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Wartime P-51 collision, Norfolk, Bircham Newton area

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  • Chazzo
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Oct 2012
    • 13

    Wartime P-51 collision, Norfolk, Bircham Newton area

    Greetings, experts and enthusiasts!

    Can anyone help me to track down a wartime collision between two P-51 Mustangs in north-west Norfolk? I'm interested in local history but am a newcomer to aircraft research, so I would appreciate any leads and tips.

    One aircraft is reported to have crashed at Barwick, just down the road from RAF Bircham Newton and its satellite airfield at Docking. I have a reliable eyewitness report of this one. The other crashed at Syderstone, a few miles away. Both pilots were killed.

    We know the site of the Barwick crash to within a few hundred metres. Would you expect to find evidence on the ground without digging (bearing in mind what my informant says in the link above about the lack of wreckage)? Would a metal detector help, and would this be legal and ethical? (I'm an experienced detectorist).

    The link above contains details of several more crashes, including a Beaufighter whose crash site should not be hard to locate. Any comments and suggestions would be very welcome.

    Charles Butcher
  • ~Alan~
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Mar 2010
    • 5014

    #2
    Originally posted by Chazzo View Post
    ........... Would a metal detector help, and would this be legal and ethical? (I'm an experienced detectorist)...........
    Charles Butcher
    As you will be aware, as long as you have permission from the landowner, there is nothing
    to stop you detecting (as far as I am aware) for surface finds. Most of which will have been
    well shredded by the farmer.

    Digging any deeper than a few inches might be another matter, and one which I am not
    qualified to offer an answer.
    Last edited by ~Alan~; 19th October 2012, 09:35.
    Engine Failure:.... A condition which occurs when all fuel tanks mysteriously become filled with air.

    Comment

    • Chazzo
      Rank 5 Registered User
      • Oct 2012
      • 13

      #3
      Thank you Alan. I don't think this would be an exercise in deep digging, simply in pinpointing the spot if possible. Arthur says he never found any wreckage while ploughing, and I'm interested to know whether you think there would be small bits on or very near the surface.

      I want to show proper respect to the dead pilot, but in the circumstances I think that could well be done by locating the site and making his story more widely known in the village (I live a mile up the road).

      Comment

      • ~Alan~
        Rank 5 Registered User
        • Mar 2010
        • 5014

        #4
        If there is anything deeper, I think you would expect to make some finds close to the surface.
        Not the sort of things a farmer would necessarily notice.

        I've been on land where aircraft were alleged to have crashed during WWII, and found that
        certain areas are littered with small pieces of aluminium etc. Bigger bits having been chopped up by
        ploughs and discs long ago. The problem with surface finds is, they tend to move around, so are
        not always an accurate indication of where deeper remains may be.
        Last edited by ~Alan~; 19th October 2012, 10:34.
        Engine Failure:.... A condition which occurs when all fuel tanks mysteriously become filled with air.

        Comment

        • wlindsay1984
          Rank 5 Registered User
          • Oct 2012
          • 14

          #5
          Hi Folks,

          I have to agree with Alan. On previous surface scans on sites you would be surprised how far, small surface scatter can spread out to, leading you away from the initial impact point, on the other hand, with a large amount of American crash sites during the war, they where photographed and can make a good starting point for locating the impact location. It also depends on the nature of the crash, did the aircraft impact relatively horizontal etc.... On a P-38 site I researched many years ago, the aircraft impacted relatively straight and level, and burnt out across the field. After many surface scans with a detector, very little fragments were left to be found.

          Will

          Comment

          • Chazzo
            Rank 5 Registered User
            • Oct 2012
            • 13

            #6
            Doesn't sound as if this one was straight and level. From my link above:

            "There was a big bang and the planes seemed to break up, with one large piece diving to earth leaving a smoke trail. There was also a wing spinning down on fire."

            and:

            "Bill had covered the dead pilot, who had fallen right in the corner of the field. The plane itself was further out in the field. It was deeply buried in the ground, sticking up at a roughly 30-degree angle with only part of the engine showing. There were no wings or tailplane to be seen."

