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Thread: S/Ldr. Ronald 'Taffy' Ecclestone DFC - Test Pilot

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    Default S/Ldr. Ronald 'Taffy' Ecclestone DFC - Test Pilot

    Hi All,

    I was hoping someone could point me to a website or a book detailing the service history of S/Ldr R. Ecclestone DFC. I believe he was the first Britton to break the sound barrier but there seems to be very limited information on the net especially for someone so important.

    I think he was with the development wing at Marham in 1947 but was killed testing Handley Page Victor WB771 on 14 July 1954.

    Many thanks in advance,

    Russ

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    Russ,

    I recorded the following back in 2005.(Not sure if the site is still operational):

    The aircraft (Handley Page Victor WB771), had been making a low level calibration run at high speed over the airfield (Cranfield), when the tailplane failed. The Captain - Squadron Leader Ronald Vivian ("Taffy") Ecclestone DFC (31) from Aldershot, was a graduate of the Empire Test Pilots' School No8 Course in 1949 and had recently joined Handley Page as a test pilot. He had accepted the task to fly the Victor on this sortie so that the senior company test pilot could carry out a rescheduled demonstration of another aircraft to a foreign sales delegation. He had been awarded the DFC following a tour with 218 Squadron. Handley Page Flight Test Observer Ian Kenneth Bennett (29) of St Albans had been one of the two man crew who made the first flight in a Victor in December 1952. Also killed were Handley Page Flight Test Observers Bruce Heithersay (28 - ex-RAAF AUS442678), an Australian living at St Albans, and Albert Bernard Cook (24), of Edgware, London.

    http://www.mackz.demon.co.uk/cm_samplearticles.htm

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 1st February 2010 at 04:03.

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    Cheers Col,

    Since he was the first RAF pilot to reach the speed of sound there is precious little information on him.

    Thanks again,

    Russ

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    These two reports in the Fligth magazine area contemporary reference from 1954.

    http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1954/1954%20-%202083.html?search=Ecclestone

    Loss of the Victor
    ON Wednesday, July 14th, the first prototype Handley Page Victor, WB 771, was completely destroyed at Cranfield, Beds. The aircraft was carrying out position-error trials, and had made numerous runs at about 100ft altitude (the "sea-level" case) each at a higher airspeed than the one previous. At about 1 p.m. the bomber was approaching the airfield at |tf s height when it was seen to be behaving erratically. Eye-wisSesses stated it made a sudden dive and then levelled out agajtiff and that at this stage the whole horizontal tail assembly wCs fluttering badly. The complete tailplane and elevators then broke away and rose above the flight-path, while the remainder of the aircraft went straight
    into the ground at full power striking exactly at the intersection of two runways.
    Disintegration was complete, and appears to have been accompanied by fire, although the spread of the wreckage obviated any conflagration in jtie. normal sense of the word. The horizontal tail surfacey 'came to rest on the airfield; they were substantially intact and may therefore yield valuable evidence.
    None of the Jtrew of four escaped. The aircraft was being flown by the,.company's deputy chief test pilot, F/L. R. V. Ecclestone, D.F.C, A.F.C. Thirty-one years of age, he flew Stirlings and Lancasters in Bomber Command, and also Hurricanes and Spitfires in the Bomber Defence Tactical Unit. Later he was engaged in development flying, successively at Marham, Boscombe Down and Farnborough; he had completed the Empire Test Pilots School course and had served for a year in the Directorate of Operational Requirements at the Air Ministry. He had joined Handley Page, Ltd., less than three months before the
    accident.
    Also on board were Mr. E. N. Kenneth Bennett, 29, the company's chief flight observer (he joined them in 1946); and two other H.P. observers, Mr. Bruce Heithersay, 28 (ex-R.A.A.F.), and Mr. A. B. Cook, 24 (formerly with Aero Research, Ltd., and Glosters).
    On learning of the accident Mr. Duncan Sandys, Minister of Supply, sent telegrams of condolence to Sir Frederick Handley page and to the next-of kin of the crew. Mr. Sandys also made a brief statement on the crash in reply to a Commons Question on Monday last, The Victor first flew on Christmas Eve 1952. During the early part of this yearit was returned to Radlett for extensive modification. The second prototype is now virtually complete, and is having functional tests."

    And the enquiry statement:
    http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1954/1954%20-%202739.html

    There is a long pencil mark through all the text so have a read of the page itself, search for Ecclestone in 1954 if the link above does not work.
    Last edited by dennis_burke; 1st February 2010 at 10:09.
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    Thanks Dennis!

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    Default Sq Leader Ronald Ecclestone

    I am glad that I found this. Ronald Ecclestone was my mother's first cousin. I talked to his brother a few times and obtained his military records. There is a feeling in our family that Ronald was knighted for being the first RAF pilot to break the sound barrier but I haven't been able to confirm this. When I went to the RAF museum in north London, there was no record of his accomplishments there. I am glad that more about him is beginning to emerge. thanks to everyone who has an interest in him.

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    Not sure if this link will work and it does not give a citation but he was awarded an Air force Cross in 1952. No mention obious yet of a 'Knighthood',

    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/39732/supplements/33

    The London Gazette si the place to search, use his service number

    Ronald Vivian ECCLESTONE, D.F.C. (175308), Royal Air Force.

    He retired from the Air Force in 1954 per the Lodon Gazette listed as follows:
    R. V. ECCLESTONE, D.F.C., A.F.C. (175308) (at own request). 15th June 1954.
    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/40226/supplements/4010

    Search using his officers service number 175308 at the following link:
    http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/search

    regards

    Dennis
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    Default F/Lt R V "Taffy" Ecclestone

    Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
    I am glad that I found this. Ronald Ecclestone was my mother's first cousin. I talked to his brother a few times and obtained his military records. There is a feeling in our family that Ronald was knighted for being the first RAF pilot to break the sound barrier but I haven't been able to confirm this. When I went to the RAF museum in north London, there was no record of his accomplishments there. I am glad that more about him is beginning to emerge. thanks to everyone who has an interest in him.
    I am Ron Ecclestone's only surviving brother and only recently discovered this web site. However I have no knowledge of anyone saying Ron was knighted for his flight in August 1951 or indeed anything else. However if anyone wishes to verify that with me I would be happy to respond.

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