View Full Version : Met Flight Aldergrove Bulldog losses early 1937 K1686 & K1660

4th August 2017, 12:43
The Met Flight Aldergrove lost 2 Bulldogs in early 1937

K1686 Met Flt Aldergrove Crashed in snowstorm at Portadown
Ulster, 9.3.37

K1660 54/Met Crashed at Flt Aldergrove Parkgate, Ulster 14.4.37

K1686 was being flown by Pilot-Officer Denys Edgar Gillam # 37167 when it crashed into a ploughed field at Seaforde, County Down

I have been un-able to ID the Pilot for K1660 a month later and wonder if it was the same Pilot?

Can anyone confirm

Thanks Paul

4th August 2017, 14:44
May have also been Victor Beamish


Bad visibility due to low cloud on 29 January 1937, for instance, caused one Bulldog pilot to make a forced landing as a result of which the aircraft was relegated to an instructional airframe"

Would make it

K1687 23/Met Flt Aldergrove To 951M 1.37

4th August 2017, 16:08
Paul, Hi,
We're not being shy, but neither of these Pilots was actually a Met Man (our speciality!). They were ordinary GD Pilots posted to a Met Flt. The fact that they had to fly in some appalling weather (Lyffe may have some information for these two prangs?) 365 days a year AND read Met instruments (not in the cockpit - W Heath-Robinson would have been proud of the mountings!) AND write the readings on a knee-pad (or similar) AND survive an open cockpit at up to 30,000 ft meant they were - or became - exceptionally able Pilots!
Peter Davies

4th August 2017, 23:36

Got another answer for you. In April 1937 F/Lt E V Knowles (later W/Cdr, DFC, CO of 138 Sqn) was in Victor Beamish's Met Flight at Aldergrove. According to his logbook he took off in K1660 at 0750 on 14/4/37, flew to 13,000 feet, and force-landed at Park Gate; the flight is recorded as 1 hour. He took off again at 10.10 and landed at Aldergrove ten minutes later.

Nick Livingstone

5th August 2017, 12:12

At the risk of being considered pedantic I wonder if 'crash' is the correct word to use for the two incidents. As Peter has indicated Met Flights operated whatever the weather, and because of this forced-landings were not uncommon; this from Jeffrey Quill's own notes (copied for me by his daughter) about his time with the Duxford Met Flight (12/1933-01/1936):

The role of the Flight was to make twice-daily Met Climbs to between 18,000 and 25,000 feet to record Met observations. These were signalled or telephoned to the Air Ministry Met Office at Adastral House in London (the telephone number of which, Holborn 3434, is still engraved on my memory!).
The morning climb got airborne promptly at 7.00 a.m. There was a good deal of urgency to get the figures to the Air Ministry in good time, so we usually went only to 18,000 feet in the mornings. If we were unable to get back to Duxford due to bad weather – which often happened – we would land in a field near a house and telephone the observations to Holborn 3434.

Such landings did not always go as planned. Returning from a routine 0700 am met ascent on 22 September 1936 the pilot, Flt Lt Hutchinson, was unable to find the Duxford due to poor visibility. He elected to land near Six Mile Bottom railway station, but could not stop the aircraft, Bulldog K2963, before it ran through a fence and ended up on the railway line. The following day The Times reported ‘The 8.14 am train from Newmarket to Cambridge was stopped about 200 yards from the aeroplane, and the passengers got out and helped clear the line. The train was delayed for about 30 minutes.’

Perhaps 'landing mishaps' might be a better description of such incidents. Just me being pedantic.


7th August 2017, 15:52
Thanks All

The only unknown Pilot for Met Flight Aldergrove is for the following incident

K1686 Met Flt Aldergrove Crashed in snowstorm at Portadown
Ulster, 9.3.37


8th August 2017, 10:32

Unless I have misunderstood it, you appear to have answered your post #6 in post #1: with P/O Gillam as the pilot. At 10.30 on 9/3/37, Teddy Knowles took off in K1686 for 'Engine Test' to 4,000 ft; flight lasted 40 minutes. No other comments recorded. Was P/O Gillam's flight later in the day?

I tend to agree with Brian; 'forced landing' could describe any landing away from base, but that wouldn't make it a crash.

Knowles flew K1687 to 19,000 ft on a Met flight on 11 March 37, so this a/c can hardly have been 'reduced to an instructional airframe' (your post #2). Knowles was posted to CFS in August 1937, so Peter's comment about pilots seems to stand up.

