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1942 Wellington Crash at Shepherds Grove

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  • ollynunn
    Rank 5 Registered User

    1942 Wellington Crash at Shepherds Grove

    Hi everyone,

    My family has strong links with the village of Walsham-le-Willows in West Suffolk, which is just down the road from the old RAF Shepherds Grove airfield. I've always been interested in the history of the place - I've even got this hanging on a wall at home (thanks to eBay!):

    Click image for larger version

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    While corresponding with one of my uncles, he mentioned that a friend of his had a very clear memory of a Wellington crashing "...between Potash and Wrenshall farms, killing all 9 people on board" on 24th May 1942. I've tried in vain to find out more about this event - and wondered if anyone might be able to shed any light?

    As can be seen from the map below (taken from the wartime plans for the airfield), the two farms mentioned were right on the airfield boundary...
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    ...but apparently the airfield wasn't actually built until 1943! So here are my questions:

    1. Did this event actually happen, on the date that I've been given?
    2. If it did happen as described, was it pure chance that the aircraft came down on the boundary of what was to become an airfield, or had construction on the airfield started earlier than I've been led to believe?
    3. I was under the impression that 5-6 people was the usual crew for a Wimpy - so were there really nine souls aboard, and if so why?

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!
    Olly Nunn
  • Kiteflyer
    Rank 5 Registered User

    #2
    Hi Olly

    Your uncle is correct, Wellington T2802 crashed across a ditch behind Potash Farm on that date.

    Further details here; http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/sho...er-affiliation

    We had a dig there some years ago, remains of an engine and prop now at the museum at Hardwick.

    Jeff

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    • ollynunn
      Rank 5 Registered User

      #3
      Thank you so much, Jeff! The people on this forum really are amazing sometimes...

      So the aircraft did end up yards from an airfield purely by chance. It sounds like a terribly tragic event, particularly with an ATC cadet on board as well. A quick 'Google' reveals that there was apparently a fatigue problem with the main spars on early Wellingtons which caused them to fail suddenly just outboard of the engines - the T2802 crash at Shepherds Grove / Stanton gets mentioned here:

      https://www.northlincsweb.net/RAFEls..._raf_fulb.html

      I'd always thought of the Wimpy as being one of those 'indestructible' aircraft that could take huge amounts of punishment, so it's interesting that it had such a significant 'Achilles Heel' - and one that wasn't remedied until the middle of 1944.

      Thank you again for your invaluable help - it really is appreciated!
      Olly

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