Sherburn has an unfortunate history for aircraft accidents. Given the airfield’s use as both an Experimental Establishment and a Ferry Pool during WW2 it is not surprising that the majority of these occurred in or close to the airfield during that period.
Before World War II
Although accidents must have occurred during the early years given the frailty of the aircraft then, the first record we have is of a crash on 23rd September 1927 of a privately owned deHaviland Moth. The plane was owned by Captain Anthony Milburn of Rufforth Hall, near York who was a frequent flyer from Sherburn. He was flying with a passenger, Mrs Ellison, said to be from Ireland, and having been up for half an hour or so, were flying towards the airfield when the engine stalled, the plane went into a spin and crashed nose downtown into a field near the airfield. Mrs Ellison died within a very short time of the crash and Captain Milburn was seriously injured
In 1934 two men, James Quarmby of Horbury and Clifford Shaw of Dewsbury, were killed when a Blackburn Bluebird crashed and burst into flames when attempting to land at the airfield. The Leeds Mercury 22/1/1934 reported as follows:
“Returning after two hours’ absence, the Blackburn Bluebird in which Mr Quarmby and Mr Shaw were flying flew over Sherburn village yesterday afternoon.
At the club headquarters it was a quiet afternoon, with no other machines overhead, but a few people about the aerodrome noticed it. As it came closer in, one or two wondered whether anything was amiss; a few seconds later they stood, horrified by the knowledge that a disaster was inevitable.
Mr F Worsdale, the ground engineer, rushed off to telephone as he saw the machine diving down. He was speaking to the surgery of Dr W Murphy, two miles away, within a moment of the crash. “Send the doctor at once,” he asked. As he spoke the flames roared up round the wrecked machine, the nose of which was driven into the grass by its dive.
The doctor was at the gates of his house when the message came. He jumped into his car and drove quickly to the scene of the disaster, where a desperate fight against the flames had begun.
When the doctor’s car reached the club premises it never stopped, but Mr Worsdale, who had rushed back to the hangar for more fire extinguishers, jumped on the running board.
The car raced to the burning plane and Mr Worsdale, Mr G A Holdworth (a young Sherburn man), Captain Heath and Mr Sidney Smith, a Sherburn workman, worked feverishly to extricate Mr Shaw and Mr Quarmby from the cockpit.
Dr Murphy told me this afternoon that he was satisfied that both young men were dead before the flames burst out. “As soon as I got up to the plane I could see them, but I’m sure that they were not alive” he said.
Both men had severe injuries. The front of the Bluebird was smashed up, and the engine block had been hurled into the ground. Presumably the bursting of the petrol tank set up the fire”.
There is an archaeological record of an Avro Tutor (K6101) trainer crashing whilst attempting a forced landing at Sherburn airfield on 9th July 1937. Grid reference of crash site SE 519 330, which is close to the runway.
During World War II
The first wartime crash was on 19th January 1940 when a Bristol Blenheim (L1469) light bomber crashed when attempting a forced landing with engine failure, during a snow storm. The Bomber was returning to Church Fenton, following an operational patrol, and came down somewhere near Sherburn, the exact location is not known. Both airmen sustained injuries and were taken to York Military Hospital for treatment.
Pilot – P/O Thomas Derek Saul RAF (42080), of Dublin, Ireland. Injured.
Air Gunner – Sgt Denis Harold Alan Skillings RAF (45541). Injured.
On 9th October 1940, a Miles Magister (P2392) trainer aircraft was being flown from Tangmere airfield to 607 Squadron’s new base in Southern Scotland at Turnhouse airfield and it landed at Sherburn to re-fuel. Soon after taking off from Sherburn it stalled and crashed near the airfield and was badly damaged. The fate is of the pilot is not confirmed but it is believed that he survived.
On the night of 9 /10th April 1941, a Hurricane (V7610) from 46 Squadron aircraft stalled when coming in to land at Sherburn airfield. The pilot was returning from an operational patrol and was killed in the resulting crash near Barkston Ash just before midnight. Although a Yorkshireman, he was not buried under family arrangements in his home town but was buried in the cemetery used by Church Fenton airfield.
Pilot – F/Sgt Leonard Hilary Borlase Pearce RAFVR (741920), aged 27, of Harrogate, Yorkshire. Buried Kirkby Wharfe Cemetery, Yorkshire.
