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Thread: The last Whitley lost 17-10-44

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    Default The last Whitley lost 17-10-44

    Does anyone have the details of this accident, which involved a training crew from 19 OTU in Whitley AD685. I have seen the crew details (including F/O Walter D. Wall, my subject) and it is listed on the web site for RAF Forres, where the reference to Chorley counts it as the "last Whitley loss in Bomber Command".

    http://home.clara.net/griffon/19/master.htm
    David

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    Hi Dave,
    Chorley's Vol.7 page 321 and Vol.8 page 265 as an amendment: Exploded in the air, at 2135, while flying at 12,000ft, debris falling in a triangular field on Slingy Hill Farm, Murton, 2 miles WSW of Seaham, Co.Durham.
    Regards,
    Henk.

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    Thanks Henk,

    This now begs the question, what were they doing so far from their base in the north of Scotland, was this a normal distance for a cross-country (approx. 288 miles)? And why did they explode? I will ask DoRIS for the 1180.
    David

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    Default Whitley 17 October 1944

    I don't think this was an unusual distance away from base for 19 OTU training sorties by any means, after all, they were simulating 7+ hour trips to occupied Europe.

    Keith

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    Fair point Keith, but 19 OTU losses outside Scotland are very rare indeed. I'd be interested to know what it was doing there!
    Elliott Smock
    ++ 44 (0)7890 892147

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    Elliot and David;

    I think this case just reflects the very common statistic that most aircraft crashes, outside of combat, occur at take off and landing, or during low altitude operations (then and now). For a bomber OTU there probably weren't very many low level operations, apart from take off and landing.

    From my readings of Canadian OTU and ANS ORBs these aircraft regularly operated far away from their bases, but very rarely crashed far away from airfields. The only exceptions that come to mind involve descending below bad weather, or deliberate low level flying (often unauthorized).

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    Before I start a new thread on this one, I thought I should update the discussion which started here.

    On being contacted by historians in Murton, near the farm where this Whitley crashed, I re-read the accident report. It seems the pilot, F/O Kenneth Read, was advised to stay above 13,000 feet due to MET reports of cumnim in the area. I read one account by a local person with detailed eye-witness accounts, that says it broke up at 4-5,000 feet, probably after icing up at their recommended altitude - unless they flew lower for some reason. According to the accident report, there were spikes of cloud rising higher and reports of electrical storms.

    From a local history...

    "A very sad incident occurred on the evening of 17 October in the skies over Seaham and Murton. A Whitley V bomber, serial AD685... passed over Seaham a height of 4,000 to 5,000 feet flying through cumulus nimbus cloud. It would seem that turbulence and iciing of the wings caused a failure of the airframe and the aircraft broke up.

    ....The two engines had fallen into a field just south of Roy Snowdon's field locally known as Bull Field. One wing came to rest against a back yard wall in Mount Pleasant, Seaham, and the other wing against the George Inn on The Avenue.

    Was the Whitley particularly susceptible to breaking up like this due to icing? Or could it have been hit by lightning?

    And has there been any dispute about this being the last Whitley lost in the war?
    David

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    David,

    I hesitate to enter the discussion, but is your last but one sentence implying the Whitley possibly broke up due to a lightning strike? I appreciate lightning can damage an aircraft, but in most cases it is usually instruments that are affected, otherwise the Faraday cage effect of the fuselage usually saves it from anything worse.

    Brian

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    Hi Brian,

    You are always welcome in any discussion with the word MET in it, to be sure!

    Yes, I was thinking that, but not now. From the description of the crash, it sounded like something fairly catastrophic happened. Would icing cause a plane to lose control so badly that it spun itself into pieces before hitting the ground? It just seems like a really violent end for icing.

    The aircraft was described as one of the best they had at the OTU. It had about 1100 hours on it, so however good it's condition, it sounds old. I thought this type was fairly tough.
    David

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    Icing causes problems with both airframe and engines.

    Lift is generated by the passage of air over the aerofoil profile. Alter the shape of the profile at the leading edge and you no longer produce the same amount of lift but drag is increased.

    At some point weight and drag will exceed lift and thrust and only one thing will happen.

    Air sucked into the carb jets is always supercooled due to the nozzle effect. Add moisture and the carb will ice up. Without carb heaters no proper mixture for combustion and so the bang bang round round stops.

    Drag exceeds thrust and rapid return to earth happens without any possibilty of regaining lift before altitude reaches zero.

    Regards
    Ross
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