The aircraft was by this time breaking up and we witnessed several bits fall from it. We quickly realised we were in danger of being struck by bits falling from the aircraft, so close were we to it, that we ran to take cover at the back of a nearby tree. A few seconds later came the terrible sound as the aircraft finally crashed.
I was at that time a pupil at Stanley School and from our playground we had a very good view as the RAF came with their heavy lifting equipment and Queen Mary trailers to remove the wreckage. We boys were most interested in watching all this activity-taking place in our village.
Lol Harrison of Stanley Village on 12 July 1942 remembers the accident thus. He had attended evening Chapel and had gone for a walk with his friends and at the time of the accident was at Upper Dale Abbey Woods at the top of Dale Road. He distinctly remembers the aircraft was strange in so much as there was the plastic dome and periscope, which had fascinated him for years as, he worked at Rolls Royce. The large tailfin on the plane had spun around cutting the cords of the parachute of who was assumed to be the tail gunner who dropped like a stone to the ground. The event he states was ‘hushed’ up for years.
Keith Barks was walking with his brother from Kirk Hallam that began opposite the school just above Pounder's Farm heading in the direction of Ladywood Farm eventually joining the narrow gauge mineral railway line, which went to Dale Village.
We then noticed a vapour trail coming from a Northerly direction heading south, suddenly it ceased and then we heard an unusual note to the engine sound followed by an explosion, and some parts of the aircraft came down to earth quickly, other bits more slower. We ran towards the Cat and Fiddle ‘Windmill’ then onto the road in the direction of Spondon but by then there was quite a bit of activity on the bridle road to Stanley with Police, Army, and Air Force personnel who were gradually getting things under control and keeping back the many people who had arrived on the scene. At 15 years of age it was the first time I had witnessed an aircraft in trouble before, but unfortunately, not the last.
Osmond (Ossie) Wheatley now in his late 70’s and now lives in Stanley Common, he was a young 15 year old at the time of the accident and stated there were five witnesses sat on the wall outside the Bridge Inn in Stanley Village at the time of the accident. At the time of writing in 2003 there is only himself and Aubrey Pepper who lives in Spondon alive and the group lived on the Brickyard in the Village. Ossie states it was 8:40pm on Sunday Evening. They ran to the crash site after the Aircraft exploded and remembers seeing five bodies. He also stated there was a blue and red parachute that did not open properly and that the Army from the West Hallam depot were on site very quickly in large numbers and sealed off the area. Nurses from the depot were also called to tend to the dead airmen. The ambulances from the Depot took the bodies to the White Hart PH in the Village where they were kept overnight in the stables (Now the kitchen!) and guarded by a special constable. Harry Chapman was the Pub Landlord at this time. At the time of the accident Mrs Hancock who lived in the brickyard ran to the scene with a bottle of Brandy, which sadly was not needed by the crew.
B Coxon of Borrowash wrote in the DET, I vividly remember as a child walking along Chapel Lane, Spondon. After the houses it became a track for about a quarter of a mile, then a footpath to another from Lousie Greaves to Moor End. I remember being on the track when an aircraft came overhead from behind me, twin-engined and going fairly fast, which would possibly account for the Merlin engines. I remember watching it go over then suddenly exploding. It was, to my recollection, flying level and I would put the height at 10-15,000 ft. There were certainly no vapour trails. There was no misfiring – it just exploded.
I could never remember the year during the war or just after, but 1942 put me at five years old. I thought I was alone but I must have been walking in front of my mother going for a walk that evening. It is still very clear in my mind.
The late Sid Lee in his book, Stanley Parish and area history published in the late 1960’s reported the incident:
War Events: Stanley in keeping with other villages, made its contribution to World War II, in both men and materials and fortunately no bombs actually fell in the Parish.
However, a tragic event, not the result of enemy action brought thousands of sightseers to Stanley, following an aircraft crash. During the early evening of Sunday 12 July 1942, an aircraft was seen flying at a great height over Stanley, passing over the Village it turned and commenced to climb, when tragedy struck, the tail of the aircraft broke away, the machine going into a spinning power dive. Following three terrific bangs, one can now assume to be the breaking of the sound barrier, the aircraft disintegrated, and amongst the portions falling could be seen a man minus a parachute. The largest portions of the wreckage fell in the Quarry Farm area; all the six* occupants were killed. (*Now verified as five crew)
The following day an RAF Spitfire circled the area, and at night a party of soldiers stationed at West Hallam Depot, commenced a search for a missing occupant, eventually found in a cornfield alongside Stanley Hill. It transpired later, the aircraft was an experimental type on trials.
Mr F M Mason of Smalley was out walking with his wife on the adjacent footpath on that fateful evening when they spotted the Wellington high up in a cloudless sky. Suddenly, there was a terrific explosion and the sky was full of falling debris, the smaller pieces looking like a sky full of crows. We took shelter under a hedge and then ran to the next field where we had seen the major pieces fall. This was just to the left of Quarry Hill, Stanley Village, and we had arrived within ten minutes or so. We helped to keep away children, who were looking for souvenirs, until my then brother-in-law, George Hickson, a Special Constable came with others and took over until the RAF personnel from Hucknall arrived.
