Plane crash

PUBLISHED: 10:08 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:48 06 May 2010

SIR, — When I read your article (Herts Advertiser, November 27) on the staff awards at Aldwickbury Golf Club in Harpenden, it recalled to my mind a somewhat traumatic occurrence which befell Aldwickbury Farm, the site of the present golf course, back in t

SIR, - When I read your article (Herts Advertiser, November 27) on the staff awards at Aldwickbury Golf Club in Harpenden, it recalled to my mind a somewhat traumatic occurrence which befell Aldwickbury Farm, the site of the present golf course, back in the 1950s.

The farm was owned by the Hett family and was locally known as "Hett's Farm". I received a call that there had been a death at the farm resulting from an air crash. When I got to the scene, I came upon a somewhat shocked farmer contemplating an enormous deep hole in one of his arable fields with mounds of soft soil scattered over a wide area.

I was told an eye-witness had seen a plane diving vertically downwards and that the RAF had confirmed it must be one of their jet-propelled Meteor fighter-bomber planes which had just gone missing over the area. At the scene there was no sign of plane or pilot. The only item found attributable to the pilot was a metal bracelet from a wristwatch.

The enquiry team soon arrived and for some time dug even deeper into the crater in search of the engines which might provide a clue as to the cause of the disaster but they found nothing of note relating to either the plane or its unfortunate pilot.

However the cause soon became apparent when a member of the public happened upon a piece of wreckage on the ground about a mile or so back along the route the plane was known to have been flying. The find was identified as the remains of a door to the bomb-bay of a Meteor aircraft.

At the subsequent inquest, expert evidence was given that the door showed signs of having been violently forced from its fastenings and further, that if such a thing occurred accidently when a plane was flying at a normal speed, the plane would instantly be destabilised to a state beyond the pilot's control. The conclusion had to be that the door had not been properly secured before take-off.

And so all you good members of Aldwickbury Golf Club, the next time you tread those pristine fairways of yours, perhaps you could spare a kindly thought for all the surviving friends and relatives of a fine young officer who 50 years ago met an untimely death on what is now your golf club and whose last resting place is still somewhere down there beneath your feet.

Incidentally the inquest itself was something of a rarity. It had to be conducted without the existence of an identified body.

IAN LECKIE,

Former Deputy Coroner for St Albans and Barnet.

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