Spitfire crash 1942

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by HarPingWun, Jun 9, 2012.

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  1. I am wondering if anyone can help me with a rather strange request. In 1942 I was living on a farm in North Wales, having survived a few very close shaves during the 300 German air raids on Mersey side, and not leaving that area until the raids virtually ended in mid-May 1941. Five bombs, not including quite a lot of incenderies and one parachute mine had struck within three hundred yards of our house, and one bomb within thirty yards. I was just short of 14 years old.

    I was watching two Spitfires, possibly from the Queens' Ferry airfield, practising dog-fighting over the Halkyn mountain, when the two aircraft collided head-on. I'd watched real dog-fights before, but never seen anything like this that was happening very close to me. One of the aircraft hurtled down not too far away and smashed into the ground out of sight, but I could see the smoke of the crash and as I had my bike with me cycled towards it. I arrived at the farm where it had crashed about ten minutes later.

    There was only one person there, the farmer who owned the land, and he was just standing inside the field, near the hedge, staring at the wreckage. He didn't say a word to me when I went into the field, but looked very shocked.

    The engine and the front of the aircraft was buried in a deep hole about a third of the way into the field. It was still smoking and very hot. I had a look around. I'd seen a lot of bomb wreckage and wasn't too disturbed, just very interested.
    There was a lot of ammunition scattered around, and I have to admit collecting a short length of belt with about eight or nine live rounds in it. There was a lot of the aircraft lying around and also the machine-guns in parts of the wings. There was one machine-gun lying free of the wing and under a bit what looked like part of the seat. I lifted the bit of seat, and under it and sticking to it was part of an RAF blue jacket, one of the lower corners, and sewn into it was the white size label and written on this in black ink was, presumably, the owner's name. It was A.Coombes. There was also a somewhat burnt piece of the owner also attached to the cloth. I wasn't sure at first what to do with this, and then decided to take it over to the farmer and give it to him, which I did.

    It was roughly about a little after mid-day, and I knew that my mother would have made dinner for us and that I would be late getting in for it, so I cycled back to the farm where we were living. Obviously, I told my mother about what I had seen, but didn't admit about the live bullets etc. The pilot's name, and the bit of him that I had seen and handled, really didn't begin to bother me at first. It wasn't the first dead body I'd seen, although it was the first bit I had personally handled, and when my mother produced a lunchtime sandwich of a rare wartime variety, a tinned salmon sandwich, I was suddenly very sick!.

    Years later the crash is still very vivid in my mind, and the name of the young, probably trainee, pilot has stuck in my mind. Was he a sergeant or an officer, Spitfire pilots could be either. How old was he? Maybe just three or four years older than me! What was his family, and where did he come from? Had he already fought in the battle of Britain. I have always wondered just who A.Coombes was.

    If anyone does know something about the young man who I witnessed dying, I would be most grateful to learn about him. It would, perhaps, lay a ghost that I have lived with all these years. The ghost of a young pilot whose name was A.Coombes.
    • Like Like x 3
  2. What a tragic tale. I'll see what I can find out
  3. I recommend re-posting your tale on both PPRuNe's Aviation History and Nostalgia board, and Flypast's Historic board, both of which are but a Google away, and are populated with the kind of people who would have the kind of info you're after at their fingertips.

    Best of luck, and keep us posted.
  4. I love stories like this.

    Please keep us updated, and thanks for sharing.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. There is an A. Coombes RAF (VR) listed on the CWGC website as being killed in 42, but he died in North Africa
  6. I'm sorry I've nothing sensible to add to this thread, ...but I can assure you I will be watching this, very interesting I hope you find your answers.
  7. Very interesting story. I unfortunately can't steer you towards any organisation that would be useful, but will be following this with close interest.

    Best of luck.
  8. I had an uncle who flew his Spitfire in to a hillside in low cloud while on a training flight from RAF Graingemouth in 1941. He shows up on the CWGC site, so there's presumably no reason why A. Coombes wouldn't.

    To cut a long story short, his mother, my granny, never accepted what the RAF told her at the time. Not helped by the fact that some bricks had been placed in his coffin when it was returned home to make up the weight - there wasn't much left to recover from the crash site. She was convinced his Spitfire had been "sabotaged", or something worse. In later life it became an absolute obsession with her to find out the truth of what happened to her son. Just before she died in 2001 we contacted the Air Historical Branch at the MoD who were very helpful (for crabs) and gave us the full Board of Inquiry/air accident report and his service history. If you know the date you might like to give them a try Air Historical Branch - Home , although they might be a bit sticky if you are not NOK.

  9. Seconded - strongly recommend a call into AHB at Northolt, email to Dr Seb Cox- he is in the public domain already as the Head of AHB and all round aviation history ninja.
  10. Ah, beaten to it! Was just about to say to the OP about the AHB, who can be also be reached by snail mail at

    The Air Historical Branch
    RAF Northolt
    West End Road
    HA4 6NG
  11. Just consider a borrowed jacket.
  12. .......grabbed hastily at an unexpected opportunity for some time airborne.
  13. Good point. I was wondering if the OP could remember any further details, or can be more specific about the precise location?
  14. As I live on the Welsh borders I've just skimmed through my 'Down in Wales' books plus some others - no trace sadly. However, a lot of talk about how common mid-airs were and how the combination of shit weather, high ground and inexperienced pilots meant that there are many, many farms with their own bit of aviation history included.

    I've even got some JU88 in my back garden!