The bodies were left overnight in outbuildings at the White Hart, Stanley Village. The landlord at that time was Harry Chapman. I believe an engine was recovered from the garden of the house on the other side of Quarry Hill. I was told that the watch on the wrist of one of the victims was still going when they were taken to the White Hart. On the next day the RAF cleared everything up and retrieved most of the wreckage. Being wartime no more was heard about this until it came up in an article in the local Derby Evening Telegraph under the Bygones column.
Bill Goodchild who now lives in Queensland, Australia responded to the article in the DET by stating it was purely by coincidence, the loss of the Vickers Wellington Mk6 on 12 July 1942, on a test flight over Stanley, coincided with my entry into the field of aeronautics, on a much smaller scale. I was invited by Newmount Methodists to share my preoccupation with model planes with the youth club – to keep youngsters occupied with a bit of a challenge and the meetings were held at the Towers on Blagreaves Lane, Littleover courtesy of the Royal Army Service Corps. The club was invited to the annual Kite and Model Aeroplane Contest to the north of Spondon on 12 July 1942.
On making their farewells of the group and heading for Raynesway cycle track a vapour trail was appearing in the south, too far away to hear the engines above the rumble of heavy military convoy traffic. The brilliance of the sun lit up the aircraft with jewel like intensity as the rolling vapours left a golden trail. The aircraft was moving extremely quickly, passing us to the north on a course to the northeast. It was still too high to hear, against the ground noise of traffic and difficult to see against the sun.
All our eyes were glued to the performance about 30,000 feet above. To most it was just another vapour trail but a sudden, slight manoeuvre in the line of flight put the aircraft into a dive for a few seconds. Then another changed the dive again, as far as could be seen. At that point, a few features of the aircraft showed for only split seconds, its clear nose cone, the straight set of leading and trailing edges on the main planes, the tall single fin and rudder.
Within a few desperate seconds, the action was approaching the ground, which was screened from our sight by a lorry making a left turn on the Raynesway roundabout. When it had gone, so had the plane. We rode home wondering what we had seen. The features mentioned above suggested a Mosquito variant. I was just amazed to learn from a totally reliable source, that it was a Wellington variant.
It was abundantly clear to me and the few who were to ride home in each other’s company that we had witnessed an inescapable disaster somewhere in the direction of Stanley. The height from which the plane had descended must have caught the eyes of those in authority. Nevertheless we rode our bikes home to Littleover, certain that the crash was too far away for us to see the parachutes, or perhaps it was radio-controlled.
Wartime suppression of news resulted in my waiting more than 60 years for the answer and congratulations to Peter Felix of the Derbyshire Aviation Society for presenting the facts clearly and concisely. The late Peter Ward who contributed to this article was the founder member of the Littleover Model Aeroplane club in 1942 and was also a well-respected consultant by Rolls Royce.
Henry Shaw of Stanley Common was only 11 years of age at the time of the crash but walked from Ilkeston where he lived to the crash site days after the tragedy.
Roy Northridge of Penn, Buckinghamshire actually saw the crash. I was on Darley Fields that warm evening. There must have been two or three hundred people there. Everybody stopped playing cricket, tennis, boating and so on. We all gazed up into the deep blue sky. For what seemed like two minutes, the whole crowd stood open-mouthed and in silence as the huge bomber plunged straight vertically down from a great height to its fateful end. Behind Derby Cables, we could see black smoke where the aircraft had gone down. I still have nightmares about it.
Ron Newbold is now the Vice President of Erewash Branch of the Royal Air Force Association and still lives in Sandiacre. He was 15 at the time of the incident and lived in one of the police houses at Sandiacre where his father was a local Sergeant. He was cycling near Stanton at the time and cycled to the scene to be met by his father who was on duty at the scene and obeyed the instruction to return home immediately.
The bodies of four of the five people onboard were retrieved from the wreckage. One airman, the rear gunner and the rear turret were missing. My father Sergeant Newbold of the Derbyshire constabulary was responsible for the Stanley area so co-ordinated measures to deal with the requirements of the situation.
Having stayed at the crash site all night and with the services of personnel available a search for the missing airman began at first light. The search was terminated at 5pm; at this time my father returned home for another pair of braces, having ‘busted’ a pair climbing over fences.
As a member of the Air Training corps my father allowed myself and a colleague to join the next search party. It was a long and strenuous search, most fields were set to corn, and this was green and thigh high. At approximately 10:05pm I found the rear gun turret and sadly a few minutes later the body of the missing airman, rear gunner, Pilot Officer, Ken Radford.
This experience has stayed with me all of my life and is as sad and as vivid today as it was then 61 years ago. These gallant airmen gave more than their lives for their country they were actively involved in dangerous, secret, research into high altitude flight. Their efforts and those tat followed benefit all who fly today.