            Now can anyone give me a date, nationality, squadron and pilots' names? I was hugely impressed with the 2010 discussion on the P-51 collision near Cantley.

            Comment

            • wlindsay1984
              Rank 5 Registered User
              • Oct 2012
              • 14

              #7
              Hi Chazzo,

              Without a date, aircraft serial number or name of the pilot, it does not give me much to go by. With it being two Mustangs, I'm going to assume they were American aircraft, not RAF Mustangs. Your best bet would be to trawl the list of Overseas American accidents on the AAIR website, Craig Fuller has a complete database of American air losses on his website. I tried having a trawl through and did not find anything but it would take a good few hours of research as the database lists accidents by date.

              Will

              Comment

              • Chazzo
                Rank 5 Registered User
                • Oct 2012
                • 13

                #8
                Thank you Will. I can understand the difficulty. I think I'd looked at AAIR previously without success. It is a very impressive database that allowed me to semi-confirm another story about several B-17s going off the runway at RAF Docking (see my original link above).

                But searching AAIR for "P-51" (and I don't think my informant would be wrong about the aircraft type) it seems Mr Fuller has no record of any P-51 crashing in England during the war years.

                So could we be looking at RAF aircraft, as I assume the two Cantley P-51s were?

                Comment

                • wlindsay1984
                  Rank 5 Registered User
                  • Oct 2012
                  • 14

                  #9
                  No problem at all, you could possibly be correct that they where RAF mustangs. Did you go to the standard search feature on the site?, i tried that and it did not bring up anything. If you go to this page here: http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AFrptsMO.htm

                  It has links to the databases by month and year, there are countless P-51 accidents listed within your vicinity, it will just take a while to trawl threw them. From my experience also, they did not list the exact location of crash sites within the reports, sometimes they would say "3 miles west of the airfield" and have the aircraft's home station listed on the report, which makes it hard narrowing it down to a location. If they are American aircraft, they should stand out as they will be listed close to each other on the list as they crashed on the same date.

                  hope that helps

                  Will

                  Comment

                  • Chazzo
                    Rank 5 Registered User
                    • Oct 2012
                    • 13

                    #10
                    Thanks very much for the tip. Evidently the search by aircraft type doesn't work well, so I have resorted to the monthly lists.

                    For 1943 there are 16 P-51 accidents, of which no mid-air collisions and no likely-looking locations.

                    For 1944 and 1945, starting with all accidents overseas (16,512) I have narrowed it successively to:

                    • P-51 (2,409)
                    • P-51 in England (1,319)
                    • P51, England, mid-air collision (95). Horrifyingly many.

                    Many of those are listed as pairs on the same day. No obvious location matches, but as you say, plenty in East Anglia. Oh for a date!

                    Comment

                    • wlindsay1984
                      Rank 5 Registered User
                      • Oct 2012
                      • 14

                      #11
                      This is good, you've been able to get it narrowed down at least, if you find any that seem to be the likely culprits contact Mike Stowe, though the Accireport website, Mike runs a website that deals in the same reports as the AAIR website, sometimes Craig is away on business, if you contact Mike, he usually gets back within hours and is a gold mine of information, he has aircraft part no's etc.... If you contact mike with likely culprits, he will check the report for you I am sure, if you can send him any photographs of the crash site also. When I first started out in this research I sent him photographs of a site I was researching at the time and he was able to identify and compare the photographs to those taken at the crash site in 1944 and confirm it was the correct report.

                      Will

                      Comment

                      • wlindsay1984
                        Rank 5 Registered User
                        • Oct 2012
                        • 14

                        #12
                        Ooh I also forgot to mention, usually police reports were filed when an accident occurred in the area, if you cant narrow them down, try searching the Public Record Office for old police reports, this should defiantly narrow the aircraft's nationality down and also supply a date.