On 19th December 1941, a Handley Page Halifax (R9368) heavy bomber was one of five flying back to Leeming when the aircraft was landed at Sherburn airfield with the wheels up and was damaged. The reason why it was landed at Sherburn is not known.
Pilot – F/Lt George Eric Miller RAAF (402248).
Second Pilot – Sgt William Joseph Walter Wiseman RAFVR (1375338),
Observer – P/O Peter John Jagoe Roberts RAFVR (68129).
Wireless Operator – Sgt J B Ryder RAF (1064072).
Rear Gunner – Sgt B Curran RAF (548260).
Flight Engineer – Sgt Wood
On 16th February 1942, a Blackburn Botha (W5128) was to have been ferried from Sherburn airfield to White Waltham airfield by an ATA pilot prior to issue to the RAF. It had been flown from the Brough factory to Sherburn by a Blackburn test pilot a couple of days earlier and was a new aircraft. After taking off from Sherburn at around 10.50hrs the aircraft flew a circuit of the airfield and then headed south, but soon after both engines failed. It was damaged in the forced landing four miles south east of Sherburn in Elmet airfield at around 11.00hrs. An investigation believed that blocked air vents on the fuel tanks had probably caused an air lock and as a result fuel starvation had been the cause of the engine failure.
Pilot – 1st Officer James Aloysius Stuart ATA.
A Bristol Blenheim (N3561) light bomber dived into the ground near Sherburn from 22,000ft during a night flying training exercise on the 29th March 1942. The reason for the aircraft entering the dive or why the pilot did not attempt to pull out of the dive was never established but it was suspected the oxygen supply failed or a sudden illness to the pilot resulted in him losing control. Pilot and Observer were killed. Crash site Grid ref. SE 517 338, which is close to Ash Row farm on the north side of Bishopsdyke Road.
Pilot – Sgt Walter Hibbard Bailey RAFVR (1381194), aged 27, of Goldthorpe. Buried Bolton upon Dearne Cemetery, Yorkshire.
Observer – Sgt John Prince RAFVR (138843), aged 22, of Bedfont, Feltham. Buried Bedfont Cemetery, Middlesex.
On the night of 28th / 29th April 1942 a Spitfire (BL995) was patrolling the York area around midnight when it was possibly damaged by a German Dornier Do217 bomber on its way to bomb York. Details are sketchy but it is believed the damage caused the Spitfire to go out of control leaving the pilot with little option but to bale out. The pilot survived the landing and the aircraft crashed near the village of South Milford. I believe that the pilot of this aircraft returned fire and damaged the Do217 which was able to fly off. The crash site is at Grid Ref. SE 49 31 which is in the field to the south of Sand Lane.
Pilot – P/O Eric Doorly RAFVR (101458), of Hawaii, USA.
On 26th October 1942, a Supermarine Seafire (MB154), a naval version of the spitfire, caught fire in the air and while attempting a landing at Sherburn airfield the aircraft struck a raised bump on the airfield. The pilot attempted to overshoot and go around for a second landing but stalled the aircraft and it crashed at 14.30hrs. The pilot was injured.
Pilot – 2nd Lt John Charles Scarborough ATA. Injured
On 7th November 1942, a Spitfire (ER9478), being ferried by an ATA pilot, was on approach to land at Sherburn airfield at 10.30hrs in poor visibility for refuelling when it stalled and struck the ground and also a heap of rubble in the undershoot area. It was damaged beyond repair.
Pilot – F/O Percy William Rowley ATA.
On 7th November 1942, the tail wheel assembly of a Wellington (BJ714) heavy bomber broke following a landing at Sherburn airfield. The aircraft was soon repaired and passed into the care of 424 Squadron, it was lost on Ops in January 1943.
Pilot – SO Roy Mary Sharpe ATA.
At 12.10hrs on 17th January 1943 a Hurricane (KX411) was landing at Sherburn in Elmet to re-fuel mid-way through a ferry flight and ran into a waterlogged part of airfield whilst landing at Sherburn in Elmet airfield. The aircraft overturned and sadly the pilot was trapped in the cockpit, he drowned before he could be rescued. The aircraft was probably badly damaged but the cockpit area must have been intact as it was used for creating an instructional airframe 4620M in September 1943.
