Defiant Mk.I N1766 of No.96 Sqn RAF crashed on Rowlee Pasture to the west of Derwent Reservoir 12th April 1941
|Paul Wattling Rabone||Flight Lieutenant RNZAF||Pilot||OK|
|John Ritchie||Flying Officer||Passenger||OK|
The two crew were carrying out a night air test from Cranage near Middlewich in Cheshire. The radio receiver suffered a partial failure which prevented the two crew from communicating properly with their base, this was followed by the aircraft’s Merlin engine suffering a major coolant leak and eventual seizure. At this point the two airmen abandoned the aircraft.
The two men came down not far from the crash site but in the darkness walked in different directions with one walking out to Alport and the other to the Derwent valley. Flying Officer Ritchie’s first encounter with the farmer whose door he arrived at was recorded in the 96 Squadron Operations Record Book.
Suspicious farmer: “Where have you come from?”
Parachutist: “I’ve just left my aeroplane up there”
Farmer (still more suspicious): “Are you British?”
Parachutist (A Scot): “Oh! Yes!”
F/Lt Rabone was killed while serving with No.23 Squadron on the 24th July 1944 and was buried at Hotton War Cemetery near Liege in Belgium.
During 1980 the aircraft’s Merlin engine was recovered from the crash site and after it had been cleaned was put on display at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Air and Space gallery in Manchester.
It has since been transferred to the Nightfighter Preservation Trust at the Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington where it was on display in the Engine Hall and then to Aeroventure at Doncaster.