View Full Version : Accident near Birmingham, Sep/Oct 1958

24th Jul 2004, 17:49

I wonder if anybody is able to shed any light on an accident which happened near Birmingham (then known as Elmdon) in September or early October 1958?

I have very little information, other than the aircraft (possibly a Rapide) and probably a single pilot operation, crashed into a field at night due to lack of fuel. There may have been fatalities. The only record of comms between the aircraft and Elmdon was the Homer operators radio log, as it seems that an engineer had tried to listen in and, in so doing, had disconnected the feed to the ATC tape recorders. The engineer was handed his cards on the spot.

The pilot is believed to have been a John or Johnnie Atkinson. The partial aircraft registration may have been G-VL.

Can anyone shed any light on this, or suggest a source?

Thank you


Sir George Cayley
24th Jul 2004, 20:26
DfT's Air Accident Investigation Branch at Farnboro' should have some thing in the archive.

There's a web site easily obtained thru Google

Good luck. Was the pilot a relative?

Sir George Cayley

24th Jul 2004, 23:49
The AAIB site on the internet doesn't go back as far as 1958. Earliest report I can find on there is the formal report into the loss of PI at Staines (1972).

The AAIB site is to be found here: www.aaib.dft.gov.uk/

The pilot wasn't a relative but one of the airport staff, who was on duty at Elmdon that night was. Unfortunately, he never really spoke about it - which is why a lot of the details are hazy - and he's no longer around to be asked.

I'm hoping that some local aviation historian may have something as I understand that the pilot may have been a well known local character.

Thanks for the suggestion anyway.

Spot 4
25th Jul 2004, 07:52
Don Everall opened a summer service in May 55 to the Isle of Wight using Rapides. On 7 Oct 56 their Rapide G-AGLR on a charter from Paris to Birmingham crashed landed near Berkswell. Catching fire, the aircraft was gutted, but the pilot and passengers escaped unhurt. Pilot and Company were prosecuted for various breaches of regulations.

There are no details available of an aircraft accident associated with Birmingham in 1958.

Reference: Aviation in Birmingham ISBN 0 904597 51 2 by Negus & Staddon


There is nothing quite like being in the ***t for making somebody not want to talk about it afterwards.


Usually when aircraft run out of fuel, there is no fire, although a wood and dope aircraft wouldnt need much to write it off.

25th Jul 2004, 19:37

Thank you for your input. My sources are positive that it was the latter part of 1958 and before the end of the first week of October. As I mentioned, my father was on duty at Birmingham that night and is supposed to be mentioned in the report.

As dad left Birmingham shortly after I was born (at the end of the first week of October '58) for Croydon (which he helped close), and mum always mentions that she was carrying me at the time of the crash, it tends to date it fairly well!

The hunt for information continues, if anyone out there has any information, grateful for it.


Ex Oggie
25th Jul 2004, 20:06
I would think the registration would be more likely to be G-AL for a Rapide.

Try going to http://www.caa.co.uk/srg/aircraft_register/ginfo/search.asp and typing in G-AL** and put the type in the required field. You will end up with quite a long list you can check through.


Spot 4
26th Jul 2004, 06:03
This site:


would suggest that the nearest accident in the UK to your date was a Viking at Blackbushe 2 Sep 58.

Another Don Everall aircraft crashed 7 July 59 De Havilland Dragon @ Leverstock Reg G-AHPT

26th Jul 2004, 13:03
Thanks for your posts.

ExO, I understand that the aircraft callsign was supposed to be "Victor Love" so am assuming that the current convention of using the "last two" of the registration (plus nationality indicator) was in use then as well. Accordingly the registration would have been G-**VL. I've tried G-ALVL (just a winger based on your suggestion) but this was a Halifax. No details of who owned it or how it came to be deregistered (or when)! (Or course, it's entirely possible that the Victor Love bit was a RTF indicator or be a complete red herring!)

Trying the search the other way about ie G-**VL as a search term, results in a decent length list. Ruling out the modern types, there are no Rapides but there is a Viking. No details of ownership though, nor of how it came to be deregistered.

Spot 4. Thanks for that. This one may be hard to track down. As you see from my last post, we can date the event to being within a 9 month period ending in the first week of October 1958 and I understand that it was towards the end of that time. As dad didn't transfer to Croydon until some weeks after I was born, I think we can discount the Blackbushe crash - it's too far for Birmingham ATC to have had any dealings surely? By Jul 59, we were in Croydon thus ruling out that crash.

I shall have to try to get further information but, in the meantime, grateful for any other thoughts.

Spot 4
26th Jul 2004, 16:11
Extensive but not necesarily complete Dragon list here:


The Birmingham Airport book seems to include all Midlands accidents associated with the airport, but nothing in your time frame. I dont know what radius ATC worked to in those days, 30 miles is a resonable guess from when I worked in ATC (long time ago) but BHX is a "Safeguard" airfield nowadays so may well have been involved in Emergency RT calls in those days which could mean the accident happening much further away, especially if the call went out at height.

Did Airlines in those days not use airline callsigns? using "VL" would suggest something a lot smaller, perhaps a charter from a light aviation company.

Ex Oggie
26th Jul 2004, 20:02

This is a long shot, but as you seem to be getting desperate!


It's a genealogical links site. Lots of links to newspapers, local history clubs, County records offices etc.


Sir George Cayley
26th Jul 2004, 20:35
I know the AAIB web site is limited in info timewise but what I was suggesting (and don't be too shocked at this suggestion) was writing to them!

