Today marks the anniversary of what I believe to be the worst air accident of the Second World War that happened over the New Forest.
On the 13th of August 1943 a Vickers Wellington of RCAF 407 Squadron left RAF Chivenor in Devon on an anti-submarine patrol. Upon returning to the English coastline, bad weather including fog meant she was diverted to land at Beaulieu Airfield in the New Forest.
After a few hours rest, the tired crew of the Royal Canadian Air Force decided it was time to get back to Devon. Taking off from Beaulieu, the Wellington (code MP622) was soon flying over the village of Sway to the west of RAF Beaulieu, flying just below the clouds. Unbeknown to the Canadian crew, they were now in the flight path of an RAF Halifax (JB902) of 502 Squadron that had taken off from the nearby Holmsley South airfield on a test flight.
Tragically the two aircraft collided, and both crashed on separate sites in the village of Sway. All six Canadian crew of the Wellington died, as did all six British crew of the Halifax.
As if this wasn’t tragic enough, when the Halifax came down, it crashed onto the home of Peter Jenvey. He was living in a railway coach converted into a caravan in a field. He was 68 and had moved from Southampton to the New Forest, as he thought it a safer place to be away from German bombing.
He was also killed, bringing the overall death toll to thirteen.
I was recently contacted by a Graham Moore who is involved with documenting the history of RAF Chivenor and airfields in Devon, who asked if we could visit the two crash sites and place crosses down where the public could see them and pay their respects.
Along with my son and historian Richard Reeves, we went and paid our respects. You can see how we got on in the video below.