                        Will

                        Comment

                        • wlindsay1984
                          Rank 5 Registered User
                          • Oct 2012
                          • 14

                          #13
                          I located this fatal accident:

                          440809 DELLINGER, DONALD D P-51D 44-13926 BOTTISHAM (374), ENGLAND, UK STALHAM .5 MI W, UK 375 361

                          around 10 miles from the location that was mentioned in the eyewitness account.

                          Will

                          Comment

                          • Kiteflyer
                            Rank 5 Registered User
                            • Feb 2005
                            • 99

                            #14
                            I think that this has already been covered on another thread but anyway it's the collision of 2 RAF Mustangs of 126 Sqn on 23rd March 1945, FZ122 and KH546, that's referred to on the Stanhoe website.

                            Jeff

                            Comment

                            • Chazzo
                              Rank 5 Registered User
                              • Oct 2012
                              • 13

                              #15
                              it's the collision of 2 RAF Mustangs of 126 Sqn on 23rd March 1945, FZ122 and KH546, that's referred to on the Stanhoe website
                              With respect, Jeff, I don't think so. I was most impressed with your identification of that incident, but it was near Cantley, on the wrong side of Norfolk. This must be a different incident.

                              Will: thank you for your continuing encouragement, but the USAF records don't look good. Lots of P-51 MACs and KMACs, lots of pairs with the same date/same airfield, lots in East Anglia but nothing that looks right for north Norfolk. (The only get-out could be if the AAIR record showed the home airfield and not the crash location, which I'm sure is not impossible.)

                              So I'm thinking RAF Mustangs. Are there any good web sources for RAF losses? So far I have not found anything.

                              Comment

                              • stef4654
                                Rank 1 Registered User
                                • May 2013
                                • 2

                                #16
                                Wartime P-51 collision, Norfolk, Bircham Newton area

                                Does anyone have any further information on this crash? Do we at least know what specification of P-51 Mustangs were involved?

                                Comment

                                • Chazzo
                                  Rank 5 Registered User
                                  • Oct 2012
                                  • 13

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by stef4654 View Post
                                  Does anyone have any further information on this crash? Do we at least know what specification of P-51 Mustangs were involved?
                                  Nothing more from my side, unfortunately. I don't even have access to the crash site, since I was hoping for some more concrete information before approaching the landowner. I'm reasonably confident that metal detecting would show that we have the right place, but I don't imagine I would find anything definitive about the aircraft type.

                                  To recap: We have a detailed report from an eyewitness who has proved to be reliable in reporting other crashes and incidents round here.

                                  A careful analysis of AAIR monthly records last year made me fairly sure that this collision is not listed there. My working assumption is therefore that these were RAF aircraft, but I don't know where to find RAF records.

                                  I never followed up Will's suggestion to search the police records. I'll try to do that.

                                  Charles

                                  Comment

                                  • stef4654
                                    Rank 1 Registered User
                                    • May 2013
                                    • 2

                                    #18
                                    They are building a wind farm (unfortunately) on land at Barwick Hall Farm, which includes the field where the Mustang supposedly crashed. I am undertaking an Unexploded Ordnance risk assessment for the contractors who, I believe, are beginning ground works towards the end of the year. Hence my interest in the crash.

                                    Comment

                                    • Chazzo
                                      Rank 5 Registered User
                                      • Oct 2012
                                      • 13

                                      #19
                                      I've sent you a PM.

                                      Comment

                                      • Nick T
                                        Rank 1 Registered User
                                        • Feb 2016
                                        • 2

                                        #20
                                        Good afternoon,

                                        I have read your posts with interest. It would appear that Mustang FZ122 was piloted by my uncle Flt Lt Derek Thurgood (Fathers brother) having done some research whilst building my family tree. Its all very odd as I was told that he died in a collision in CANADA. Unfortunately my father and his siblings are now all long departed so I am unable to clarify any further, but my cousin says the same. However facts speak for themselves. I have recently walked around the crash site and would be interested to learn if you ever discovered any further information or ever searched the area with your metal detector?

                                        Nick Thurgood

                                        Comment

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