Pilot – First Officer Alan Rees Colman ATA, aged 42, of Thickthorn Hall, Norwich, Norfolk. Cremated Lawnswood, Leeds, Yorkshire.
(Alan Rees Colman was born on 3rd January 1901 in Norwich and was the son of Russell James Colman, who owned the famous Colman mustard factory where Alan Colman became a director in 1922.)
Handley Page Hampden (AD857), medium bomber, had been having modifications carried out on it in the weeks prior to this incident. On 18th May 1943 the aircraft was in the process of being ferried to its new unit when it suffered engine failure on take-off from Sherburn airfield, a close circuit of the airfield was made and was force landed immediately at 11.50hrs. The undercarriage had not fully locked down when the aircraft touched down and it collapsed. The aircraft then sat Sherburn airfield for some months, the damage was not repaired and it was struck off charge in December 1943.
Pilot – F/Cpt John Ervin Martens ATA.
On 7th June 1943, an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley (Z9419) medium bomber took off from Sherburn airfield for a dual instruction training flight, soon after leaving the ground the aircraft developed trouble in one engine and not having enough power to continue climbing away the pilot force landed in a field some 400 yards north west of the village. The aircraft was badly damaged and an investigation into why the engine failed found that the magneto had a broken drive shaft. The two AFEE personnel on board the aircraft escaped injury.
Pilot – Acting F/O T Winnington.
Pilot – F/O Stanley John Rane RAAF (404061).
On 19th July 1943, the ATA pilot of a North American Mitchell (FR172) medium bomber was in the process of taking off from Sherburn airfield at 11.15hrs when the port engine lost power just before the aircraft lifted off the ground, the aircraft then swung sharply to port, the pilot lost control and the aircraft ground looped. The port undercarriage leg and nose wheel then collapsed and the aircraft came to a halt badly damaged. Crash site was Grid ref. SE 518 323,
Pilot – F/O Geoffrey Maurice Firby ATA.
Acting Flight Engineer – F/O G C Kipps ATA.
Passenger – Cpl McIntosh
On 11th August 1943, a Lockheed Hudson (V9228) light bomber had just taken off from Sherburn airfield when the auto-pilot system was accidently switched on, this caused the trim of the aircraft to change and the aircraft lost height. It crashed into a field just off the eastern edge of the airfield and caught fire. The four airmen in the aircraft escaped the fire but all sustained injuries. The aircraft was used at the A.F.E.E. to tow Hotspur, Waco and Horsa gliders. The crash site was at Grid Ref. SE 530 337 which is close to New Lennerton Lane.
Pilot – G/Cpt Sydney Richard Ubee RAF (24182).
Three others – Names unknown
The giant glider shown below, the Hamilcar, was developed to carry artillery and tanks to the battlefield and was extensively tested at Sherburn. On 19th August 1943, the pilot of glider DR851 was undertaking a heavily loaded trial flight, on his approach to land the aircraft struck a hay stack and crashed. The glider was badly damaged. The crash site is Grid ref. SE 529 337 which is on New Lennerton Lane. The Pilot was F/Lt Robert Kronfeld AFC RAFVR (78782).
On 24th August 1943, Handley Page Halifax (W7806) took off from Marston Moor airfield for the crew to undertake flying practice and along with the eight airmen, three Air Cadets were allowed on the flight for air experience. During the flight the aircraft starboard inner engine’s propeller flew off. The aircraft lost height and eight of those on board abandoned it. One of the cadets wouldn’t jump from the aircraft so the pilot and another member of the crew attempted a forced landing near Sherburn in Elmet. The aircraft crashed at 12.15hrs near the village church and was badly damaged. All three on the aircraft when it crashed sustained injuries as did five of those who had baled out. In the London Gazette a Commendation for brave conduct when an aircraft crashed is possibly linked to this incident, printed in the London Gazette on 3rd December 1943. Miss Margery Atkinson, S.R.N., S.C.M., Works Nurse, Sherburn-in-Elmet, Yorkshire received a commendation. The crash site is at Grid ref. SE 486 335 which is to the west of the church alongside the B1222 near Kennywell’s farm. The crew and passengers are as follows:
(Instructor?) Pilot – P/O Sydney Arthur Maslin DFM RAFVR (146330).
Pilot – F/O Kenneth Alexander Petch RCAF (J/20188?).
