de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XX KB206 of the Pathfinder Navigation Training Unit,
crashed near Cheddleton, Staffordshire, on the 2nd March 1945

de Havilland Mosquito

 

Arthur Ian Albertson AFC Flight Lieutenant Pilot Killed
Robert James Eaton Sergeant RAAF Navigator Killed

 

The two crew were undergoing training to be posted to one of the Bomber Command Pathfinder Squadrons at RAF Warboys in Cambridgeshire. They had been briefed for a high level night cross-country navigation training exercise, this was to be flown at an altitude of 25,000 feet.

The aircraft, a Canadian built Mosquito Mk.XX, took off at 19:15. Some two hours later it was observed by a Royal Observer Corps post at Rushton Spencer flying at between 6,000 and 7,000 feet and 12 miles to the left of the route the aircraft was meant to be flying. The Accident Investigation Branch officer who investigated the crash concluded that the aircraft was already in trouble at this point having descended almost 20,000 feet.

A short time after being seen over Ruston Spencer the aircraft broke apart in mid-air with the port outer wing separating completely, the fuselage, tailplanes and fin all broke apart. One of the earliest action was the jettisoning of the escape hatch, this had been tampered with post crash so it could not be determined if the operating mechanism was used or not. The pilot abandoned the aircraft but his parachute caught the tail fin, it was thought that the pilot leaving the aircraft was involuntary as the machine broke apart.

Wreckage from the aircraft was spread for around 2,000 yards with the largest single section, starboard wing still attached to the port inner wing engines and centre section of the fuselage, falling to earth near Cheddleton Heath. The site where this came down is now in woodland but there has been extensive tipping on the site and the only items that have been found in recent years are of domestic origin.

The reason for the pilot descending was not determined due to the prolific tampering with the wreckage before the investigation could be carried out, this included many components of the high pressure oxygen system which was the main line of investigation.

The investigator’s remarks regarding this were as follows:

“There was considerable interference with the wreckage and a considerable amount was stolen. Among the parts stolen was the forward scanner unit which was subsequently reclaimed through offices of the Leek Police. As previously mentioned the complete blind flying panel was stolen and the oxygen regulators. It was also noted that towards the end of the investigation the ignition switch had disappeared.

The wreckage trail was fairly well spread out and it was interesting to note that each time the trail was visited the parts were in different places.”