Wellington and Hampden aircraft crashes near Headley Heath

In the early hours of 3 September 1941 two Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft were to crash in the vicinity of Headley, only thirty minutes apart. These aircraft and more importantly their crews, shared more than the proximity of their crash sites.

Vickers Wellington Z8851 - 150 Squadron RAF

Wellington Z8851 was detailed to attack Frankfurt on the night of the 2nd September 1941, crewed by Pilot Sergeant Dickinson (or Dickenson) and Sergeants Bright, Clark, Eivers, Hatch & Roberts.

On their return journey from Frankfurt, the Wellington’s port (left) engine seized and shed its airscrew. Their starboard (right) engine was failing, forcing the crew to make a crash landing on Headley Heath at 02:15.

Eyewitnesses reported the aircraft approaching the Heath from the north, parallel with Headley Common Road and coming to a rest not far from the area which is now the Brimmer car park.

The crash site is featured within the Headley Heath Second World War walking trail.

The aircraft was recovered from the Heath, it was not repaired and was struck off charge as a result. It had made its final landing and had brought the crew safely home, all surviving the crash landing.

Handley Page Hampden AD913 - 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron RAF

Hampden AD913 also attacked Frankfurt that night, crewed by Pilot Sergeant Knight and his three crewmen: Sergeants Churchill, Spanner and Stevens.

While over the target, having just released their bombload, their port (left) engine cut out – the result of anti-aircraft fire. This left them with the precarious challenge of returning to base on a single engine.

Their luck held until they neared Dorking, when their remaining engine failed owing to shortage of fuel, pitching the aircraft into a dive from only 5000ft.

The crew scrambled to escape their stricken aircraft and parachute into the night sky. Tragically, Sergeant Stevens was unable to clear the aircraft and his body was found near the wreckage of the aircraft, which had crashed near the Canadian Headquarters at Headley Court at 02:45.

Sergeant James Stevens (751652) of the RAF Volunteer Reserve was laid to rest in his hometown of Eastbourne (Plot U.A. Grave 41, Eastbourne Ocklynge Cemetery). His parents George & Florence Stevens chose the inscription, ‘from all their labours now they rest in God’s eternal glory blest’.

Text and photos, with thanks - The Secret WW2 Learning Network