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Investigators Pinpoint Spot Jet Aircraft Crashed Near Guildford

Published on: 3 Sep, 2012
Updated on: 10 Sep, 2012

A team of aircraft and local history enthusiasts has found the exact spot a military jet aircraft crashed 60 years ago.

The team who took part in the investigation into finding the crash site. From left: Simon Parry, Rob Bowgen, Frank Phillipson, David Rose and Rob Long.

Partial remains of the aircraft lie under the soil in a field to the south of Pinks Hill, Guildford.

The investigation into finding the crash site on Sunday, September 2, was part of the research being undertaken by Frank Phillipson into an incident that took place on Monday, May 5, 1952, when USAF F-86A Sabre, serial number 49-1311, and RAF Meteor F8, serial number WE929, collided at 25,000ft over the north eastern part of Guildford area during an exercise.

At the time it s was reported that the Sabre ‘crashed into a field of growing rye near Wood Street at Blackwell Farm about 150 yards from the nearest building’. The pilot, Capt. Milton Gray Whitford, of the 81st Fighter Wing at RAF Shepherds Grove (near Bury St Edmunds), baled out (was sucked out) and landed in the garden of a house in Ripley High Street with cuts and shock.

The Meteor of 64 Squadron at Duxford, crashed in thick woods near Piccards Rough, Sandy Lane, St Catherine’s, with the pilot, Squadron Leader PD Thompson, ejecting and landing unhurt in Merrow beside the Epsom Road (near a road called Gateways).

The investigators had received permission from the University of Surrey, who owns the land, to carry out the investigation and at a time when the field did not have crops growing in it. The farmer who rents the field also came along and helped with the search.

Aviation historian Simon Parry from Walton-on-Thames used a metal detector in an attempt to locate items from the aircraft that he believed might be lying near the surface.

Local resident Rob Long was a boy at the time of the crash. Back then he was on the scene with 15 minutes and recalls the incident well.  He regularly walks his dog in the Pinks Hill area and on Sunday came along and guided the crash investigators to the part of the field when he recalls seeing the smoldering remains of the aircraft.

It was not long before Simon Parry found a piece of twisted metal that appeared to be from an aircraft. Further sweeps with his metal detector soon revealed more metallic items, including a great find – the aircraft’s pitot tube. Measuring a few inches long, the pitot tube on a Sabre was mounted facing forward on the right wing tip.

Farmer Tom Porter gets the feel of what it would have been like to have piloted the Sabre jet.

Local historian and writer David Rose (also of the Guildford Dragon News) took part in the investigation and explained what happened next: “Simon then got a very strong reading on his metal detector. He said to me ‘dig there’. So I cleared away the stubble and began to turn over the sticky yellow clay. At a shallow depth I hit mangled soft metallic items. Then my spade hit something very hard indeed. I scraped away the soil and we could all see a flat piece of metal.

“The farmer had come along to see how the investigation was going and suddenly became quite interested in what we were doing. He then took over and soon lifted up a large metal plate. It would have formed a piece of armour plating that was positioned directly behind the pilot’s seat in the aircraft.”

Some of the finds confirming the crash site.

The research into the crash has led Frank Phillipson into making contact with members of the family of the American pilot. Although the pilot has now died, his widow is keen for information about this incident in his flying career.

People out walking stopped by to see what was going on.

David Rose wrote a story for the St Catherine’s Village website in February this year appealing for eyewitness to the two crashes – at Wood Street and Sandy Lane. That story has now been transferred to this website. Click here to see it.

The full story of the incident will be reported here at a later date. A copy of which will then also be lodged with the Surrey History Centre.

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