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Alan Gardner


As a small boy I was living in Ifield, nr Crawley, Sussex in the summer and autumn of 1940. One Sunday morning at perhaps 0700-0900 we heard bombs falling nearby then the noise of an aircraft just clearing our roof. My brother and I rushed to the window in time to see a Whitley (I was a keen aircraft spotter) landing wheels up in the large field behind our house. It bounced down the field (I think it lost a wing en route) and came to rest about 400 yards away. We both got dressed, picked up hammers, and raced down the field towards the aircraft, anxious to obtain further supplies of perspex which we, in common with other youngsters, liked to carve into rings. We rushed up to the aircraft and started hammering away at the front turret. To our complete surprise, for we had assumed that it was an empty aircraft from which the crew had baled out, a cockpit window was suddenly pushed back above our heads and an irate Australian (as I recall it) voice told us in no uncertain terms to leave his airplane alone. He hadn't flown it back from Turin (as I remember) and successfully crash-landed it after it had run out of fuel, with no injuries to his crew, only for small boys to start it about. We apologised profusely, and a few moments later the vicar arrived and asked the crew whether they would care for some breakfast. We never saw the crew again and a few days later the aircraft was loaded onto a Queen Mary and taken away.

If that crew survived the war I would like to apologise to any of them still alive. Anyone got an idea as to how I could identify that aircraft. Was it from 4 Group?

Update: Could this have possibly been Sunday November 24th? There were operations to Turin on 23/24th November which included Whitley's from 77 and 102 sqdns. Have looked through BC Losses for 1940 and this date stands out but your aircraft's circumstances are not recorded. This could be because it was not damaged enough to write off and was probably repaired.

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