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Snaefell Disaster, Isle of Man, 1 January 1940icon for Recommended story

by Montague Trout

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Montague Trout
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25 July 2003

At around 11.25am on 1 January 1940, an RAF 7 Squadron Handley Page Hampden P1260About links1 on a navigational exercise from its base at Upper Heyford struck, in bad weather, the mist-shrouded summit of Snaefell, at 2,036ft the highest point on the Isle of Man.

As the rapidly disintegrating aircraft bounced down the mountainside, one member of the crew, Corporal Ted Brightmore, was miraculously tossed out before the aircraft exploded.

'I remember a terrific thump and tearing sound, being drenched in petrol, a big explosion, rolling into some snow which must have put out my personal fire and saved my life.'
- Cpl Ted Brightmore (in a 1990 letter to Harry Jacobson)

After badly-burned Cpl Brightmore struggled in the snow, eventually reaching the farmhouse home of Mrs Jessie Cottier some two miles away, a search and rescue party from Isle of Man airbase, RAF Jurby, including Harry Jacobson, was mobilised to find the downed aircraft. With the assistance of the same Mrs Cottier, who directed the rescue party, the party were able to locate the wreckage of the bomber, which was strewn across the mountainside, and found the charred bodies of the three crewmen who had not survived the crash:

  • P/O Horace McGregor - Pilot
  • Sgt Thomas Dennis - Navigator
  • Sgt Robert Bailey - Navigator U/T

Some weeks later, while Harry Jacobson was recuperating in the camp sick bay from the pneumonia he had contracted that night2, Ted Brightmore was brought in and placed in the next bed.

'This badly burned airman was put in the bed next to me. I watched the orderlies dress his hands with Vaseline gloves every two hours. We both left hospital on the same date. He had his mother with him and that is the last I saw of him.'
- Harry Jacobson, 1995

But then, as a result of Brightmore's 1990 letter to Harry, the pair met again 55 years later, in 1995, when together they paid a visit to Snaefell - where remarkably they were also able to meet again with Jessie Cottier, then 92 years old. The Director of Snaefell Mountain Railway gave permission for the train to stop near the summit, where they laid a wreath and where pieces of the aircraft had remainedAbout links to that day.

1 A four-seater bomber

2 And from which he still suffers today

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