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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 233023
Last updated: 18 February 2020
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Date:24-SEP-1948
Time:day
Type:Gloster Meteor F.Mk III
Owner/operator:1 Sqn Royal Air Force (1 Sqn RAF)
Registration: EE461
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:1
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Crimsham Manor Farm, Lagness, near Chichester, West Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF Tangmere, Chichester, West Sussex
Destination airport:RAF Tangmere, Chichester, West Sussex
Narrative:
De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth N6927 of 24 RFS (Reserve Flying School), RAF: Written off (destroyed) 24 September 1948, when collided with Gloster Meteor F.3 EE461 of 1 Squadron, RAF Tangmere. Both crew were killed - one in the Tiger Moth and one in the Meteor - were killed. The Tiger Moth spun out of control and dived into the ground at Lyndcroft Nurseries, North Mundham, Runcton, West Sussex. The pilot - Pilot II Leslie Ernest Wells, RAFVR, aged 24) - was killed.

The Gloster Meteor crashed at Crimsham Manor Farm, Lagness, and the pilot (Flight Lieutenant John Burls, RAF (Pilot, aged 24, Service number 59352) was killed. According to a contemporary newspaper report ("Dundee Courier" - Saturday 25 September 1948):

"20 FLED AS JET PLANE EXPLODED.
Both pilots were killed when an RAF jet Meteor and a Tiger Moth trainer collided in mid-air over Lagness, near Chichester, Sussex, yesterday. After the collision the Tiger Moth, which was on a cross-country flight from Rochester, crashed into a greenhouse in Runcton Village, near Bognor Regis. The Meteor exploded and the main part of the wreckage fell into a potato field at Lagness. Twenty men who were working there had to dive to safety. No civilians were injured, but many had narrow escapes.

The Meteor narrowly missed Mr Arthur Rusbridge, of Crimsham Manor, Lagness and his farm workers. The pilot was a South African who was flying a jet for the first time. Mr C. Suter of Runcton said "The Tiger Moth missed a house with five people in it by 50 yards then smashed into a greenhouse. In the adjoining greenhouse people were working and had a marvellous escapes".

According to the following contemporary newspaper report, which reported on the inquest into the death of the pilots ("Chichester Observer" - Saturday 2 October 1948)

"TWO AIRCRAFT COLLIDE AT 2,000 FEET.
'PLANES CRASH THREE MILES APART.
TRACTOR DRIVER'S NARROW ESCAPE
A jet Meteor Mk. III from the R.A.F. station, Tangmere, returning to land at its base in the afternoon of last Friday week collided with a Tiger Moth 2,000 feet above Runcton. Both 'planes crashed to earth, the Meteor at Crimsham Manor Farm, Lagness and the Moth in a greenhouse at Lyndcroft Nurseries, North Mundham. The pilots, who were both killed instantaneously, were Flight Lt. John Burls, a South African, stationed at Tangmere and whose widow resides at "Beech Brow," Bassett Road, Bognor Regis, and Pilot II Leslie Ernest Wells, R.A.F.V.R., of Shooters Hill, London, S.E.18, who was attached for his annual training to No. 24 Reserve Flying School, Rochester.

The acting C.O. of the jet pilot's squadron at Tangmere stated in evidence at the inquest held at Tangmere on Tuesday that he had detailed F/Lt. Burls to do half an hour's air symmetrical (sic) single-engine flying at reduced power and aerobatics above 10,000 ft. On being informed of the accident he went to Lagness where he identified the aircraft. Witness said that Burls had 800 flying hours to his credit but had only flown a Meteor once before. He had, however, passed the usual tests and was fully capable of handling the machine.

Another Pilot's Evidence.
Pilot II Henry Bramwells, also attached to the Rochester training school, said he was flying another training plane and accompanying Wells on a navigational flight. They had been briefed to fly to Hamble, land for lunch and refuelling and return to Rochester via Hastings. "While we were lunching at Hamble," he said, "Wells told me that when he got clear of Portsmouth he intended to turn towards the coast and fly parallel with it. Before we reached the Chichester area he turned towards the coast and' at that time I was about a mile away from him. Shortly afterwards I observed a Meteor on my port side."

All three aircraft were at about 2,000 ft., witness said, and he had a good view of both of the other planes. He did not think there was any danger of a crash because he thought the Meteor would pass behind the tail of Wells' Moth. "As the Meteor appeared to do this," he said, "I saw a large object in the sky a little above the Meteor. Looking below, I saw the Moth in a steep dive. I recognised the wreckage in the sky as part of the Moth owing to its yellow finish." Witness flew on to Shoreham where he reported the accident. At the time of the collision, both planes were behaving normally and were not "stunting."

The station medical officer at Tangmere, F/Lt. J. D. S. Rowntree testified that he found the Moth pilot lying by the tail of his crashed aircraft at Runcton, suffering from very severe injuries which must have caused his instantaneous death. Deceased's identity card was on him. F/Lt. Rowntree then went to Lagness where he found the wreckage of a Meteor and fragments of flesh which he was able identify as human remains.

Dived Under Tractor.
At the time of the collision Charles Henry Cole, a tractor driver at Crimsham Manor Farm, Lagness, said he was sitting on his tractor when he saw the Meteor coming towards him at terrific speed. "It was losing height and I thought it would hit me," he said. "I got under the tractor. The plane crashed about 30 or 40 yards away. There was a flash and a lot of smoke and pieces of aircraft were spread over a large area."

Other eye witness accounts included those given by Commander William Eames Wilson, R.N. (retd.), of Springdale Cottage, Runcton, and Alfred George Foot, of 23, Critchfield Lane, Bosham. Commander Wilson was in his garden when he heard the impact, saw the Moth crash and phoned Tangmere aerodrome. Mr. Foot, a labourer working on the Council building site at North Mundham said that as a result of a conversation he was having about the Berlin air lift he looked up and saw the two planes. He also witnessed the collision and the crash of the Moth.

F/Lt. G. A. Stroud, R.A.F.V.R., of No. 24 Reserve Flying School, said that Wells, who was 24 years of age was a fully qualified pilot with 270 hours flying time, mostly in Tiger Moths.

The jury had no hesitation in returning a verdict of accidental death."

Crew of Gloster Meteor F.3 EE461:
Flight Lieutenant John Burls, RAF (Pilot, aged 24, Service number 59352) - killed in flying accident 24/9/48, buried at St. Andrew's Church, Tangmere, West Sussex

Sources:

1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.80 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Final Landings: Summary of RAF Aircraft and Combat Losses 1946-1949 p 433-434 by Colin Cummings
3. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=5270.0
4. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=10807.0


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
17-Feb-2020 21:48 Dr. John Smith Added
17-Feb-2020 21:51 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
18-Feb-2020 11:42 Iwosh Updated [Operator, Operator]

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