Nick Livingstone

8th August 2017, 13:55
Nick et al

Thanks looks like I got all my Bulldogs confused

Just been through all Bulldogs in J and K File

My gut feeling is that there were around 3 or 4 Bulldogs in unit at any one time

K1687, K2144 and K2213 were all swapped out for newer models in around April 1937 and they went to Instructional airframes

K1660 may not have flown again after it's incident on 14.4.37

Met Flights


K2170 to Flt 15.8.36' to 3 Sqn 27.10.36; 4 ASU; to 1076M 22.5.38

K2213 to Flt 23.10.36; forcelanded, Abington Crossroads, Cambridge to Met Flt Aldergrove; to 953M 4.37 at 1 S of TT

K2963 to Flt 15.8.36; SF Duxford. Overshot forced landing in fog, Duxford, 22.9.36; SOC 6.10.36


K1660 to Flt after 28.8.36 actual date ? ."Crashed" (sic actually forcelanded) at Parkgate, Ulster, 14.4.37. Flt/Lt Edward Vincent Knowles #32126

K1686 to Flt 23.10.36. Engine cut in snowstorm on met flight; crashlanded. Portadown, Co. Down,9.3.37; Pilot-Officer Denys Edgar Gillam #37167 (crashed into a ploughed field at Seaforde, County Down)

K1687 to Flt 23.10.36; Forcelanded 2.1.37 to 951M 4.37 at Halton

K2144 to Flt 23.10.36 to 952M 4 37 at Halton

K2213 to Flt ? to 953M 4.37 at 1 S of TT

K2493 to Flt ? after 27.7.36 to 4 ASU SOC 4.7.38

K2861 to Flt ? after 28.8.36; to 4 ASU; SOC 4.7.38

K2951 to Flt ? after 28.8.36; Met Flt Aldergrove; 4 ASU; SOC 4.7.38

8th August 2017, 17:06

Re the Duxford list and K2963. As per my first post the incident did not occur at Duxford, but about 15 km to the northeast, near the junction of the A11 and A1304. I have a newspaper photo of the aircraft if it would be of interest.


9th August 2017, 11:30

Thanks - Just sent you a PM

BTW do you know the date of Quill's following incident ?

This is typified by the following account from Jeffrey Quill concerning an occasion where he destroyed a Siskin crashing in a field whilst attempting to make a cloud break in zero-ceiling conditions. "I found that I had crashed quite close to a country lane and there was a small house nearby which had a telephone. I dictated the met figures to the Air Ministry and then rang up Duxford informing them of the accident and requesting a crash party. "

I wonder if it was Siskin J8655 wrecked in forced landing 15/2/1936.

But Quill was supposed to have left Duxford to becomes Test Pilot in Jan 1936


10th August 2017, 08:29
Paul, I think you are trying to read too much into your so-called 'crashes'. In addition to flying K1660 back to Aldergrove immediately after his forced landing, Knowles flew the same Bulldog on the subsequent occasions:

15/4/37 0745hrs duration 58 mins to 15500ft Met flight
15/4/37 1245hrs duration 55 mins to 15500ft Met flight
16/4/37 0800hrs duration 55 mins to 14500ft Met flight
16/4/37 1235hrs duration 60 mins to 14500ft Met flight
17/4/37 0755hrs duration 55 mins to 14500ft Met flight
19/4/37 0930hrs duration 50 mins to 3000ft Aerobatics
19/4/37 1225hrs duration 30 mins to 14000ft Met flight
20/4/37 0755hrs duration 35 mins to 14000ft Met flight
23/4/37 1150hrs duration 25 mins Engine test
24/4/37 0700hrs duration 70 mins to 19000ft Met flight
27/4/37 0645hrs duration 45 mins to 19000ft Met flight
20/5/37 0800hrs duration 60 mins to 19000ft Met flight
25/5/37 0650hrs duration 40 mins Met flight
28/5/37 1225hrs duration 45 mins Wireless test
29/5/37 1630hrs duration 55 mins Empire Air Day display
31/7/37 1045hrs duration 30 mins to 4000ft Air test

Not a lot wrong with it, then!

Nick L

7th September 2017, 21:11

This from Air 29/866

29.1.37 - Two Thums flown, one each by F/L Knowles and F/O M Elton. F/O M Elton, on completion of trip force landed in a field without damage to aircraft No K1687 in bad visibility and low cloud. Aircraft was dismantled and brought back to aerodrome.


9.3.37 - Two Thums flown; one each by F/O M Elton and P/O Gilliam.
P/O Gilliam force landed on completion of sortie in heavy snow, and Bulldog K1686 was written off. F/O Gilliam was unhurt.

Two Thums flown indicates a morning and afternoon ascent. The times are not specifically given for each day, but typewritten instructions for such flights refer to a morning flight at 9 am, and an afternoon flight at sunset in the winter.

Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the first page of the Aldergrove Met Flight ORB, but I made a note during a visit to Kew many years ago that the initial establishment was for five pilots and four Bulldogs. The first ascent was flown by F/L Knowles in K2144.

As an aside, the term Thum (usually written as THUM in met literature), an abbreviation for Temperature and HUMidity ascent, was introduced for/by the Aldergrove Met Flight before its first sortie.

Edit. Just checking the ORB again there's no mention of a forced landing/crash on 14 April, simply "One Thum flown by F/L Knowles". As I indicated in #5 such occurrences were not uncommon and treated as not worth recording in ORBs something, I think borne out by Nick's #4.

As another aside Knowles flew almost every day between 10 and 29 April; the three days he did not fly were Sundays when ascents were not required.


8th September 2017, 13:52

Thanks for that - I think it clears up all pilots and incidents mentioned

F/O M Elton is of course F/O Nigel William David Marwood-Elton # 34006

I really appreciate it