Bristol Bulldog T.M. K3939 from No.3 Flying Training School crashed at Onecote near Leek after being abandoned on the 26th November 1934

Bristol Bulldog at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon


Arthur Ronald Combe Flight Lieutenant Pilot Uninjured


The aircraft dived into the ground shortly after being abandoned by its pilot who had become lost in cloud. He had been part of a formation of Bulldog aircraft from No.3 FTS who were carrying out a cross country flight from RAF Grantham. While over the Leek area Flt Lt Combe had become separated from the rest of the formation. Rather than risk descending through cloud in an area he knew to be hilly he opted instead to abandon his aircraft, he did this from a height of 4,000ft, landing safely close to the village of Onecote. His aircraft crashed on farmland on the opposite side of the village.

Flt Lt Combe was taken to Leek Police station by car, where he reported the accident and contacted Grantham to inform them that he was safe. After this he waited at the Police station for the bus to Derby. The person who had taken him to Leek was a cousin who lived in the Onecote area at the time of the crash.

For many years the aircraft involved in this accident was unidentified, despite a number of attempts to prove its identity. This was largely due to there being no surviving accident cards for Bulldog aircraft from between October 1934 and February 1935 within the RAF Museum’s collection.

However, its identity was revealed to us when we were contacted by Flt Lt (later Group Captain) Combe’s Daughter-in-Law who had photographs of the wrecked aircraft which showed part of the serial number. Cross referencing these numbers against Bruce Robertson’s ‘British Military Aircraft Serials 1912 – 1966’ showed only one Bulldog had a serial ending 939 and that was K3939.

Unfortunately, in addition to there being no surviving accident card at the RAFM there is also no movement card in their collection, which probably explains why no one had found the identity of this aircraft.

Crash site of Bristol Bulldog K3939 at Onecote near Leek, Staffordshire
The site today is still marked by a slight depression in the ground left by the aircraft.