View Full Version : Sunderland 'Golden Horn' crashed Lisbon 1943

3rd Dec 2007, 14:34
Does any body know the details of the mid air explosion that destroyed Empire air's Sunderland 'Golden Horn' G-AFCK military no X8273?

I am told by second hand oral record contemoprary of the crash that the explosion occured on a test flight reqested by the pilot in preparation for a passenger flight.

The Pilot was Capt John Lock. http://www.pprune.org/forums/images/icons/mpangel.gif

His second wife, widowed by the incident, married an American (Bruch-Openheimer) from the same base and later moved to America with a son. Johns son may have adopted the name Brook or Bridge in America.

As John was a civilain airline pilot what training if any would he have received to command a plane rigged for fighting? I think the Sunderland had a range of electronic equipment for sub hunting and convoy protection duty.

norman atkinson
3rd Dec 2007, 21:49
Not a Sunderland but an Imperial Airways G-Class which is said to have been converted to RAF use under X8273.

So this aircraft was on the strength of the RAF and its crash report will be filed at RAF Hendon Museum.

And the Best Of British Luck! I wrote a crash report and 50 years after the pilots had apperently changed seats at 100feet on a dying engine- over RAF Hendon.

4th Dec 2007, 13:57
G-AFCK Golden Horn returned to BOAC from the RAF in Dec 1941.
After an engine change at Lisbon in Jan 1943 the aircraft crashed during a test flight.

Evening Star
4th Dec 2007, 19:01
'Adventurous Empires' by Phillip E. Sims, published by Airlife ISBN1 84037 130 7, confirms the post by Norman Atkinson that Golden Horn was a Short S26 'G-class' flying boat, first flight 24 February 1940, RAF X8273 July 1940 and BOAC December 1941, plus on p204 gives an account of the loss of Golden Horn.

In summary, on 9 January 1941 Capt Lock took Golden Horn on an air test following an engine change. While respected by the staff at Lisbon, he apparently breached orders from London and those on board included a number of unauthorised passengers, including customs officers, loaders and wives. It would also appear that he had his own ideas with regard to cooling gill and oil-cooler settings, and it may be that during this flight he put these theories to the test. What is known is that Golden Horn experienced an engine fire that, due to the lack of extinguishers in the Hercules engines, became uncontained, affecting the tail surfaces and, due to the nature of flow around the aircraft, filling the cockpit with thick smoke. Capt Lock was unable to see out during the landing and crashed into the Tagus, with only two survivors. The exact number of those perished is, due to the number of unauthorized passengers, unknown but may be at least a dozen.

6th Sep 2009, 15:44
I believe my uncle was one of the crew on Golden Horn. He told me he was not needed for the Air test (being what I understand today to be a loadmaster/cabin crew) so opted to stay on the ground trying the local wine. The captain invited some of the local VIP's/ dignitaries for a 'joyride' and set off for the air test. This was obviously lucky for my Uncle but very embarassing politically, when Portugal was supposed to be neutral. He gave me a photograph of a Sunderland burning in the water but I don't know if this was the same incident.

Cool banana
7th Sep 2009, 07:37
Seebafilmer, would you be able to show the picture so we might be able to work out if it could be Golden Hind or another flying boat.

9th Sep 2009, 11:03
Hi Cool banana, This photo was given to me by my uncle and I have seen it published in I think an excellent Coastal Command book that I have since given away when I left UK. The book identifies the incident but I have forgotten the details. I think it was Lisbon. The two may not be related as I guess my Uncle was given the photo by another crew member or maybe took it himself but I think not. He was probably there anyway otherwise I can see no reason for him having it. It is an original print, the sort you get back from the chemist. I have also included a pic of my uncle who started in Imperial Airways in 1937 to 1941 - Air Communications worldwide then 1941 - 1947 in RAF Transport Command. He flew in De Haviland 'Comets', (Frobishers)? Sunderlands, Catalinas, DC3, Yorks, Boeing 314's. The second pic he told me was training cadets (IA?)
He was quite a character, travelled all the Sunderland routes, crashed in a DC3 in West Africa, nearly died there and told me many fascinating stories. I seem to have forgotten much of the detail and didn't ask him things which now we would like to know.

Having written all this I can't see how to attach the Pics or link to them!!! I can email as attachment if you can give me address.

9th Sep 2009, 15:42

G-AFCK had set off from Lisbon on 30th Dec but returned with a fault in the Starboard outer engine - a replacement was ordered. On the subsequent test flight (9th January 43) a fire broke out in the starboard inner and the aircraft crashed on forced landing.

The accident report noted there were six authorised crew and a further nine unauthorised passengers. Only two survived the crash.

