Accident Miles Magister Mk I N3907,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 206871
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Date:Saturday 14 January 1939
Time:13:30 UTC
Type:Miles Magister Mk I
Owner/operator:1 Sqn RAF
Registration: N3907
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Eastergate Lane, Walberton, near Arundel, West Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Departure airport:RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk
Destination airport:RAF Tangmere, West Sussex
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
On the afternoon of 13th January 1939, a Miles Magister (N3907) was flown by Flying Officer Douglas, with Sergeant Cooper as passenger, on a journey from Tangmere to Martlesham, having been told to stay the night if he could not return in daylight. For this reason, and also in view of the local weather conditions, he was not allowed to start the return journey. The next morning he was told that if the conditions on the route improved he could leave not later than 15.00 hours. On receipt of weather reports from Borough Hill at 11.15, Douglas was granted permission to proceed - the reports gave Tangmere 2000 yards visibility with clouds 10/10 at 1000 feet, and a light easterly wind.

Magister N3707 was airborne at 12.15, with the weather at Martlesham being slightly hazy, sun shining and visibility 4000 yards. Between 13.15 and 13.30 the aircraft was heard by two civilians, 3 miles south-east of Tangmere, and the engine appeared to be running normally. It was misty and drizzling at the time and the aircraft was seen to emerge from cloud at a height of about 200 feet, in a very steep dive. The pilot apparently only realised his predicament at this moment and applied full power as he tried to level out, but the Magister hit the ground killing both occupants.

Douglas had trained at No.3 F.T.S. and gained his wings in May 1936. With a total of 510 flying hours logged, he was considered to be well above average as a pilot with a considerable amount of instrument flying in clouds to his credit. He had also recently passed an instructors course on the Link Trainer. Why this accident happened remained a mystery.

According to the following contemporary newspaper report (Western Daily Press - Monday 16 January 1939):

Plane Partly Buried in Field.
Flying Officer Alexander Charles Douglas, the pilot, and his passenger, Sergeant John James Cooper, were killed on Saturday when their R.A.F. 'plane from the No. 1 Fighter Squadron, Tangmere, Sussex, crashed at Walberton, near Arundel. The 'plane crashed into a field about 15 yards from Eastergate Lane, Walberton, and close to the Chichester-Bognor main road. It narrowly missed hitting a group of farm buildings, partly burying itself."

Plus the following from the "Portsmouth Evening News" Monday 16 January 1939:

One of the most brilliant pilots in The Royal Air Force , Flight Lieutenant Alexander Charles Douglas , stationed at Tangmere , lost his life with Sergeant J J Cooper , also of Tangmere , in a 'plane crash a few miles from Tangmere Aerodrome on Saturday afternoon.

Flight Lieutenant Douglas was bringing a Miles Magister training machine from Martlesham Experimental Station back to Tangmerewhen it crashed behind a barn at the side of the main Chichester to Bognor Road.

The extraordinary skill at stunt flying won him a host of admirers and at the end of the last Empire Air Display at Tangmere, his aerobatic display brought every RAF man at the station to the front to witness his spectacular display , which thrilled the thousands of spectators who attended.

He was the leader of a special flight of Hawker Furies specialising in aerobatics, and a little over a year ago he represented the Royal Air Force at an International aeronautics exhibition in Switzerland where he gave one of his spectacular displays of stunt flying.

Flight To Australia
Some time next month he had intended to attempt a flight to Australia with a brother officer , using a light aeroplane for the journey. An Australian by birth , he intended to visit his parents , whom he had not seen for three years.
He is the son of Dr. and Mrs. F. J. Douglas of of Victor Harbour , Australia , and it is reported that during the summer his engagement to Miss Joan Edith Carey , of Chiddingfold was broken off.

Sergeant Cooper had been at Tangmere for several years and was in charge of stores. He leaves a widow and an 11 year old daughter."

Walberton is a village and civil parish in the Arun District of West Sussex, England, 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Littlehampton, and south of the A27 road. The land rises from 33–115 feet (10–35 m) above sea level, a quarter of the height of Nore Hill, the nearest foothill of the South Downs, which is to the north of the parish.

NOTE: The aircraft involved was Miles Magister N3907 and NOT (despite some published sources) "N3707" - the latter serial was allocated to a Short Stirling!


1. Royal Air Force Aircraft L1000-N9999 (James J. Halley, Air Britain)
2. Daily Mirror - Monday 16 January 1939
3. The Victor Harbour Times, edition of Friday, 20 January 1939:
4. Portsmouth Evening News Monday 16 January 1939 (Report of crash)
5. Portsmouth Evening News - Thursday 19 January 1939 (Report of Pilot's Funeral)
6. Western Daily Press - Monday 16 January 1939 (Report of crash)

Revision history:

28-Feb-2018 23:33 Dr. John Smith Added
22-Mar-2018 21:16 Dr. John Smith Updated [Date, Registration, Operator, Source, Narrative]
10-Nov-2018 22:04 Nepa Updated [Operator, Departure airport, Destination airport, Operator]
20-Oct-2020 16:01 MatthewC Updated [Narrative]
16-Jul-2022 20:43 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative, Category]

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