de Havilland Canada Chipmunk T. Mk. 10 WB579 of No.2 Reserve Flying School crashed on Arnfield Moor above Tintwhislte, on the 3rd July 1951 while on a local flying exercise from Barton aerodrome

de Havilland Canada Chipmunk T. Mk.10 at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon


Harry Bate Wright Pilot Officer Pilot OK


The events leading up to the accident and the aftermath are described below by Harry Wright, as recalled in December 2004.

“The weather on the day was rather cloudy with around 2,000 ft base over Manchester, but looked reasonable at the time locally. However, my routine local exercises flight proved rather difficult as local patches of cloud appeared down to 1,000 ft.  so when I became enveloped in such a cloud I decided to climb up into the blue where my exercises could be performed – this was a lengthy ascent to around 3,500 over rolling stratocumulus tops. Realising the potential descent problems I had set course carefully due North allowing for a small crosswind drift. Accordingly, on descent I set course due South, again allowing for a small drift, anticipating breaking cloud around 1,000 ft in the area west of Manchester would be OK.

de Havilland Canada Chipmunk WB579 the day after it crashed on Arnfield Moor, Tintwhistle
A photograph of the aircraft taken the day after the crash by the RAF engineer from Barton,
Thanks to Harry B. Wright.
This photograph is looking towards the featureless peat of Irontongue Hill.

The descent was routine until about 1,500 ft when it became very dark and I slowly continued towards 1,000 ft. looking for the break. No break appeared but quite suddenly, too quick to react, I saw fast moving shadows and that was it. I was obviously pretty well ‘knocked out’ although I experienced a pressing feeling on my head – and then nothing until I slowly regained my senses find myself upside down in the dark except for a chink of light with a wing in view in swirling cloud. Realising what had happened and what to do tool some time, I tried hard to free myself, undo straps, free the parachute, but I was resting on head and shoulders and moving was difficult. After an exhausting 5-10 mins it was clear that getting out from the small vent was not going to work, and I had to rest and think. Fortunately, the cockpit had been pushed into fairly soft peat as it overturned, so I resolved to dig down and create an escape hole. This was slow and exhausting but I was driven into high gear by the growing presence of petrol fumes, and heard a hissing from the engine indicating a drip leak to hot parts. This created a great fear and my rational approach changed to one of panic and produced a driving force which over some 10 mins resulted in me digging down and to one side to squeeze out to my immense relief.

Looking around in the mist nothing was in sight, the aircraft did not catch fire, I did not appear to be badly injured, so I headed off downhill. I broke cloud after some 15 mins and made for the only building in sight, a small farmhouse and knocked on the door.  This was Arnfield farm, and a lady opened the door to see a muddy bedraggled figure who was not able to speak – so then I realised the kind of shocked state I was in, She summed up the situation in a moment and guided me inside to a couch and with true hospitality gave me a cup of tea. After a short while I was able to give her the essential information to be able to call Barton base and I was collected that evening.”

Many thanks to Harry Wright for sharing his memories of that day with us.

The crash site of de Havilland Canada Chipmunk WB579 on Arnfield Moor, Tintwhistle
A photograph from October 2006 showing the small remains and the hazy view towards Glossop.
Wreckage at the crash site of de Havilland Canada Chipmunk WB579 on Arnfield Moor, Tintwhistle
Today at the crash site of WB579 only a few small pieces remain.