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15 October 2014
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Midnight Crash in a Wellington Aircraft

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Flt/Lt JW Merriam, Sqd/Ldr Tristran F Owen, Sgt Muir
Location of story: 
RAF Detachment Hampstead Norris, Mount Farm Aerodrome, Berkshire
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A6964473
Contributed on: 
14 November 2005

At midnight the loudspeaker called for Sergeant Merriam to go to the watchtower where a Wellington would have its engines running and an instructor. This I did, the chocks were moved, and we taxied out to the perimeter track with him at the controls until we reached the beginning of the take-off and landing runway, he applied the brakes with the aircraft across wind, to do a cockpit check before flight, and run the engines.

The instructor said he would do the first take-off and landing, passing all the gooseneck flares. It was very spooky. A circuit and landing was completed and he taxied back to take-off position, applied the brakes, loosened his belt, and said “She’s all yours,” and departed.

The amount of solo hours on these aircraft were hardly sufficient, but after previous training we were expected to cope. It was not ours to reason why. Soon I was airborne and up to 1,000 feet. I circled the airfield twice to become conditioned to the lonely experience, and whistled to myself and prepared to land.

A long power approach was made. It was a perfect landing, and confidence was building. Two more landings were made but the third was beyond my control. I had climbed 500 feet when I noticed searchlight beams scanning the sky, and made haste to get back. Doing a long power approach to land, I was overshooting and had to reduce height. To do so power had to be reduced but I found the throttle levers would not budge. I gave them a knock with the palm of my hand and they became completely slack and non-operative. The engines cut and at the very last, I had to heave on the controls to clear the woods. It resulted in an uncontrollable stall. The craft dropped from 500 feet, the starboard undercarriage collapsed and swung over the goosenecks, setting light to the dry grass. Luckily downwind, I jumped from the hatch overhead and was out for the count! Three days later I caught measles, the crash was ignored, and after convalescence I was moved Llandwrog, North Wales to No. 9 AGS to fly “Lysanders” with a range of different duties.

This story was submitted to The People’s War website by Stuart Ross, on behalf of J.W. Merriam, who has given his permission for the story to appear on the website.

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