Navigator – P/O Charles Louis Potter RAFVR (143465).
Flight Engineer – Sgt Ryszard Cederbaum RAF (1196325).
Wireless Operator – Sgt W H Curness.
Air Bomber? – P/O John Napier AFM RAFVR (146609).
Air Gunner – Sgt J W Shirley.
Air Gunner – P/O Thomas Mercer Telford RAFVR (138064). Of Ruthin, Wales.
Passenger – Cdt Calvert (17) of Garforth. Passenger – Cdt Gorman (15) of Thorner
Passenger – Cdt Rushden(17) from Barwick in Elmet. Seriously injured.
On 4th October 1943, Bristol Beaufighter (LZ317) was on the approach to land at Sherburn airfield while being flown by an ATA pilot, the approach was being made at a steeper angle than normal in a strong wind. At 17.40hrs the aircraft bounced on landing, the port wing then touched the ground and the aircraft ground looped. As it came to a halt a fire developed and it was badly damaged by the fire. The pilot later reported that the port engine had either cut out or would not respond immediately as he applied more power, suggesting he was attempting to overshoot after the first landing bounce. The pilot sustained minor injuries.
Pilot – F/Sgt Frederick William Birks RAF. Slightly injured.
On 16th December 1943, the crew of this AFEE Lockheed Hudson (FK537) light bomber were undertaking an airtest around the Sherburn in Elmet area in poor visibility. As they returned to Sherburn to land the aircraft suffered the port engine fail, the pitch control on the starboard propeller then failed causing the angle of the propeller to change. As the aircraft made an approach to land the aircraft lost height and then struck a railway embankment in the western under-shoot area. The undercarriage was smashed off and the aircraft then crashed into the field between the railway and the end of the runway. One of the passengers, Corporal Wilfred Mawson RAF (AAF) (871786), aged 46, died of his injuries while the pilot, F/Lt Robin Henry Palmer RAFVR (101485) and two other passengers were injured but survived. The crash site was at Grid Ref. SE 530 337 alongside New Lennerton Lane. The wreckage of the aircraft is shown below.
On the 15th August 1944, a small taxi aircraft Argus (FK344), operated by the Air Transport Auxiliray, hit a soft spot and turned over when landing. The aircraft was damaged beyond economical repair. Grid ref 522 331.
Just prior to 21st October 1944 this Armstrong Whitworth Albermarle (V1762) transport plane had had two new engines fitted at Sherburn airfield while being used by the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE). During the afternoon on this date it was to be test flown to test the operation of the new engines, after taking off the starboard engine immediately became to show problems and shortly afterwards the port engine then failed. The aircraft had managed to climb to 600 feet above the ground but had low forward speed, the pilot appears to have turned the aircraft around and while making an emergency approach to land the aircraft stalled. At 14.14hrs it then crashed into a field some 300 yards short of the airfield on the north-west side, where the industrial estate is now. Sadly, two of those flying in the aircraft were killed while the pilot somehow survived. The photograph below shows the crash site, It is amazing that anyone could survive this.
In more recent years more information came to light as to what might have happened, another WAAF engine fitter who had been responsible for the engine change stated that her team had not passed the aircraft as ready for flight but that this was then over-ruled by a high-ranking officer who passed it as serviceable.
Flight Engineer – P/O James George Swain RAFVR (182548), aged 37, of Cleveleys.
Passenger (engine fitter) – LACW Nellie Griffiths WAAF (2058307), aged 35, of Nantwich.
Pilot – W/O William J Edwards RAF. Seriously injured.
The Yorkshire Post reported “The pilot and navigator of a Mosquito aeroplane from Church Fenton RAF station, which crashed in a field near Sherburn early on Saturday, 20th May 1950, stepped out of the wreckage unhurt except for cuts and bruises. They are Michael Crawford Gray (22) and Herbert Royd Scott (23) who were on a night training flight. The only part of the aeroplane left was the nose. Part of the wing was buried at the other end of the field 100 yards away”. The crash site is Grid ref SE 50 34. 1 mile ENE of the village.
On the 4th April 1951, a Chipmunk (WB661) crashed after the aircraft hit trees when coming in to land causing it to crash close by. No report of any casualties. Grid ref SE 52 33
Compiled by Kevin Sibson from research by Steve Hudson.