Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb BL487 of No.880 Sqn, RN, crashed at Ashley near Alrtincham, Cheshire, on the 14th September 1942


Hugh Henry Home Popham Sub Lieutenant, RN Pilot Survived


No.880 Squadron had operated Hawker Sea Hurricanes for sometime aboard HMS Indomitable before arriving in Liverpool on the 28th August 1942 and travelling the short distance to HMS Blackcap at Stretton near Warrington. After a 7 day leave period the Squadron reformed on the 7th September when they were to receive Seafire Mk.IICs. To assist with the transition from Sea Hurricanes to Seafires the Squadron also received some Spitfires for their time ashore.

During the late afternoon of the 14th September Sub Lt Popham was on a training flight from RNAS Stretton with another aircraft from No.880 Sqn, Spitfire AB873, piloted by Lieutenant John Gordon Scott Forrest. While south of Altrincham the two aircraft collided, realising that his aircraft was severely damaged Sub Lt Popham jettisoned the canopy, rolled the aircraft inverted and at 1,000ft fell clear, his aircraft then dived into the ground not far from Ashley in Cheshire. During the bailout he sustained a serious back injury, which resulted in him spending much of the next year in a Naval hospital.

The aircraft flown by Lt Forrest travelling a little further before it crashed at Over Tabley, his body was found in the wreckage of the aircraft, it is not entirely clear whether he died in the collision or in the ensuing crash.

Crash site of Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb BL487 at Ashley, Altrincham, Cheshire
The crash site of BL487 was visited with Nick Wotherspoon of the Lancashire Aircraft Investigation Team. While talking to the landowner it was discovered that his father had recovered virtually all of the remaining wreckage in the 1950s for its scrap value. We located a few small pieces of the aircraft around where a footpath crosses the crash site.
Crash site of Supermarine Spitfire at Ashley, Cheshire
A second photograph of the crash site of BL487.

Seven days after the collision the Squadron moved on from Stretton, flying to Machrihanish on the Kintyre peninsular before embarking again.

After recovering from his injury Hugh Popham returned to flying for a short time before being the batsman aboard various aircraft carriers. He was also a poet, author, and for a time an English teacher in Barbados. He wrote a memoir of his wartime experience in the Royal Navy titled Sea Flight in 1954 in which he recounts the experience of the collision. He died in 1996 while living in Cornwall.

Lieutenant Forrest had before entering naval service been Capped three times for the Scotland Rugby Union team during 1938 when they won the Triple Crown (defeating England, Wales & Ireland during the six nations).