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Thursday February 27 2020

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In Full . . .

Our work on the Wellington crash - and a plea over Bittell bomber

Posted on November 17 2010 at 11:06:44

I was interested to see the letter from John Hoccom of Alvechurch Ex-Services Association in October’s The Village about local war memorials.

The one at Rowney Green has obviously been placed there since we excavated the crash site of Wellington X3932 in the early 1980s.

Readers may be interested to know about investigations into the crash by the Midland Aircraft Recovery Group.

The story of the crash is as follows: At 18.38 hours, Wellington X3932 of 30 Operational Training Unit took off from its base at Pershore on a routine training exercise manned by its newly- formed pupil crew from The Royal Canadian Air Force.

By 19.40 hours, the exercise had been successfully completed and X3932 was on its landing approach to Pershore.

At this point the aircraft’s port engine failed. Unable to make a safe landing, the pilot opted to overshoot and continued to fly northward. A Wellington could not maintain height on one engine and as the aircraft was already below the altitude from which a safe parachute descent could be made, something had to be done.

The pilot, therefore, began a turn to starboard, but too much air-speed had been lost and drag from the failed engine whipped the aircraft into a vicious turn to port causing it to stall and dive into the ground at 19.49 hours.

The aircraft fell starboard wing low and such was the force of the impact that the starboard engine was driven nine feet into the ground. Fuel tanks burst and the wreck caught fire immediately, burning petrol setting fire to a nearby hayrick.

First on the scene were members of the Home Guard led by Mr Craner, of Rowney Green. There was nothing they could do for the crew who had all been killed on impact so they attempted to contain the fire until the arrival of the National Fire Service.

I did a field walk of the site in December 1979, but small pieces of wreckage were visible in the plough soil over such a large area that it was impossible to determine the actual point of impact.
One item I picked up at this time was the head of the navigator’s Anglepoise lamp that would have been manufactured by Herbert Terry Ltd in nearby Redditch.

A metal detector search carried out the following September indicated a mass of buried wreckage some distance from the main surface spread.

A hand dig of this area revealed parts from the nose of the aircraft and cockpit as well as numerous engine and airframe components. Digging by hand was only feasible to a depth of six feet, but probing with rods showed that wreckage continued for some depth below this.

Finally, in the late summer of 1982, a JCB digger was brought to the site and all the remaining wreckage (amounting to some 4cwt) was removed, the last item being the propeller feathering gear, from the very front of the starboard engine, recovered from a depth of nine feet.

The crew was as follows:
Sgt. Charles Long     Pilot (pictured below)
F/O Hugh Barton B.A.  Navigator
P/O Gordon Gallagher Bomb Aimer
P/O Julius Magnes     Wireless Operator
Sgt. Alton O’Neil         Rear Gunner

Wellington X3932's pilot Charles Long

They are all buried in Pershore Town Cemetery. Although in the RCAF, Sgt Long was an American from Lomita Park, California.

Hugh Barton’s brother, F/Sgt Thomas Barton was also in the RCAF. He was killed on 29th July 1944 when the 425 Squadron Halifax he was piloting was posted missing on an operation to Hamburg.

I hope the above may be of some interest to your readers and maybe they can help us in locating the exact position of another local crash which has evaded us.

This was a Bristol Blenheim bomber of 105 Squadron that hit a balloon cable at Longbridge in the very early hours (00.03) of March 22nd 1941 whilst returning from a mission and crashed near Upper Bittell Reservoir.

Delwyn Griffith
Midland Aircraft Recovery Group


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