ASN logo
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 208496
Last updated: 12 July 2020
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Date:20-JUL-1939
Time:day
Type:Bristol Blenheim Mk IF
Owner/operator:23 Squadron Royal Air Force (23 Sqn RAF)
Registration: L8368
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Wansford, 2 miles SE of RAF Wittering, Northamptonshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF Wittering, Northamptonshire
Destination airport:
Narrative:
Bristol Blenheim Mk.IF L8368, 23 Squadron, RAF Wittering: Crashed after collision with Blenheim L1448, at Wansford, two miles south east of RAF Wittering, Northamptonshire. The pilot was killed; however, according to contemporary newspaper accounts (see below), he deliberately sacrificed his life to save the life of his passenger, a schoolboy from Oundle School on an "air experience" flight. The pilot give his schoolboy passenger his parachute (the only one on board) and pushed him out of the escape hatch.

Sgt Jack Arnold Bullard (pilot, aged 25) killed
Dennis Effrain Nahum (passenger, aged 16) baled out

Blenheim L1448, the other aircraft involved reportedly landed safely with only minor damage. According to the official Air Ministry announcement in "Flight" magazine (July 27, 1939 - see link #8)

"FLYING ACCIDENTS
Sgt. Jack Arnold Bullard lost his life in an accident which occurred on July 21 near East Wittering to an aircraft of No. 23 Squadron. Sgt. Bullard was the pilot of the aircraft; Mr. Denis Nahun, the only other occupant, was uninjured."

Per the ORB of 23 Sqn (AIR27 287 - see link #3): "Sergeant J. A. Bullard killed in a flying accident. Saved Oundle Schoolboy by pushing him out - special letter from Station Commander to No. 12 Group requesting consideration for posthumous award."

According to a contemporary newspaper report ("The Mercury" Hobart, Tasmania - Saturday 18 November 1939):

"CADET'S LEAP FOR LIFE
Behaves Like Veteran After Collision In Sky
As a holder of a senior Officers' Training Corps certificate. Dennis Nahum, a 17-year-old English lad, went with a squad of other boys from Oundle to spend a'week in camp with the Royal Air Force at Wittering, Northamptonshire.

It is part of their training to become "air-minded." On the Thursday a number of the boys were taken up in Blenheim bombers In each bomber there was one pilot and one boy.

Each pilot wore his ordinary service parachute, but the boys, having a different variety of parachute, wore only the parachute harness. The parachutes themselves lay on ledges behind their seats. The squadron went off in formation.

The machines rose to 3,000ft., threading in and out of the clouds, always in formation. Dennis Nahum's pilot was 25-year-old Sgt. Jack Bullard. Side by side with them was the aeroplane of Pilot Officer Williams, leader of the flight. Beside him also sat an Oundle boy.

DUG IN RIBS
Suddenly out of a bank of cloud they came, and something was wrong with Bullard's position in the formation. The boy sitting with Pilot-Officer Williams dug him in the ribs. The officer looked round. There, close beside him, he saw the other aeroplane. He swooped to clear, but it was hopeless. His whirring propeller sliced clean through the tall of Sgt. Bullard's machine.

Out of the clear sky had come almost certain death. Sgt. Bullard's machine, losing the stabilising effect of its tail, began to plunge and fall like a leaf in a gale.The sergeant and his boy passenger were flung from side to side, and from floor to the roof of the enclosed cockpit, stunned almost into unconsciousness. With their faces cut and their bodies bruised they held the sides of the cockpit to steady themselves.

All this time the shattered aeroplane was dropping swiftly to earth. Thre thousand feet is not very high up. The end was a matter of seconds. Dennis Nahum, stunned as he was by the buffeting, saw the pilot pull back the roof of the cockpit, and realised that it was a jump for life.

He calmly turned round for his parachute and began to clip it on. As he stood there trying to keep his feet for just an instant the pilot gave him a push and out he went, to life or death, as fate decided."I cannot remember going out," he says now, "but as I fell a sudden severe shock woke me up thoroughly." It was the parachute opening and breaking his fall.

Dennis still cannot remember leaving the aeroplane, but as soon as he fell through the air his mind was clear enough, and his nerve so controlled that he remembered to pull the rip-cord of the parachute at the right moment. As the speed of his fall eased, Dennis realised that in the hurry' he had only clipped on one,side of his parachute. This meant that he must touch the ground sideways instead of free first.

His mind was cool and clear enough to realise that as he foll whirling and jolting.He-saw some high tension wires. He realised what they were, but, passing them, by, the narrowest, margin, hit the ground heavily and fainted,

Meanwhile the lender of the flight, Pilot-Officer Williams, had swooped to earth. He raced two miles from the airfield to the spot where Dennis landed. Just, as he reached there Dennis was recovering from his faint."And-then I saw a thing I'll always remember," said the pilot, "As I came up, the boy got to his feet, stood at attention, and smartly saluted me"

And what of the sergeant whose swiftness, allied with the boy's coolness, resulted in so 'miraculous an escape? He died. He came down near the place where the boy landed, but fell like a stone and was killed instantly. When they examined his parachute it had a great tear in it. The propeller had ripped it as he jumped. Dennis Nahum becomes the first English schoolboy to qualify for the Gold, Caterpillar, the badge of the Caterpillar Club, open only to those who have saved their lives from a crashing aircraft by a parachute jump."

Sources:

1. Royal Air Force Aircraft L1000-N9999 (James J. Halley, Air Britain, 1983)
2. "The Mercury" Hobart, Tasmania - Saturday 18 November 1939
3. 23 Squadron RAF ORB at http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D8409611
4. The Times, London 21 July 1938
5. http://aircrewremembered.com/blenheim-test.html
6. http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?14881-Blenheim-L8368-Crash-July-20-1939-Crew-3-or-2
7. http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads/sergeant-jack-arthur-bullard-raf-20th-july-1939.70100/
8. https://www.flightglobal.com/FlightPDFArchive/1939/1939-1-%20-%200276.PDF


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
30-Mar-2018 17:44 Dr. John Smith Added
30-Mar-2018 17:47 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
30-Mar-2018 17:50 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]
26-Sep-2018 10:14 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description