An Epsom resident was working on the history of his wartime Squadron (78th RAF Squadron) and asked the Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre if they had any details of a war time plane crash near 30 Acres Barn just over the borough boundary Ashtead. This request has lead a team of history centre volunteers to start researching local wartime plane crashes. Remarkably they have found firm evidence for 15 crashes, of which 9 occurred during the Battle of Britain period (10 July to 31 October 1940), and reports of a further one on Epsom Downs, which is proving difficult to verify.
AIRCRAFT CRASHES IN THIS AREA
DURING BATTLE OF BRITAIN : 10 JULY - 31 OCTOBER 1940
||Type of Aircraft
||Reason for crash
||P/O P.J. Simpson
||Forced landing at RAC Club (Woodcote) after repelling attack on RAF Kenley.
||Pilot unhurt; aircraft repairable
||F/Lt. S.D.P. Connors DFC + bar
||Shot down by anti/aircraft fire whilst repelling attack on RAF Kenley and crashed at The Oaks, Coulsdon **
||F/Lt. Connors killed, aircraft written off.
||F/o A.A.G. Truman
||Shot down by German aircraft over base and crashed at Tudor Close, Banstead
||Pilot killed, aircraft written off
||F/Lt. G. L. Sinclair
||Crashed after collision with F/O Boulton's aircraft. Aircraft came down at Purley Way, Wallington.
||Sinclair baled out over Caterham, spraining his ankle on landing - aircraft a write-off
||Lost control following collision with F/Lt. Sinclair during attack on enemy aircraft over Croydon. Hit a Dornier 215 amidships and crashed in Woodmansterne Lane
||F/Officer Boulton killed - aircraft written off.
||Pfafflhuber & Kramp
||Shot down near 'Maori' sports ground, Worcester Park
||Crew killed - aircraft a write-off
||Gefreiter Zimmermann & Feld/w Ostermuncher
||Shot down in combat with RAF fighter; crashed in Woodcote Park Avenue, Woodmansterne
||Crew killed - aircraft a write-off
||Crashed in flames on Tadworth Common nr. St. Andrew's Church.
||Pilot baled out over Dorking, seriously wounded. Aircraft a write-off.
||Sgt. J. František (Polish Air Force)
||1. Damaged in action against ME 109 over Rochford
||Pilot unhurt; aircraft repairable - see next item
||Damaged in action over West Kent
||Pilot unhurt; aircraft repairable see next item
||2. Crashed in Cuddington Way, Ewell. Cause unknown
||Pilot killed ; aircraft a write-off.
OTHER AIRCRAFT CRASHES IN THIS AREA
||Type of Aircraft
||Reason for crash
||Forced landing in Chessington
(see box below)
|AD 913 KM-K
||44 based at RAF Waddington
||Sgt Knight. Pilot, Crew=Sgt's Churchill, Spanner and J. Stephens or Stevens KIA
||Abandoned mid-air - crashed on Headley Heath after returning from Frankfurt on one engine.
See also "the Hampden File" by Harry Moyle.
|J Stevens, 751652, the W/Op, is buried in Eastbourne.
(Above as stated in CWGC.)
||Crashed on Epsom Racecourse
||Yet to be determined
||Acting Squadron Leader Bunclark
||Forced landing - 30 Acre Barn aircraft caught fire and burned out
||Most crew bailed out over Southern Counties, Pilot & Flight Engineer escaped alive
||P38 -Lightning F-5C PR version
||USAAF, 10 PR Gp., 33 P.R. Sqdn.
