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The Handley Page, Halifax L9489
'F - Freddie'
Bomber which crashed at Merrist Wood in 1941

A Second World War air drama over Surrey had its sequel 55 years later with the unearthing of an aircraft engine in 1996.

Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine
Rolls-Royce Merlin XX Engine
recovered in 1996 at farmland at Merrist Wood, Worplesdon.

It was on the night of Monday 10 March 1941 that a Halifax bomber of 35 Squadron, Bomber Command was shot down over the Hog's Back in Surrey as it returned to its base at RAF Linton-on-Ouse from a night mission over Le Havre. Four of the crew of six were killed as the plane crashed in flames on farmland near Merrist Wood, Worplesdon.

Local historian Dennis Hoppe, with the assistance of witnesses who were children at the time, pieced together the story and was on hand as members of Croydon Aviation Archaeological Society excavated the wreckage of the engine, front turret and wings. Mr Hoppe said "personal items were also found; the most poignant was a half-crown and blackened cigarette lighter".

It was the bomber's first operational sortie (described as a Nursery Raid) and they had done well, but suddenly the crew's chatter and thoughts were shattered by the totally unexpected bursts of machine-gun fire. Within seconds the two starboard engines were blazing and the sky was illuminated for miles around as the flaming aircraft tilted on its downward path "like a large flaming torch in the night sky from the Hog's Back to Wood Street" as an elderly woman testified in recent years. The RAF night fighter which gunned them down flew back to its base unaware of its terrifying mistake. Squadron Leader P A Gilchrist DFC, the Captain of the stricken aircraft, summed up the incident later as 'A rather sad beginning'.

A plaque was erected on the spot and a memorial dedication ceremony held on Sunday 9th March 1997.

Memorial with plaque
Halifax bomber L9489
Memorial with plaque

Halifax L9489 of 35 Squadron was shot down by "friendly fire" whilst returning from its first operational sortie on the night of 10 March 1941.

This plaque is dedicated with gratitude to the memory of those who died on this spot:

            Sgt R Lucas (Pilot)                         P/O E R Arnold (Observer)
Sgt S Broadhurst (Wireless Operator)       P/O A E Cooper (Gunner)

and those who survived but have since died:

S/L P A Gilchrist DFC (Captain)       Sgt R G Aedy (Flight Engineer)

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"

John Squier

Source and Acknowledgement:
The Story of Halifax L9489
Researched and written by Dennis Hoppe
ISBN 0 9532914 0 5
CWGC Certificates
Sergeant R Lucas, (Pilot) RAF - 2703066
P/O E R Arnold, (Observer) RAF - 2434974
Sergeant S Broadhurst, (Wireless Operator) RAF - 2703086
P/O A E Cooper, (Gunner) RAF - 2734363
Wikipedia links
Handley Page Halifax
Rolls-Royce Merlin
RAF 35 squadron
RAF Linton-on-Ouse

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