Accident Dornier Do 335A-12 AM223,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 74662
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Date:Friday 18 January 1946
Type:Dornier Do 335A-12
Owner/operator:RAE Farnborough
Registration: AM223
MSN: 240112
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Cove Junior School, Fernhill Road, Cove, near Farnborough, Hampshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Departure airport:RAE Farnborough, Hampshire
Destination airport:RAE Farnborough, Hampshire
Dornier Do 335A-12 (RP+UB) Werke Number 240112: This aircraft was one of two Dornier Do 335s obtained from the USAAF in Germany by the RAF in exchange for ten FW-190s. On the 18th of January, 1946 it was being flown on a test flight from Farnborough.

Twenty-five minutes after taking off the Dornier was seen approaching Farnborough with smoke coming from the underside of the fuselage ahead of the rear engine. The plane turned and then descended in a shallow dive, crashing on the village school at Cove. Six persons on the ground were injured and the pilot killed (RAE Farnborough Commanding Officer) According to a contemporary newspaper report (Aberdeen Press and Journal, January 19th 1946):

"Secret Nazi Plane Crashes Near School
Two minutes before 300 children were due to leave school at Cove, Hampshire, yesterday for the mid-day break, a "secret" German fighter plane, with engines at the nose and tail, crashed in front of the schoolhouse, scattering burning debris. The pilot of the plane, Group Captain A. F. Hards, test pilot and commander of the R.A.F. establishment at Farnborough, from which the plane had taken off a few minutes previously, was killed.

The plane, a Dornier 335, was the only one of its type in England. The latest German single-seater fighter, it was only in the experimental stage when the war ended. Intended for night and bad weather flying, its top speed was reckoned to be 470 miles an hour. Four children and a father who was meeting his daughter were slightly injured."

According to a Press Release from the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (FAST):

"Monday 18th January marks the 70th Anniversary of the crash of a German Aircraft on Cove Junior School.

During the Second World War captured German aircraft were brought to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) for evaluation and with the cessation of hostilities many more were brought over from the airfields and factories. One of these aircraft was a twin seat Dornier 335A-12 which arrived on 8 September 1945 and formed part of an exhibition of captured German aircraft in November 1945 – early 1946. It had been surrendered to the US forces at the Dornier factory at Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich and flown to Neubiberg airfield and handed over to British Air Intelligence Officers.

RAE test pilot Squadron Leader McCarthy flew it to Strasbourg and on to Reims on 7 Sept 1945. The following day it flew to RAF Manston and then RAE Farnborough where it arrived at 16.25 hours. The aircraft was allocated Air Ministry serial AM223 whilst at Farnborough. It next flew on 29 September 1945 when a test flight took place but it would appear that it did not fly again until the fateful day of 18 January 1946.

On that day, the Commanding Officer of Experimental Flying at the RAE, Group Captain A. F. Hards, was flying the twin engine “push-pull” Dornier 335 that was being evaluated after capture at the end of the war. This was the A-12 two seat trainer version of a very large German fighter which featured a unique configuration with engines at the front and rear fuselage, with propellers at the nose and tail. It was a very fast aircraft for its time with a top speed of over 400 mph but had a poor reputation for reliability and had been developed too late in the war to be a danger to attacking Allied bombers.

The aircraft had departed RAE Farnborough at 11.30am and crashed around mid-day. Legendary test pilot Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown writes “On my return to Farnborough, The CO, Group Captain A F Hards, asked me to check him out for a solo trip in our two-seat Dornier 335 and on 18 January 1946 he went off solo. As he returned to the airfield, we could see that the rear engine was on fire and we hoped that he would land on the nearest runway. Whether he was unaware of the fire or felt it safer to attempt his first landing in this strange German bird into wind will never be known, but he continued around the circuit as if no emergency existed, heading for the duty runway. He had covered roughly two thirds of the circuit when the Dornier suddenly plunged vertically into a schoolhouse in Cove village. The elevator control cables had obviously burnt through and Group Captain Hards had no chance to eject.”

The aircraft went out of control and dived towards the ground coming down initially in a field at the back of the headmasters' house (Mr John Gilderdale). It then bounced, hit the garage roof, then went into the top of the house and large parts then flew off into the school and across the road. The pilot was found dead in the headmaster’s bedroom. Although the house was destroyed, and later demolished, two people downstairs at the time were uninjured. There were some injuries to a few children but none seriously. The aircraft was completely destroyed."

Group Captain Alan Frederick Hards DSO (pilot, aged 31) (RAF Service Number 33113) - killed on active service 18/1/46, Cremated and ashes scattered at Woking Crematorium where he is commemorated on a wall

Note that the official Air Ministry File into the incident (File AIR 5/29/W2371) (see link #5) contains at least two errors. First it gives the date of the crash as "1947 Jan" [sic] instead of 18 January 1946. Second, it gives the serial of the aircraft as "AM233" instead of AM223.


1. Final Landings: A Summary of RAF Aircraft and Combat Losses 1946 to 1949 by Colin Cummings p.40
7. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/29/W2371:



Dornier Do 335

Revision history:

03-Jun-2010 14:27 angels one five Added
09-Nov-2012 14:04 Uli Elch Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Operator, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
09-Nov-2012 14:19 Uli Elch Updated [Aircraft type]
15-Jan-2013 11:23 Nepa Updated [Operator]
04-Jun-2013 08:01 angels one five Updated [Operator, Narrative]
04-Jun-2013 08:16 angels one five Updated [Time, Operator, Narrative]
10-Oct-2013 16:05 Nepa Updated [Operator, Phase, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
19-Sep-2019 20:05 Pelmet Updated [Time]
03-Nov-2019 04:32 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Source, Narrative]
03-Nov-2019 20:20 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Location, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
03-Nov-2019 20:29 Dr. John Smith Updated [Cn, Source, Narrative]
24-Nov-2019 00:54 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
25-Jul-2023 20:33 Dr. John Smith Updated [[Source, Narrative]]
11-Nov-2023 17:05 Ian Hards Updated [Embed code, Narrative]

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