Crash of Wellington bomber, 1941

On Sunday 7 December 1941, a Wellington bomber 1c, serial no. Z1089, from 21 Operational Training Unit based at RAF Edgehill at Shenington, was on a training flight and heading south when it was suddenly engulfed by a freak snow storm. The crew lost visual contact with the ground and the aircraft finally struck the top of a telegraph pole on Pitch Hill between the villages of Sibford Gower and Swalcliffe on the Banbury to Shipston-on-Stour main road. On impact, it veered sharp right and crashed in flames near Burdrop.

Two officers, P/O J.A. Bright and P/O W.T.G. Gabriel from RAF Edgehill, who happened to be in the vicinity, were first on the scene of the crash, but were halted by the exploding petrol tanks, which showered the area with burning fuel. They saw, through the flames, the figure of one of the crew moving in the fuselage. They were beaten back several times, but with the help of Leslie Simons, the local police constable, they finally succeeded in dragging the burned and injured airman free, ignoring the exploding ammunition and oxygen bottles.

With the arrival of villagers at the scene a hurdle was produced for use as an improvised stretcher to carry the injured Observer, Sgt John Martin, to the home of Dr Taylor, the local doctor. It was thought that he was the sole survivor of the crash when, to the surprise of rescuers, a figure in flying clothing was seen wandering in the field near the crash. He was Sgt Robert Newton, the rear gunner, and he was in such a shocked state that he was unaware of what had happened and of the fate of his fellow crew mates.

He, along with the Observer, were the only survivors. Those who died were:

P/O K.W. Watson – Pilot

Sgt J. Hubbard – Pilot

Sgt E.F.T. Medder – W.OP/AG

Sgt C.G. Tierney – W.OP/AG

After the Hook Norton Fire Brigade had extinguished the fire, the bodies were eventually recovered from the wreckage by PC Simons, other members of the constabulary and F/O Barr the Medical Officer from RAF Edgehill. As RAF Edgehill was a satellite airfield for RAF Moreton-in-Marsh, they are buried there.