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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 22777
Last updated: 1 October 2020
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Date:20-JAN-1956
Time:15:23
Type:Gloster Meteor NF.Mk 12
Owner/operator:All Weather Operational Conversion Unit Royal Air Force (All Weather OCU RAF)
Registration: WS661
C/n / msn: AWA.
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:2
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:High Street, Wadhurst, East Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Training
Departure airport:RAF Luffenham, Rutland
Destination airport:RAF Luffenham, Rutland
Narrative:
Gloster Meteor NF.Mk.12, WS661, AWOCU (All-Weather Operational Conversion Unit), RAF: Written off (destroyed) 20/1/56 when crashed at High Street, Wadhurst, Sussex. The pilot was carrying out an unauthorised flight over his parents village of Wadhurst, Sussex. While in a turn at 25 feet the aircraft struck a bungalow, crashed and burst into flames. Both crew and two people in the bungalow were killed

On January 20th 1956 the village of Wadhurst was the scene of a horrendous aviation accident when a Royal Air Force jet crashed there. The aircraft, a Gloster Meteor NF12 (serial WS661) from the All-Weather Conversion Unit at RAF North Luffenham, was supposed to have stayed within 60 miles of the base while the two-man crew carried out a familiarisation flight. Wadhurst was, in fact, approximately 120 miles from Luffenham. The newspapers reported at the time that the parents of the pilot, Flying Officer L. Stoate, lived at Durgates which is just to the North West of Wadhurst, but didn't elaborate or speculate on the connection at that time. It soon became obvious however that Stoate had been indulging himself in some unauthorised flying to 'show off' to his parents...a few extracts from his Luffenham Training Report dated 19th December of the previous year give a good indication of the character of the pilot, and should certainly have set alarm bells ringing.

"Aerobatics - All well executed and flown with a show of spirit. Weaknesses - Has a tendency to be flippant and slapdash occasionally. Enthusiasm - Has a fair amount of enthusiasm and is a keen pilot; will do well if he approached his flying a little more seriously." And the footnote? "..should develop a more mature attitude towards his flying with more experience." All damming notes when viewed in the cold light of day after the accident, but presumably there were many pilots serving in the RAF at that time who had similar reports.

As well as killing himself and his Navigator, 20 year old Pilot Officer A. Patterson, two innocent civilians died in the crash as well. Thomas Stemp, 74, died in hospital from his injuries while 69 year old Emily Reed, his housekeeper, died instantly and her body was later recovered from the wrecked bungalow after the fires caused by the crash had died down. Two others were injured - Ronald Stanbridge was detained in hospital suffering from delayed shock, while Walter Bone sustained cuts from flying glass. Bone had been driving a laundry van when the crash occurred, and despite the extensive damage to his vehicle and the injuries he had suffered, he moved the van away from the vicinity and then returned to aid in the rescue efforts.

The Meteor was 120 miles from its base and the pilot was not authorised to fly more than 60 miles away. It was suspected that he was showing off his plane to his parents. According to the official RAF records and Board of Inquiry for this incident:

"20.1.56 Meteor NF12, WS661. AWOCU, North Luffenham.
Time of Accident 15.23. Duration of Flight 43 mins. Training Flight.
Pilot Stoate L.C.M. Flying Officer, aged 23. Navigator Paterson, A.W. (Flying Officer).

"The aircraft took off to carry out a local flying exercise which was designed to keep the pilots within 60 nautical miles off base. Approx 35 minutes later the aircraft was seen over the village of Wadhurst, 120 miles from base, where the pilot's parents resided. After circling the village at least once, the pilot made a very low run in a steeply banked and slightly diving turn to port past his parents home. Whilst still in the turn the aircraft struck two bungalows at an estimated height of 25 feet above ground level and burst into flames. Both crew members and two civilians were killed.

The pilot disobeyed briefing instruction and indulged in unnecessary, unauthorised and dangerous low flying, and through an error of judgement caused his aircraft to crash".

Crew:
Flying Officer (2503164) Leonard Charles Mitchell STOATE (pilot) RAF - killed.
Pilot Officer (4139679) Alastair Walter PATERSON (navigator) RAF - Killed

Civilians believed to have been killed :
Mr Thomas Stemp (75).
Miss Emily Reed (60).

It also transpires that the navigator was buried in Scotland.

Sources:

1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.177 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Royal Air Force Aircraft WA100-WZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1983 p 92)
3. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/321: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C424442
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/34/S2802: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C6578582
5. http://www.ukserials.com/results.php?serial=WS
6. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=182.0
7. http://www.ukserials.com/losses-1956.htm
8. http://www.planetrace.co.uk/1950-1959_26.html
9. https://www.pprune.org/military-aviation/70987-meteor-accident-statistics-8.html#post2323209
10. 50th Anniversary Memorial Service, 20/01/2006: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/southern_counties/4629692.stm


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
10-Sep-2008 11:43 angels one five Added
28-Apr-2009 10:46 MikeG Updated
24-Oct-2009 14:20 JINX Updated
24-Oct-2009 14:20 JINX Updated
01-Jul-2010 01:40 angels one five Updated [Nature, Source, Narrative]
18-Aug-2010 02:48 penguin832 Updated [Source, Narrative]
29-Jan-2012 14:35 Michael Brown Updated [Source, Narrative]
11-Mar-2013 23:55 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Embed code, Narrative]
29-Jan-2014 19:30 TB Updated [Operator, Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
03-Mar-2015 08:01 angels one five Updated [Operator, Narrative]
03-Mar-2015 09:38 angels one five Updated [Operator]
03-Mar-2015 09:39 angels one five Updated [Operator]
10-May-2015 17:11 Angel Dick one Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
16-Jul-2019 06:50 angels one five Updated [Location]
18-Jan-2020 19:11 Dr. John Smith Updated [Cn, Operator, Location, Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
19-Jan-2020 11:49 stehlik49 Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Operator]

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