They have an archive and, as I type, recall that the Public Records Office may also help but you'll have to employe an agent to do the search.

They helped a friend of mind whose father wass lost in an accident just after the war.

Good luck.

Sir George Cayley

Spot 4
26th Jul 2004, 21:01
I have researched 368 UK Registered Dragon Rapides and none of them are G-..VL.. Here are the Golf Victor Lima`s from the timespan that you seek:

No Registration Status Serial No. Aircraft Type
1 G-AAVL D 1419 BREDA 15
6 G-AFVL D 4-543 PIPER J4A
7 G-AGVL D 1871 AUSTER 5J1
14 G-ANVL D 6395 BEECH C18S
15 G-AOVL D 13420 BRITANNIA 312
16 G-APVL R S2/5311 P531-2
17 G-ARVL D 814 VC10 TYPE 1101

This discounts the Viking in that list and is an interesting story in its own right. Its cut and pasted, (from here http://members.aol.com/pionair/viking.htm) but I dont whose site it is from so if its yours advise me and I will credit the quote:

I\'ve received a number of e-mails from Mike Johnson in Melbourne. His father was an engineer at Northolt, at that time the base for BEA & a busy airfield.

"Peter Johnson, an engineer with BEA noticed a Viking making 3 attempts at landing, and making strange throttle adjustments. It was not until later that he realised that this was the victim of a saboteur\'s bomb. After Scotland Yard had finished with the airframe, it was scrapped. Peter made a memorial brooch for his wife from the aluminium nameplate of "Victor Love".
From Mike:-
There was an excellent article in the Air Britain Digest of spring 1996, by Geoffrey Negus about Northolt in the late 40\'s/early 50\'s. There is mention of the Viking case.

I quote:-

...a bomb exploded in the toilet of BEA Viking G-AIVL as it crossed the channel on a service to Paris on 13 April 1950. A hole measuring 8x4 feet was blown out on the starboard side of the fuselage and a slightly smaller hole on the port. The stewardess, Sue Cramsie, was very badly injured. Captain Ian Richard Harvey, DFC, reduced speed and gently turned back to Northolt. Magnificent airmanship by Capt Harvey, First Officer Miller and Radio Officer Holmes got the aircraft with it\'s full load of passengers home. The mystery of who planted the bomb - and why they should want to - was never solved. Captain Harvey was awarded the George medal (the highest civil bravery award possible in Britain). The citation concluded \'loss of the aircraft was avoided only as a result of his courage, high skill and presence of mind\'.

The Distinguished Flying Cross was not awarded often. Captain Harvey\'s career could be the plot for the next epic movie. I\'m trying to find the citation.

Dakota G-VL was owned by Transair / The Halifax to the Egyptian Air Force.

& with that I give up! Do tell if you find what you seek. Good Luck

27th Jul 2004, 00:38
Viking 'IVL continued to serve with Eagle Airways until it was scrapped in 1961, and Halifax 'LVL went to Egypt as mentioned above. In any case one would be hard pressed to confuse either of those types with a Rapide !

The "VL" may be a red herring stemming from fading recollections, since by 1958 the correct phonetic would have been Victor Lima. I have another reference confirming 'GLR crashing 7 Oct 56, however that's by no means conclusive since one source may well have just copied from the other. It's possible 'GLR crashed in 58 not 56 I suppose, and one way to sort it would be to consult the local Birminhgam/Coventry papers for October both years, since I imagine it would have been a big story at the time.

And yes, it was common to use registration letters as the callsign, the use of flight numbers not starting until the mid-60's (I think).

27th Jul 2004, 11:19
Thanks to all who've posted. I shall follow up on the various leads.

On a sad note, I saw Capt Harvey's obituary in this mornings Daily Telegraph.

I'm not too shocked, Sir George. I did try to find out about this some years ago through the PRO (now the National Archives) when I held a readers ticket.

Watch this space (but don't hold your breath!)

27th Jul 2004, 14:17
Could this have anything to do with the Rapide that crashed on a section of the M1 which was being built about this time.

I remember seeing the Rapide a few weeks before the disaster and being impressed with the fact that it had VP props (Proctor engines?).

As best as I can remember it hit an earthmover on take-off with several executives of the construction company on board and caught fire.

I shall have a trawl through my excellent Air-Britain Rapide book and see if I can find any more information.

27th Jul 2004, 18:27
Having consulted with Air-Britain, my memory is now revived. Sadly, I don't think my accident has anything to do with the initial request but it was an interesting story anyway.

The Rapide 4 (with the VP props) was G-APJW which was operated by a subsiduary of Tarmac Ltd of Wolverhampton. We met the aircraft and the captain (who was quite pompous) at Perth and he regaled us with how good the VP props were and announced that he was on his way to the strip at Gleneagles.

My boss pointed out that the strip was, in his opinion, too short for a Rapide (and he knew very well what he was talking about) and furthermore pointed out that VP props were not much of a help on landing!

News soon came back that G-APJW had tangled with a barbed-wire fence on landing. Air-Britain gives the date as 3.6.59.

The same guy borrowed Rapide G-AHPT from Don Everall (Aviation) at Wolverhampton and struck a lorry on landing on an unopened section of the M1 near St Albans on 7.7.59 whilst on a flight for Tarmac Ltd. He and one executive were killed.

Sadly, the captain's name was Ashton and, after the Gleneagles incident, he had gained the rather prophetic nickname of "Crashton".