Boeing B-29 [Washington] WF570 (14/12/1952)

Boeing B-29 [Washington] WF570 was on a training flight on 14th December 1952

Its crew comprised:

  • MJ Creighton (Pilot)
  • DP Ballard (2nd Pilot)
  • WA Lindsey (Engineer)
  • WO Hanna (Navigator)
  • MJ Kennell (Navigator)
  • TP Crowe (Signaller)
  • GJW Jeffery (Gunner)
  • I McBain (Gunner)
  • JF Hutt (Gunner)

The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows: At 19.01 hrs on Sunday 14th, whilst on Air Sea Rescue standby duty, F/L Creighton and his crew took off for night continuation training. Immediately after take off, one of the scanners reported a large petrol leak and the Captain turned the aircraft back towards the airfield to land. Whilst turning, the aircraft crashed into the ground about seven miles north-east of the airfield at Westacre, Swaffham, Norfolk. The cause of the accident has not yet been disclosed by the Court of Enquiry.

Killed

  • MJ Creighton
  • DP Ballard
  • TP Crowe
  • WO Hanna

Injured

  • GJW Jeffery
  • WA Lindsey (Serious)
  • I McBain
  • JF Hutt (Serious)
  • MJ Kennell

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

AM Form 1180

The AM Form 1180 shows: “During take-off, petrol was noticed coming from starboard wing tank and the filler cap was missing. Pilot completed take off and decided to return to base. As GCA was not available he decided to make a radio compass set course on what he thought was a westerly direction towards the airfield and flew into the ground [068° Marham 5 miles]. Pilot allowed his aircraft to descend below a safe altitude when not sure of his position. Incorrect setting of the variation on the fluxgate compass. Although navigator and a gunner made certain observations which indicated that their aircraft was dangerously low they failed to report it to the pilot”.

Bomber Command Aircraft Accident Review

Extract from Bomber Command Aircraft Accident Review shows “Shortly after taking off on a night training flight, the pilot of this aircraft noticed that one of his starboard fuel-tank  caps was missing and fuel was gushing over the wing. He informed flying control of his intention to land as soon as possible. As the GCA  had been stood down it was decided to carry out a radio compass letdown. The navigator/ plotter checked that the radio compass was tuned to Marham Beacon and the letdown commenced. Later the aircraft struck high ground 5 1/2 miles up wind of the runway and on a heading 50 degrees East of the runway QDM. Four members of the crew were killed, the  remainder received injuries.

A Court of Enquiry held into the cause of this accident agreed that the pilot be held to blame for descending below the authorised break-off height. The main contributory factor was the incorrect setting of  47 degrees westerly variation on the fluxgate compass by the navigator, which caused the pilot to letdown on a false heading. Instead of letting down on what he believed to be a North West direction he was actually steering on a North Easterly course.

Visibility at the time was 3,500 yards and low cloud (600 feet base) obscured the ground; hence with the pilot descended below his safety height to investigate the whereabouts of the airfield’s lights, he crashed into the high ground.

Extract from the diary of John Bristow (Airframe Mechanic 207 Squadron) [Source: Washington Times]

I returned to my billet about 20:30, soon after a R.A.F. police corporal appeared, with only one other airman and myself in the room we were ordered to report to the guard room in ten minutes, with our greatcoats on. It was about 21:30 when six or eight airmen climbed into the back of a pick-up type truck, I think it was a Commer 10 with a canvas hood, we were each given torches and, if I remember correctly, rifles. We were told that we would be on guard duty, having been driven which seemed to be a long time, we arrived at a very wooded area, we walked through the very dark woods with the aid of our torches, we were split into groups of two, My comrade and I arrived at a clearing, it was very cold frost with a clear sky and a little moonlight, we had arrived at the crash site of 35 Squadron WF570, and guarded the fuselage, the other airmen were taken to different places and we did not see a soul for the rest of the night, the debris was scattered over a large area. As dawn started to break we could see the horrific sight and our guard duty finished.).