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Harrier collision, Cheshire, mid 70's?

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Harrier collision, Cheshire, mid 70's?

Old 4th Feb 2011, 20:49
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Harrier collision, Cheshire, mid 70's?

Does anyone know about a collision between two Harriers at Wettenhall, South of Windsford, about 35 years ago? I can't find anything via Google.
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Old 4th Feb 2011, 20:52
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I remember it! What do you want to know? Two Harriers flying at low elevel in or near the Manchester Low Level Route collided near Wettenhall.
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Old 4th Feb 2011, 20:58
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This from Broken Wings, is it the one you are enquiring about ?

19.1.76 Harriers: GR3 XV745 & XV754: Wardle, 2nm NW of Nantwich, Cheshire: collided during practiice attack: both pilots killed
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Old 4th Feb 2011, 21:23
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Just that I was in The Little Man pub recently and people were talking about it - it happened just behind the pub and the landlord made the pub available for the recovery crews. Someone I know heard the sound of the collision. I'd like to know more and I find it sad that there's no mention of it anywhere after two people lost their lives.
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Old 4th Feb 2011, 21:40
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Contemporary Press Cutting.

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Old 5th Feb 2011, 19:34
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At the time I was based at Wittering working on The Harrier Flight Simulator.
Please remember this is a 35 year old memory

The two Pilots Killed were both Instructors and I believe flying as No 2s to the 2 Lead student pilots. (Latter stage of OCU Harrier conversion ) Flying as a 4 ship finger 4 formation with a couple of miles separation the 2 pairs. Part of the plan was a ground attack on a disused airfield in the crash area. The target first visual contact was made by the lead pair no 2 Instructor pilot who took the lead and commenced the planned attack, his lead now No 2 followed him in then followed by the 2nd pair, the second instructor being in the last aircraft. the lead aircraft exited the attack with I believe a 270 deg right turn, however the last aircraft was still on his attack dive and they hit each other. The Pilots who died were Flt Lt D....y and Flt/Lt R.....s if i remember correctly. The first pilot had 2 previous successful ejections.
Very Sad they were both cracking chaps.

A google earth search
Wardle disused at 53Deg 06'.47.25''N 02deg 36' 25.50''
Also canel runs along North and NEaster boundries

Last edited by orionsbelt; 5th Feb 2011 at 19:48.
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Old 5th Feb 2011, 20:46
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Harrier Collision

I have a large photograph of the crash site at the time of incident

I believe taken by the services at the time .

i have spent a hour trying to get it on this forum, to no avail,

I will try again later , before i throw this laptop contraption out the window ..
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Old 5th Feb 2011, 22:04
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The disused airfield was probably Calveley. I think it's the only one in that area. The nearby canal is the Shopshire Union, with adjacent Crewe to Chester railway line.

It's an area I fly over regularly in our Chipmunk, in and out of Liverpool John Lennon.
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Old 5th Feb 2011, 22:45
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The disused airfield is definitely RAF Calveley, known to the locals as Wardle.
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Old 6th Feb 2011, 19:39
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Wouldn't it be a bad bad idea to do a 270 in the vicinity of a target (AAA)?

What speed would a Harrier use for an attack like this?
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Old 9th Jan 2012, 10:16
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Harriers down

1976-01-19 I was on recovery duty for any of our Whirlwinds from number 2 flying training school when we got a call that two Harrier jump jets had collided near the Welsh border just north of us in Cheshire and were down on the ground, I took a tool box and got into the Whirlwind that had been made ready along with a Junior Technician (JT) Airframe fitter. On arrival at the site we circled the remains of a Harrier the other was no were to be seen, the piece of the one we could see was only three quarters of the cockpit, the starboard side was gone and everything aft of the pilot, including the back of his head was gone, so was most of the underside of the cockpit as the lower part of the ejection seat was stuck in the mud, we landed near the wreck without shutting down, the JT and I jumped out, the Whirlwind took off straight away.

We could see two groups of buildings near us, both about 300 metres away, people were coming towards us from one of them, that turned out to be Elms farm whose land we were on, I could see a road next to the other group of buildings so I sent the JT to investigate it, maybe they knew where the other aircraft was. The people approaching me had seen us get out of the Whirlwind, I was wearing a cold weather anorak which hid my military uniform underneath it, my priority at the point in time was to secure the immediate area around the pilot as he was still sitting in a live ejection seat that was badly damaged, although it was very cold I took off my anorak so give me some authority, and there I stood in shirt sleeves with my teeth chattering by the time they reached me. I explained the danger the remains of the aircraft posed and requested they stay at least 100 metres away, shortly after that a group of policemen arrived, I requested that they form a semicircle between the aircraft and buildings and keep away everyone, especially the cameras I could see on other people who were now appearing, I fail even today to understand way people have to stop and look at accidents, it is as if this ghoulish behaviour will please their master.

About an hour after I arrived our Engineering Officer arrived, I reported all that had happened up to that point expecting him to take over, but he told me to carry on and he left, shortly after that a Whirlwind from RAF Ternhill arrived, a Chief Technician jumped out and the Whirlwind was off again, he carried with him a reel of telephone wire and a phone, he told me he was an aircraft armourer and needed to disarm the ejection seat but did not know this model so with the agreement of the farmer he laid out the telephone wire from the farm to the wreck, and spoke to an armourer at RAF Wittering twenty minutes later he gave the all clear and the pilots body was removed. As soon as the body was gone, so where all the people, only the Chief Technician and I were left, I put on my anorak as at that point I was cold right through to my bones, I was also very hungry and thirsty as I had had nothing since my breakfast before leaving my house to go the RAF Ternhill.

