Wellington Z8799 - Anglezark Moor

16th November 1943

Updated 24.10.2003

Type Unit Base Duty Crew Passengers
Wellington No. 28 OTU Wymeswold Night training excercise 6 -

The night of 15th/16th of November 1943 was unusually clear and apart from sub-zero temperatures, provided near perfect flying conditions as Wellington Z8799 took off at 2250 hours for a night training exercise. However cold could be equally as deadly as poor visibility, with de-icing provision on aircraft at this time being at best basic or even non existent. It is believed that some four hours into the flight ice had formed on the airframe to such an extent that control was lost and Z8879 entered a steep high speed dive resulting in eventual structural failure and the break up of the aircraft. At some point during the last minutes of Z8799, the dinghy broke free from it stowage compartment in the nacelle behind the Port engine and is believed to have become entangled with the tail of the aircraft, damaging the control surfaces before breaking free. Whether the ice build up or the damage to the tail was the critical factor behind the loss of this aircraft will remain a matter for conjecture, either way the result was the loss of the aircraft and deaths of the entire crew as the wreckage scattered over an area of moorland known as Great hill on Anglezarke moor near Horwich, Lancs.

Name Position Status
Flt. Sgt. J. Timperon Pilot K.
Sgt. E.R. Barnes Co-pilot K.
Sgt. J.B. Hayton Navigator? K.
Sgt. R.S. Jackson Wireless operator/Air gunner K.
Sgt. G.E. Murray Wireless operator/Air gunner? (possibly Navigator) K.
Sgt. M. Mouncey Air gunner K.

 

My sons at the Memorial to the crew of Z8799

Detail of the memorial plaque

Near the site today is one of the few memorials to the victims of such an aircraft loss in Lancashire in the form of a stone pillar bearing a brass plaque listing the names of the crew, but with an incorrect date. The memorial was erected in 1955 by the Rotary Club of Horwich and is situated in a popular local beauty spot known as, Lead mine Clough, close to the Yarrow Reservoir below Anglezarke moors. The area where the aircraft impacted is higher up on the moors beyond a conifer plantation planted in recent years, though there is no visible evidence of the tragedy today. Some years ago a few parts of the aircraft were apparently revealed by extensive moorland fires in the area, including part of an exhaust collector ring, but these had disappeared by the time we were alerted to their discovery. It is likely that these last few fragments were removed during a sweep of the area by EOD, clearing unexploded mortar bombs etc. left over from exercises which took place during WW2 and which were also revealed by the grass fires.

Area where Z8799 fell to earth on Great Hill

Recently a letter has come to light courtesy of Graeme Hanson, written by Police War Reserve Constable C.H. Swift (Deceased) from Chorley in 1955 to a relative of one of the crew members of Z8799. PC Swift witnessed the final moments of the stricken aircraft and was one of the first at the scene of the crash:

"That night was not a very dark one, neither was it stormy, yet for several nights previous, it had been intensely cold, with frost up to 15 below zero. I was on night-duty; it was a starry night, with white culimnous cloud, hiding a 3/4 full moon. I had been given 1.30am as my supper period, which we had in the Chorley Police Station. It was a 1/2 hour break and I remember the heavy drone of an aircraft at what seemed overhead, as I entered the station. Half and hour later, I left again in company of a Police Patrol Driver, to resume a given area of patrol.
Strange it seemed, the noise of the aircraft was still hanging around. My friend remarked how cold it must be up there, we could not see anything of course. For ten minutes or so, I had his company, he was finishing his night's duty and I was alone, making my way to a Police point expecting a visit there from the Sergeant of Inspector. It so-happened that I was passing a branch of Leyland Motor Works, when the noise of an aircraft, increased tremendously. I looked up, there descending, almost over my head was an aircraft. It bore a yellow and green light on each wing tip, and I could see two engine cowlings on each at the front. My personal feelings at that moment was, Enemy aircraft - bombing the Leyland Works, but the plane was then only 2 or 3 hundred feet above with both it's engines running at-full throttle, when over the houses in front of me, it disappeared. Two or three seconds later a crash came, it shook the ground where I stood, though the crashed plane was found 5 miles away, from that point. The time I shall never forget was 28 min. past 2 in the morning.
I ran to the telephone kiosk 30 yards ahead of me, when I heard running feet approaching, it was the Police inspector and the Sergeant. They had heard all, but did not see anything. I confirmed a plane crash, and rang for a car. By 2.30AM, along with the Inspector and Sergeant, we were on the way to the countryside. The inspector asked me for an area likely to contain the crash, so we arrived at the edge of Anglezarke Moor, and proceeded to search the woods, but had to give up. We returned to the Police Station for reinforcements and left again at 7am with a party of 6. I was given the lead so I made immediately for the Moors again and with coming light, continued the search. I discovered a rabbit dead, but not frozen, so we alerted all, and ahead of me was seen something unusual. It was a turret (rear gunner) and a petrol tank, 20 yards to my left was a Wellington Bomber lying on its back.
We recovered five bodies, a sixth was later found beneath the front of the bomber. We had to search for identification purposes, discovering the first to be an Australian, another if I remember rightly came from Sheffield, the rest from the South of England. They had in their possession identity cards, this proved to us that the bomber had not been over enemy territory. I remember to one of the crew had a long envelope, on the front was printed 'your photographs' one 1/2 dozen - inside was on 1/2 dozen photographs of the airmen and a pretty young lady. That must have been one of the last things he did, collect his photographs, for none had been taken out.
You can have my opinion for what it is worth. The crash was not due to engine failure, for at no time did I hear any unusual noise from the engines. I would say the icy conditions forced the plane to crash. I had to make a report and plan of the crash, but that was the last I heard of the incident, I was not called to any Air force enquiry. One of the Bomber's engines was missing, but recovered 12 months after in a wood, some 10 miles away in Darwen area, Lancashire"

The latter piece of information finally solving a long running mystery about this aircraft - the persistent rumours in the area that one of the engines was never recovered and remains on the moor. Also there is another local story concerning a bomber being lost over the Darwen area, which does not tie in with any known records!!! Finally it graphically illustrates that the aircraft must have begun to break up at considerable altitude.


Acknowledgements:

David W. Earl (Hell on High Ground 2), RAF Form 1180.Graeme Hanson.

 

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