Dilhorne Air Disasters

Dilhorne and Caverswall both appear to have been accident ‘black spots’ for aircraft during the 1940s and 1950s. One possible explanation is the higher ground that surrounds the area.

On the afternoon of February 3rd 1942 a Spitfire MK VB BL391 took off from the RAF station at High Ercall in Shropshire. This was being delivered to the RAF squadron at Hutton Cranswick in Yorkshire. At about 2.30pm the aircraft crashed into a field near to where Weston Coyney Hall used to stand. The approximate position today is where Fitzgerald Close has been built. Due to the bad weather and poor visibility, it is thought that the pilot decided to return to High Ercall. Turning at low height the aircraft ploughed into a field killing the pilot instantly.

Less than a year later another aircraft crashed at Dilhorne while on a training exercise. During the early hours of January 30th 1943 a Vickers Wellington took off from the Operational Training Unit at R.A.F Wymeswold near Loughborough. At 2.15am the plane flew into the ground in low cloud killing two of the five crew members, a small memorial still marks the scene of the tragedy. The following year, almost to the day, history appeared to repeat itself. On January 31st 1944 an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley from Whitchurch Heath in Shropshire, also on a training exercise, crashed near Hardiwick between Dilhorne and Caverswall.  Of the five-man crew only one member survived.

In 1953 yet another air tragedy occurred near Dilhorne. On March 27th an English Electric Canberra with a three-man crew were carrying out a training exercise from R.A.F. Scampton near Lincoln. The plane was almost vertical upon impact and the three men died instantly. The crew had attempted to abandon the aircraft as the pilots canopy had jettisoned, but the high rate of airflow over the cockpit meant that the pilot was unable to operate his ejection seat. Due to the level of destruction the R.A.F. court was unable to decide whether the cause of the accident was mechanical or human error.

Despite these unfortunate tragedies the Second World War itself had little physical effect upon the area. During hostilities a stack of nine bombs fell in the fields near to the fishponds at Dilhorne. This was as a result of a chink of light showing from a nearby house seen by planes supposedly aiming for the factory at Froghall. The most interest was that of the children that would go down to the site to collect shrapnel as souvenirs.

Since the Second World War only one accident has occurred. This involved a de Havilland Venom WK390 that crashed at about 12.45pm on February 22nd 1954 near to Intakes Farm. The aircraft had taken off from Ringway, near Manchester, and was on its fifth test flight to establish how it would behave in a dive. Unfortunately the aircraft came down in a field and exploded on impact, killing the pilot Kenneth Forbes instantly. Fire engines from both Cheadle and Stoke on Trent attended the incident to extinguish the flames. Due to the extensive damage no conclusive explanation was ever given for the crash.

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