After about an hour or so another Whirlwind arrived with a corporal, two airmen and camping equipment, the Chief Technician jumped into the Whirlwind as they jump out, and the Whirlwind was off again. I helped the guards set up their tent as it was now beginning to get dark, then a Land Rover came bouncing across the field driver by the JT who had arrived with me, where have you been and where did you get the vehicle? I asked him, he explained that the buildings I had sent him to, to find out about the other aircraft was a pub called The Little Man and someone in the pub had loaned him the vehicle to look for the other aircraft as I had told him too. This enthusiastic young airman had drawn a map of the Cholmondeston area and plotted on it all the places where he had found pieces of aircraft, he also informed me that dozens of medical staff where combing the area to look for pieces of the other pilots body as his aircraft had blown to pieces, and they had stopped for the night and were going to stay at RAF Ternhill, so he had come to get me, so him and I could get a lift home.

At home I sat in my kitchen and cried my eyes out and I could still smell his cooked body, and that smell stayed with me for quite a few days. The next day the newspapers came out with a picture of the wreck with the pilot still in it, I was very angry, as the only photographs taken, were taken by the police, so one of them had sold it to the papers, the papers also said that the aircraft was on fire, but I think the civilians reporting this mistook the engine exploding as a fire, I saw no evidence of the pilot being burnt, he had most defiantly been very hot but not burnt, my angry was still boiling when I got to work and immediately went to our Engineering Officer to tell him what I thought of the money grabbing policeman and the ghoulish behaviour of the news people, who in my opinion had no respect for a fallen soldier or his family, I told him that I was now glad that I had resigned from the RAF and was leaving the country of my birth.

Last edited by martynw; 12th Feb 2012 at 14:23. Reason: Land Rover ?
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Old 9th Jan 2012, 21:09
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A very poignant but also interesting recollection martynw, thanks for sharing it with us.
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Old 10th Jan 2012, 09:11
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Interesting to note that the press article above was written by John Chartres, a true old school gentleman and journalist who wrote enthusiastically and often on aviation matters, both in The Times newspaper and his many books.
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Old 19th Jan 2012, 13:55
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Wettenhall Harriers

This crash had a profound effect on many. I was in classes at the time. The school in Winsford is only a few miles away from the crash site.

The shock wave from the initial explosion stopped the classroom extraction fans and the windows shook in their frames. Prompted by the screams from pupils in the yard we rushed to the windows to see what was happening.

We had heard the loud engine noises from the four Harriers as they passed to the south of our playing fields it was muted they used our rugby post as a turn point, as the noise continued after the explosion few believed it came from the aircraft. The two remaining from the flight made a pass before leaving the area. Looking across the fields the sky above the treeline was filled with debris. At first it looked like a black cloud of smoke then it turned earthwards and rained, a mass of small pieces falling to ground.

The collision and following explosion was violent in extreme.

The RAF cleared the site in a week, the high trees and hedges remained covered in debris. The most harrowing memory I have was the discovery some time later of bone fragments from a tree by a local farmer.

The church in Wettenhall has held services in remembrance of the two pilots
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Old 19th Jan 2012, 16:19
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A very poignant but also interesting recollection martynw, thanks for sharing it with us.
..... indeed so - how sad that it still gets spoilt by the briefly-funny-but-no-longer bug (or whatever it is) which turns the name of a cross country vehicle whose initials are L R to "Trabant".

Oh Mods, can we please do something about it - in this sort of context it verges on the offensive.
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Old 19th Jan 2012, 20:22
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Land Rover
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Old 20th Jan 2012, 20:19
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The local history group now has the information from this thread and any more memories would be appreciated as well.
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Old 17th Sep 2013, 14:19
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Yes, thanks for your recollections martyn, I read about a group that produces plaques and mounts them at the scenes of accidents in memory of aircrew who are killed.

It would be nice to know something was done in this way to honor the memory of Flight Lieutenant John Roberts (XV754) and Flight Lieutenant James Downey (XV745). Both pilots were married and had two children.


Last edited by D John; 17th Sep 2013 at 14:20.
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Old 26th Sep 2013, 11:45
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Harrier mid air

Indeed a very sad day and I lost a close friend. John and I were on the same entry and squadron at Cranwell and continued our training together through Valley & Chivenor. He was best man at my wedding in 1971 and, indeed, met his future wife there.

He had a lovely sense of humour and I shall always remember him for his 'decoy' technique for chatting up girls in pubs and his hilarious antics in 'encouraging' passengers to leave our train compartment so that we could have its use to ourselves.

Sadly I attended 2 more funerals of fellow trainees in the next 2 months as a result of flying accidents. Not a good year.
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Old 13th Nov 2014, 22:38
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I'm coming to this thread a little late as I've only just discovered that these forums exist!

John Roberts was my father ... He died when I was 2 and a half. My sister only 6 weeks. The 2 Downey girls were 2 and 4 I think.

We were all very lucky this year to go to Wettenhall for a memorial service to remember them both. We couldn't have been made to feel more welcome by the local residents .. Many of whom remember (and will never forget) that day. A plaque has been erected in the church

I'd love to hear any stories you have about John ...or indeed details of the crash.
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