The cause was discovered to be a failure of No4 cylinder which then resulted in further damage, incuding the detachment of No6 cylinder and the subsequent fire.

On landing the aircraft porpoised and crashed, disintegrating. Causes were said to be smoke in the cockpit obscuring the pilots view (the co-pilot had opened his window which drew more smoke from further aft in the cabin onto the flight deck and the wing root hatch covers were not in place) and fire damage to the tail plane, which might have affected handling.

The lack of fully feathering propellors was significant, in that they would have likely prevented the damage to the engine which caused the fire, had the engine been shut down when the vibration started.

The carrying of passengers was a serious breach of the BOAC policy, which the report blamed on Capt Lock, although ground staff were also criticised.

Who was your uncle - I can look and see if he gave evidence at the enquiry.

And here's a photo of the damage to the engine. You can post photos to a photo hosting website such as Photobucket and then copy and paste the img code into your message.


10th Sep 2009, 09:19
Thanks pondskater for the info on how to get pics seen. so have linked them here. My uncle Alexander Barratt during his Imperial Airways and BOAC time, also the photo he gave me. This shows stbd inner on fire but was this the aircraft that crashed with the local VIPs on board?

10th Sep 2009, 22:04

Alexander Barratt was not one of the witnesses called at the enquiry. Apart from his fortunate escape in not being required on the flight, he was clearly not involved with it.

Interestingly, the photo shows a Short Sunderland on fire and not the G-Class Empire Boat Golden Horn. In fact it is one of a series of images of Sunderland L5807 of 228 Squadron which was shot up by a Bf109 at Malta 27 April 1941. It was burnt out.

I'm not sure why he would have had that photo, there could be many reasons for it to have had some significance for him. Thanks for showing it and the others of him.

I've attached one more of the same incident, photographed a little later just slightly off to one side and with the wings settling into the water.

To get the images to appear you need an code in front of the webaddress. It should also have an code after the address.

All the best


Cool banana
13th Sep 2009, 11:42
Seebafilmer many thanks for putting the photos up.

Mike Ormondroyd
14th May 2011, 08:29
Captain John Lock was my wife's uncle.

Little about him is know between the time he joined the Royal Air Force and his death in Portugal.

I did find his grave in Lisbon with help from the British Consulate

If anyone has any details on his widow & her son all information would be gratefully received

14th May 2011, 22:32
There's a photo of The Golden Horn on the Google LIFE archive...I've always assumed it's at Lisbon (because the crowd are wearing hats) but there was a crane like that at Shorts Belfast Harbour facility
LIFE: Air Aero 1920- (2 Folders) - Hosted by Google (http://images.google.com/hosted/life/f?q=aero+1920+source:life&prev=/search%3Fq%3Daero%2B1920%2Bsource:life%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D143 6%26bih%3D713%26tbm%3Disch&imgurl=92f530045ce56035)

19th May 2011, 12:54
I can't help about Capt. John Lock but if you see my earlier posts I explained that my uncle Alexander Barratt told me about the crash in Lisbon about 1982. I wish I had paid more attention. He explained that as it was an airtest he was not required so sat it out, (probably in a local bar). He told me that it was an embarassing situation because the local VIP's who were invited for a 'joy ride' were more than local dignitaries and that one was very senior in the Portugese hierarchy. Any report of his death in a British military aircraft at that time when Portugal was neutral would have grave consequences. He may have mentioned the person, I didn't pay attention! I felt it was someone like a prime minister or another of that position?

I can see now that some of the photos he gave me are of the Flying boat on fire at what seems to be Malta. I assumed it was to do with the crash at Lisbon and didn't ask about them specifically. He spoke very fast and I missed lots of info.

My uncle gave me some notes about his flying details:

Imperial Airways and later Transport Command
1937 - 1947 Air Communications worldwide
1941 - 1947 RAF Transport Command worldwide.

Logged 3000 air hours and 1 million air miles,

Flew in,
Comets -(Frobishers) De havilland
Boeing 314's

I posted some photos of him before. He could tell the most amazing stories and seemed to have been everywhere!

19th May 2011, 13:49
Found this further pic of Sunderland L5807 (reg visible with magnifying glass) . Given to me by my Uncle. Perhaps the local photographer in malta was doing a trade in photos of the incident. My Uncle was probably there, he had transferred to RAF in 1941, he seems to have turned up everywhere! Looks as if they were attempting to tow because the AC has been turned and an earlier pic shows a launch.



16th Feb 2022, 20:52
I married into the Lock family (John's Brother's Side) when working in Lisbon I visited his grave on behalf of this side of the family;

Like yourself have heard various versions of the story