by the damaged canopy, pieces of which were found 2,000 yards from the crash site.

A recommendation was made that all RAF fighter pilots should be equipped with the new “Bone Dome” flying helmets as soon as possible. Had P/O Bridge been wearing one his chances of survival would have been greater.

According to a West Sussex County Times report, the Crawley and Horsham Hunt were just two fields away from the crash site, and the two riders first to the scene were Mr Barry Jesse of Horsebridge Common and Miss Joy Mitchell of Partridge Green; both described hearing a terrific explosion and seeing a huge sheet of flame shoot into the air.

When the Partridge Green Auxiliary Fire Service arrived they were confronted by a crater twelve feet deep which had filled with water from a nearby stream, with aviation fuel burning on the surface. The crater was drained in an effort to find the pilot, but no remains could be found. The pilot‟s ejector seat was lying near the hole."

Crew of Meteor WF754
Flying Officer Michael James Bridge, RAF (pilot, Service Number 2380453, aged 24)

Sad to note that Pilot Officer Michael James Bridge had only been promoted to Flying Officer on 1/2/54, less than two weeks earlier (see link #11). His obituary announcement in The Times (17/2/54 p.1) read:

"After National Service he attended Oxford University, reading Theoretical Physics, and joined the University Air Squadron, then joined the RAuxAF. He was employed by De Havilland researching into missiles. Death announcement – On February 13th 1954 In a flying accident, Flying Officer M J Bridge (Mick) 600 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force, aged 24, younger son of the late A V Bridge And Mrs Bridge of Bristol".

Sources:

1. West Sussex County Times - Friday 12 March 1954
2. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings – Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.155 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
3. Royal Air Force Aircraft WA100-WZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1983 p 39)
4. Category Five; A Catalogue of RAF Aircraft Losses 1954 to 2009 by Colin Cummings p.34
5. Hans Onderwater, Gentlemen in Blue. 600 Squadron. (Barnsley,1997) p311
6. The Times, Wednesday February 17th 1954, p.1
7. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/199: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C424320
8. http://www.ukserials.com/results.php?serial=WF
9. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=205.0
10. http://600squadronassociation.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/The-Right-of-The-Line-Dec-2018-141218.pdf
11. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/40082/supplement/574/data.pdf
12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partridge_Green
13. https://wlv.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/2436/620541/Wilkinson%20PhD_Thesis%20Appendix%202.pdf?sequence=13&isAllowed=y


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
07-Jun-2008 01:39 JINX Added
10-Jan-2012 14:03 Nepa Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Source]
28-Jun-2018 17:22 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
09-Jan-2020 23:30 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
09-Jan-2020 23:37 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
05-Apr-2020 20:29 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
05-Apr-2020 20:33 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
07-Apr-2020 18:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
07-Apr-2020 18:09 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]

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