||2nd. Lt. A.L.Jackson DFC
||Crashed Banstead Golf Course after training mission
||Pilot killed - aircraft written off
||Test flight from Weybridge
||Wing Cdr. M. Summers
||Crash at Ruxley Lane after spinning out of control
||Pilot and observer survived but two housewives killed
||B17G Flying Fortress
||USAAF, 384 Bomb Gp, 547 Bomb Sq
||Lt. Robert S. Griffin
||Crashed into Colley Hill, Reigate
||Crew of nine killed - aircraft written off
More on the Hampden Crash
Flight of Hampdens of 44 Squadron
Image source The Hampden File by Harry Moyle
Hampden AD913 KM-K of 44 Squadron was airborne from Waddington at 20.45 on 2/9/1941, crewed by Sgts Knight (pilot),Spanner, J Stephens (sic) and Churchill, destined for Frankfurt. Over the target-area the port engine failed (hit by flak?) and the aircraft struggled to return to base. It was abandoned over Dorking at 02.45 on 3/9/1941 and all but Sgt Stevens reached the ground safely. Stevens, W/Op & Air Gunner, who may have been killed earlier failed to leave the plane and his body was found close to the wreckage. See 'Short after midnight' - http://www.geiger-roland.de. Aircraft written off.
The death was registered locally 9/1941 Surrey Mid E - James Stevens aged 33 - and he was reported KIA in The Times 10/10/1941. CWGC 751652 Stevens Sgt J RAFVR buried Eastbourne (Ocklynge) Cemetery. Parents George & Florence E Stevens of Eastbourne.
With thanks to Brian Bouchard for providing additional information
THE SECOND HEADLEY CRASH.
Some time ago, we recorded details of a crashed aircraft on Headley Heath which came down on the night of 2/3 September 1941 when unfortunately a Handley Page Hampden of 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron crashed. The pilot, Sgt. Knight's port engine cut out over the target and he returned on the remaining engine which failed him whilst over Dorking. The aircraft was abandoned and all the crew reached the ground safely except Sgt. Stevens who was killed. The aircraft itself was reported as coming down near Headley Court and was burnt out.
Recently we have been receiving reports and enquiries that the aircraft was not a Hampden but in fact was a Vickers Wellington. Further enquiries established that a Wellington of 150 Squadron did crash on the same night, 2/3 September 1941 but W. R. Chorley's book states the crash as being near Kenley which is about seven or eight miles from Headley as the crow or indeed the Wellington flies!
Two gentlemen, a Mr John Arthur together with another gentleman who still lives in the Headley area, and who were youngsters at the time, separately claim categorically that a Wellington did come down on the heath on the night in question. Both of them independently stated the location of the crash site to within ten yards of each other, in the area which is now the National Trust Car Park.
"The Wellington ended its skid across Headley Heath next to the occult beacon which was on a fixed position for most of the war. I believe the Hampden crashed at Tyrrells Wood, not far from Headley Court."
Sketch map showing location of this air crash
Click Image to enlarge
Map courtesy of the gentleman from Headley.
This was too much of a coincidence not to be pursued further. Chorley only states the pilot's name, Sgt. Dickenson, but none of the crew. On checking the operational records of 150 Squadron regrettably they only recorded the pilot's name and did not include the crew. As the pilot, Dickenson, is stated in operational records as flying again some two weeks later - ironically to the same target as caused their downfall - it clearly indicates a crash landing from which the entire crew walked away. As the Canadian website, www.lornesmuseum.ca
states that a Canadian unit guarded a wrecked aircraft on Headley Heath for eleven days, the circumstances would seem to be confirmed.
The Canadian website clearly states that two Wellington bombers crashed on return flights from Europe. One crashed in flames a few hundred yards from their corps HQ and was burnt out. The other made a crash landing on Headley Heath, the crew were uninjured and the plane remained intact but a long dismantling process was necessary with the result that the guard posted over it by the unit had to remain for 11 days. The circumstances would seem to indicate that the burnt out aircraft must have been the Hampden as one burnt-out twin engined aircraft could look much the same as another.
It is always good to receive eyewitness reports to help verify circumstances which can become confused over the passage of time and we are obliged to the two gentlemen who helped to clarify the facts of this particular crash.
For updated information on this crash
, please follow this link to the February 2017 issue of our newsletter - 'Lives & Times'
- in which Mary Roberts, the widow of the navigator on the flight, and his son, Ian Roberts, confirm it was a Wellington.
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