Wellington crashes near Stanhoe Hall

“A Wellington bomber came down in the dead of night in a small copse situated to the left and behind Stanhoe Hall as you look at it from the road.”

“I was living at No.5 Station Road at the time. I woke up one night and saw a fire, quite a short distance away as the crow flies. There was also quite a bit of shouting. My dad went out to investigate but there was a big “NO” when I asked if I could go and look. When he came back, he said that it was a plane crash but it was being dealt with.”

Vickers Wellingtons

“It was hot gossip round the village that Charlie Seaman had pulled an airman out of the burning wreckage, but Charlie was a big, strong, quiet man and he would never tell anyone about that night. I asked him several times over the years I knew him and he would just smile and start talking about something else.”

“Runway lights went out”

The former Norfolk War Graves website confirmed that a Vickers Wellington Mk X of 196 Squadron, serial MS486 (ZO-R), crashed in Stanhoe at 02:29 on 12 June 1943 (but see the logbook extract below: the number should be MS496).

Extract from an RAF logbook confirming the fate of Wellington MS496

Extract from an RAF logbook confirming the fate of Wellington MS496. Click here (PDF, 5 MB) to download a PDF showing the logbook entries for all 15 Wellingtons on that sortie

The crash site is given as “230 yards north-west of Stanhoe church”; this may be a mistake for “230 yards north-west of Stanhoe Hall”, since the Hall itself is about 200m NW of the church, and the location given by Arthur Walker is about 200m NW of the Hall.

Earlier that night the brand-new aircraft had taken off from RAF Leconfield in Yorkshire on its first operation, a bombing raid to Düsseldorf. With one engine disabled by anti-aircraft fire and the other overheating, the aircraft was forced to jettison its single 4,000-lb bomb and turn for home. The pilot was preparing to make an emergency landing at RAF Docking when the runway lights went out. He tried to go round again, but the plane crashed in Stanhoe and caught fire.

Two of the crew were killed and three others survived. The pilot, F/O FW Jackson, is buried at New Hunstanton Cemetery. The navigator, F/O Ronald Lea, is buried at Great Bircham.

The rear gunner, Sgt Ivor Prothero, survived severe burns and later wrote a detailed account of the events of that night, including how ARP warden Charlie Seaman was the first civilian on the scene and received a commendation for bravery. Visit our sound recordings pages to hear Ronnie Newell’s account of Charlie Seaman’s role.

According to Ivor Prothero, the aircraft crashed in a field of barley. In combination with Arthur Walker's memory, this suggests that the aircraft clipped the trees in the park and came to rest somewhere on the north side of the park boundary. The position on our crash map was plotted by Sgt Prothero on a 6-inch Ordnance Survey map provided by Brian Hillman.

The NHER record for Stanhoe Hall mentions the crash.

Sgt Prothero died in May 2018 at the age of 95.