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Johnnie Wakefield


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#1 Paul Rochdale

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 15:27

I have been looking into the death of John Peter 'Johnnie' Wakefield which was the result of an aircrash at Wargrave, Berkshire on 24 April 1942, whilst in the Fleet Air Arm. I have been in contact with the Wargrave Local History who have found no record so far of any aircrash in the area at that time. I've also contact the Fleet Air Arm Museum and this is their reply -

"Thank you for your recent enquiry. I regret that we do not have any information concerning the fatal accident of John Peter Wakefield. Although he did join the Fleet Air Arm in late 1940, he resigned with effect from 25th March 1942 (one month before his crash). This means that he was not on active service with the Fleet Air Arm at the time of his death. Wakefield is not listed on the Fleet Air Arm Roll of Honour, and I have not been able to find him on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website either".

The local history group are aware of a collision about that time between a Spitfire and a Magister light aircraft so perhaps he was flying a private plane?

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#2 FrankB

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 15:39

Originally posted by Paul Rochdale
The local history group are aware of a collision about that time between a Spitfire and a Magister light aircraft so perhaps he was flying a private plane?


I can't be certain but I wouldn't have thought that there would be much 'private' flying in the UK in 1942, due to the availability of fuel and aircraft. The Miles Magister was a training aircraft used by both the RAF and tha Fleet Air Arm and I should think that they were all firmly in military ownership until after the war. Possibly he was flying in the Magister as a semi legitimate passenger with one of his colleagues who was still enlisted? Your quote from the museum says that they "do not have any information concerning the fatal accident of John Peter Wakefield." Have you tried asking if it was a Fleet Air Arm Magister that was involved in the collision that the local history group have recorded?

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 15:53

Paul: you may have already spotted this, but anyway ...

Wakefield's death was reported in The Times on April 28th 1942 as one of a number of officers "in addition to those whose names have been published in the official list." I assume that means deaths other than on active service. He is still described as Lt JP Wakefield RN, FAA.

#4 RS2000

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 15:55

Nearest Royal Naval Air Station to Wargrave would probably have been RNAS Culham? ("HMS something", in RN tradition of shore establishments). Now partly a nuclear laboratory but has some motorsport history as the last special stage of the 1968 RAC Rally, used for the odd club stage rally afterwards and only last year an (abortive) attempt was made to run a "rallysprint" there.

#5 KJJ

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 15:57

I believe Wakefield was a test pilot for Vickers at the time of the crash and therefore classed as a civilian, I think Adam Ferrington posted about this some time ago.

#6 Adam F

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 16:16

The following are extracts from Wakefield's death certificate :-

When & where died - 24th April 1942 Henley Aerodrome, Wargrave, R.D. (i.e. Wokingham Rural District)

Occupation - of The Bugle Hotel, Hamble, Hants - Test pilot (employed by Messrs Vickers Armstrong)

Cause of death - Shock due to multiple injuries caused by aeroplane he was piloting, crashing - Misadventure.

#7 Paul Rochdale

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 18:36

Well thanks a lot for that very useful information. In spite of checking the 'Search BB' and The Times of the time, I didn't come across the notification of his death anywhere. Is the type of aircraft known. Vickers Armstrong were presumably connected with Vickers Supermarine which suggests a Spitfire?

#8 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 18:51

With his final place of residence given as an hotel in Hamble, I'd say that was possible ....;)

In fact, he's on this list of Spitfire Test Pilots and the accident is described at Test Flying Memorial

April 24, 1942
TAKE-OFF POINT: Aldermaston, Berks
CRASH LOCATION: Aldermaston, Berks
AIRCRAFT TYPE & SERIAL: Supermarine Spitfire Mk IV BR413
CREW FATALITIES: Lt J. Wakefield RNVR, Supermarine Production TP
PURPOSE OF TEST FLIGHT: Production test flight
ACCIDENT DETAIL: Crashed on take-off avoiding training aeroplane



#9 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 19:15

RNAS Culham (HMS Hornbill) didn't open until 1944.

RAF Aldermaston (now the site of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment) opened in 1941 and one of the five hangars was used by Supermarine for Spitfire production. The planes were test flown from the airfield.

This was in fact before it became an operational RAF base (on July 1st 1942), but it never saw an RAF squadron, transferring to the USAAF in October 1943.

http://en.wikipedia....RAF_Aldermaston

#10 Paul Rochdale

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 19:58

Thank you again. As Wargrave Aerodrome and Aldermaston are 16 miles apart, I wonder which is the correct location of the crash? Sorry to sound so exact but I'd like to get it right.