Kathleen Martin of Stanley Common was sixteen at the time and states as usual in villages the news spread quickly to adjoining villages. At first the rumour said the plane was German, or ‘one of theirs’ (In those days planes were not British or German, they were either ours or theirs). We never really found out why a lone plane had crashed and if as we know now it was experimental I do not find that surprising. I think the memorial is a lovely idea and I am sure any surviving relatives of these young men will be glad to know that they are remembered and honoured in the village where they died.
George Horsnall, was born on 3/7/1905 at Stanley Brickyard but spent most of his early life living in the Klondyke area of Stanley Village. In 1918 at the age of 13 he started work at Stanley coal pit known locally as the ‘Knibbs’. His first year was at the pit head going underground at the age of 14 and he remained a deep miner until his marriage in 1928 when he moved to Smalley Common (now integrated with Stanley Common) and also started work at Celanese where he stayed for forty years prior to his retirement in 1968. He is a mine of information on local history, which has always been an interest to him and served on Stanley Parish Council for several years. At the age of 99, he still lives in Stanley Common and has some sad memories of the demise of flight W5795. He was among the first people to reach the crash site and it was down to him to attend to the four bodies of the aircrew found on that fateful day (a fifth body was discovered the following day). He was walking just a few hundred yards from the crash site with his late wife, Doris, on his way to Klondyke when the drama unfolded in the skies above.
He said: “We stood and watched the bomber dive from about 30,000 ft to 15,000 ft when it flattened out and then exploded.” Parts of the Wellington aeroplane rained down on the fields below along with gallons of high-octane fuel.
Mr Horsnall, who was an instructor in first aid and rescue at the British Celanese factory in Spondon, was a volunteer with the local battery air defences and, at the time, was also instructing members of the special constabulary in first aid. Two special constables, PC Arthur Clifton and PC George Hickson were on duty outside the Bridge Inn PH near to the crash site soon after the accident, allowed Mr Horsnall into the field where he was the first to discover the bodies of four of the aircrew and oversee their transfer to ambulances. The ambulance was an ARP Ambulance from West Hallam Depot and not the regulation type and George was assisted by an ATS Girl and the ambulance driver. Two crewmembers were still in the plane’s fuselage when he found them. The fifth member of the crew had fallen through a tree and was not found until the next day in a neighbouring field.
It was obvious as soon as George arrived on site that his First Aid skills were unfortunately not required and the bodies were wrapped in blankets and placed in the ambulance awaiting formal identification. George ordered the Special Constables to enforce no smoking in the area due to the strong smell of fuel everywhere and the police were asked to keep people away from the site due to the horrific nature of the crash. The White Hart Public House had a shed in the grounds, which was used, as a Trailer Pump station (Fire station) and this was ordered to be cleared to be used as a temporary mortuary for the crew.
The RAF arrived on site and took over the crash site and George left the site approx 10pm very sad at the demise of these brave airmen and states his spirits were further lowered when he was then called to a road traffic accident at West Hallam cross-roads which involved a taxi which had been speeding turning over several times.
Fortunately the occupants of the taxi were unhurt but the two young men in a reserved occupation and the wives of two soldiers who were away at war were very drunk and abusive to the emergency services that attended and George states he was very angry with them for their attitude especially after having attended the brave airmen who had died in Stanley.
George is very proud of his service as a First Aid Instructor and he ran a 1st Aid Course every week for 31 years. He undertook training of all the Air Raid Wardens in the Area. ‘Q’ Area Headquarters were in Ilkeston and surrounding areas were designated a number, Q24 run by George was Stanley Parish, Q23 run by Bob Hogg based at Mapperley Colliery covered West Hallam and Q28 was Morley. Ironically Q24 responded to the Derby Alarm, which was clearly audible, and the HQ responded to Nottingham.
The split up of the areas appears to of been a bone of contention including one incident where a German bomber had followed the train from Derby and dropped bombs in frustration on the entrance to Morley tunnel where the train had stopped to hide. PC Twite was despatched by the Police HQ from West Hallam but when he arrived on his bike the incident was inhand by the Heanor Police.
George’s selflessness was indicated by him mentioning May Thornley with the words “That girl deserved a medal but they never recognised all the work she did for the community.
She worked in the Co-op during the day and manned the Warden Post at Stanley Common on nights. She was the one that found the three bombs dropped on Mapperley and turned out on the Derby Siren for all incidents”.
1. I was privileged to have known May Thornley for five years until she was taken into a home at Etwall due to her arthritis and I often wonder was this aggravated by her war service? She was very well known locally as the conductress on the Felix Bus route to Derby and a staunch supporter of St. Andrews Church, which she served for many years. A grand lady who never complained and always has a smile for everyone.
2. When I spoke to George in November 2003 it was obvious to me he did not have to struggle to remember the terrible events of the evening of 12 July 1942. For obvious reasons it would not be proper to include all the details, which are, very distressing, but such is war. Also it was also obvious as with so many of his generation that their was no question of who’s job it was or who should do what, THEY were on the spot and did the job to the best of their ability and served their country as much as the hero’s who died in this aircraft crash in Stanley Village and are justified in being proud of their achievements.