Mustangs collide over Barwick Hall Farm

“I was walking home from school with my school pal Nobby Steward one bright spring day in 1944/5 when we suddenly heard the tortured snarl of an aeroplane engine. We looked up just in time to identify two P–51 Mustang fighters when one plane crashed into the other. There was a big bang and the planes seemed to break up, with one large piece diving to earth leaving a smoke trail. There was also a wing spinning down on fire.”

“We estimated that the trail of smoke ended somewhere on the Barwick Hall Farm fields. We rushed home, grabbed our bikes and set off to find the downed aircraft.”

“We found it in the field known then as Big Jigs. Bill Steward (Nobby’s uncle) was working on the field, preparing the soil before spring sowing. He had parked his tractor near the pit in the corner of the field and was having a cup of cold tea before working overtime.”

“Bill had covered the dead pilot, who had fallen right in the corner of the field. The plane itself was further out in the field. It was deeply buried in the ground, sticking up at a roughly 30-degree angle with only part of the engine showing. There were no wings or tailplane to be seen.”

“From January 1946 I worked on the farm as a tractor and combine driver. In the following 20 years I ploughed and worked on that field many times, but apart from finding a part of the fuel tank in the hedge that divides Barwick Hall Farm from Barmer, I never found anything from that plane.”

“This is unusual, because other plane crashes in the area – and there were several of them – usually left small shards of plane and live cannon or machine gun bullets lying around. I believe the two Mustangs were on a training flight and consequently not carrying armaments. There were never any photographs that I can remember.”

“The other Mustang crashed on Syderstone Common, also killing the pilot.”

The Mustang crash: names and dates

According to RAF records, the crash took place at 15:45 on 23 March 1945. Two P-51 Mustangs of RAF 126 Sqn collided during combat practice. Both pilots were killed and both aircraft destroyed.

Mustang III KH546 (5J-Y) (126 Sqn)
131531 F/L (Pilot) Derek John Thurgood RAFVR +
Crashed at Everitt’s Farm, Barmer
Location MR wG284531 = 52.87739°N 0.71024°E = TF 824 345

The grid reference above that is quoted on the crash report card for KH546 fits well with Arthur Walker’s recollection.

wG288534 (TF 829 348) has also been reported, but it is not clear where that reference came from. According to Arthur, it is the wrong side of Jack’s Lane for the location of the fuselage. However, the aerial photo below shows that other wreckage may have landed to the east of the fuselage.

Mustang III FZ122 (5J*B) (65/19/64/126 Sqn)
AUS436158 F/O (Pilot) Maxwell James Neville RAAF +
Crashed at Wicken Farm, Tattersett
Possible location MR wG298502 = 52.85101°N 0.72987°E = TF 839 317

From the 126 Sqn Operational Records Book:

“Later in the day two new pilots F/Lt Thurgood and F/Off Neville were both killed when they crashed during practice flying they collided and the aircraft crashed at West Raynham. They had only been with the Squadron a very short time and were not operational on Mustangs.”

(Neville had been posted to 126 Sqn on 17 March 1945.)

RAF crash report cards for Mustangs KH546 and FZ122

RAF crash report cards for Mustangs KH546 and FZ122. Click here (PDF, 1.2 MB) to download a PDF.

Aerial photo, 1945

This aerial photo was taken in June 1945. North is at the top, and Barwick Hall Farm is on the extreme left. Near the top right-hand corner is an interesting scar or burn mark that could be connected to the Mustang crash. It is on the wrong side of Jack’s Lane to be the impact point for the fuselage of KH546, so perhaps it marks the point where one of the wings came down. The approximate grid reference is TF 8305 3574. Click on the photo to see a larger version.