North American Mustang Mk.III FX931 of No.61 OTU, RAF, crashed at High Bentham on the 14th February 1945
|Pawel Struniewski||Sergeant, PAF||Pilot||Killed|
Sergeant Struniewski, a member of the Polish Air Force and on No.54 Course at 61 OTU, was briefed, along with four other pilots, for a day cross country flight from RAF Rednal near Oswestry in Shropshire, the planned route was Rednal – Preston – Derby – Rednal – Hereford – Lichfield – Rednal. The pilots were to fly the route as singletons, leaving Rednal at suitable intervals.
The another pilot who completed the flight reported that there was complete cloud cover over Preston and that he had to descend through a gap in the cloud over the sea before flying below cloud at 6,000ft to locate Preston. It seems likely that having passed over Preston at 15,000ft Sgt Struniewski continued northwards for around 25 miles. The aircraft was heard by people on the ground in the High Bentham area, west of Ingleton close to the Yorkshire / Lancashire boundary. They were mostly unable to see the aircraft due to low cloud, which was obscuring the high ground to the north and east.
The sound was described as a roar, which suggested the aircraft was in a high speed dive. The few witnesses who saw the aircraft reported that it emerged from cloud at a shallow angle which soon steepened after which the Mustang dived into a field near the village breaking up over a large area. Shortly before hitting the ground the starboard wing broke away from the aircraft, it fell very close to the main crash site and came to rest beside the craters caused by the aircraft striking the ground. It struck the ground root first which prevented any real analysis of how it failed and broke away from the aircraft.
The AIB investigator who was sent to the crash site concluded that the pilot had most likely lost control of the aircraft while descending through the dense cloud which prevailed on that day. He had been able to partly recover the aircraft but in doing so over-stressed the starboard wing which failed. This failure of the wing cause a complete loss of control at low level followed by it crashing.
Following the crash Sgt Struniewski’s body was recovered to RAF Cark and then buried at Barrow-in-Furness. He was from eastern Poland in an area which is now part of Belarus. He died ten days before his 28th birthday.