#11 Chris Bloom

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 20:14

I'm sure he will have a great game on Saturday, put a few conversions over with a bit of luck :lol:

#12 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 20:26

Originally posted by Paul Rochdale
Thank you again. As Wargrave Aerodrome and Aldermaston are 16 miles apart, I wonder which is the correct location of the crash? Sorry to sound so exact but I'd like to get it right.


The plot thickens! Apparently Spits were also assembled at and test flown from RAF Henley:

When the Supermarine works at Southampton was bombed in October 1940, production of Spitfires was diversified to other parts of the country and Reading became one of the main manufacturing centres.

Production of the main aircraft components was carried out at Vincent’s Garage in Station Square, Great Western Motors’ Garage in Vastern Road and a factory in Star Road, Caversham.

On completion, these main components were transported by low-loader lorries, known as ‘Queen Marys’, to a small RAF airfield at Crazies Hill, on the hill above Wargrave - although it was always known as Henley airfield. There, in a hangar of the same type as the one currently housing the Museum of Berkshire Aviation, final assembly was carried out.

The painting shows a Spitfire destined for a Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron climbing away towards Henley on its first test flight. Afterwards, it would almost certainly be delivered by an A.T.A. pilot to one of the R.A.F.’s storage unit or to its operational squadron.

Later in the war, Newbury also became a production centre for Spitfires and the components from there and from Reading were taken to the airfield at Aldermaston for final assembly.


http://www.geoffbeck...les/Page760.htm

#13 RS2000

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 20:32

Without checking, I assume a Spitfire Mk IV would have been the first PR version - operated when in service from RAF Benson, not a million miles away either.

#14 Vitesse2

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 20:41

Nope. The Mk IV was the first Griffon-engined Spit, although it apparently never reached squadron service.

edit: Ah. There were two different Mk IVs! Firstly the Griffon-engined model which evolved into the Mk XII and secondly a photo-recce Merlin-engined one called the PR Mk IV.

(Pity the poor historian ....)

#15 Doug Nye

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 22:06

That's a fascinating test flying website which I did not know existed. This poignant entry has motor racing connotations too...

June 26, 1942
TAKE-OFF POINT: Great West Aerodrome, Hayes, Middx
CRASH LOCATION: Wokingham, Berks
AIRCRAFT TYPE & SERIAL: Fairey Firefly Mk I Z1827
CREW FATALITIES: Mr C.S. Staniland, Fairey Aviation CTP
PURPOSE OF TEST FLIGHT: Test flight at 10,000ft involving phugoidal oscillations
ACCIDENT DETAIL: Sudden dive to 6,000ft and cessation of engine noise. Aircraft then assumed climbing attitude before entering flat spin and parts of the structure began to break away. The pilot made no attempt to escape

DCN

#16 RS2000

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 18:50

"Great West Aerodrome" being better known as Heston? Or were they using Heathrow by then? (Heston was also a motorsport venue, for some sort of sprint in the 50s).

#17 Allan Lupton

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 19:47

Originally posted by RS2000
"Great West Aerodrome" being better known as Heston? Or were they using Heathrow by then? (Heston was also a motorsport venue, for some sort of sprint in the 50s).

Certainly a few years later the Faireys were taking off from Heston, according to later accident reports.

#18 Doug Nye

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 20:10

Heston aerodrome and the Heathrow site are adjacent but were indeed entirely separate aeronautical sites.

DCN

#19 RS2000

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 20:51

Well, near, but not close to sharing a boundary. Most of Cranford and the odd field between. Fairey flew the Rotodyne from Heston and had an hydraulics operation there even later, alongside Ministry of Civil Aviation offices. It would probably have been around 1958 that a sprint or something like it was still using a remaining bit of perimeter track not dug up for gravel extraction (and then later "landfilled" for the M4 and its service area).
Many of the fish in the flooded Heston gravel pits were caught just prior to final landfill and released in newer former gravel workings near the current site of the MSA. A special prize for any more tenuous motorsports connection than that..?

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#20 cooper997

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Posted 29 August 2021 - 11:40

Dusting off an old thread, with an even older page from 2/9/38 The Autocar

 

1938-Wakefield-ERA-TNF.jpg

cooper997 collection

 

 

Stephen