Written by Jamie Whittaker
First Published
RAF Badge

The Beginning

William Readhead or Bill as he was known was born in 1929 at Burton Stather. (Not to be confused with Burton Upon Stather which was the posh folk who lived at the top of the hill). His father Roland was the last ferryman to have plied his trade across the river at Burton.

Bill loved Burton but moved to Scunthorpe for work at the steelworks. While there he raised a family and didn’t return until many years later because of ill health. He would come back regularly to visit family and friends by car, bicycle or often by foot.

As a child of the hills and river he knew all the paths, secret places, wild food patches, how to forage game bird eggs and wild mushrooms, where and how to catch eels. He knew the gamekeepers, the poachers, where the secret resistance bunker was. He’d seen ships of all types, salmon, dolphin and even whales travel the Trent. He came from a family of 5 siblings each having their own knowledge of Burton.

In the 70’s when treasure hunts by car were popular, we would compete, usually starting from the pub in Flixborough and drive round the villages including Burton collecting clues and eventually ending back at Flixborough for prize giving and a few pints. If Bill was with us, we always won, he knew the area so well.

His love of Burton, especially the hills was so strong that on numerous occasions he would walk to Burton even into his 50’s with just the clothes he had on, his cap, pipe, backy pouch and matches. Go into the woods on the hills, build a shelter and bed of grass, start a fire and stay the night smoking his pipe and remembering his childhood. In the morning he would wash in a stream and return to Scunthorpe.

I grew up listening to stories of his childhood. We would often go to Burton hills for a picnic and he would regale us with memories and stories of what went on around there.

Burton became as magical a place to me as it was to him.

One of my favourite stories was of the little yellow trainer plane, as he called it, which crashed on the hillside; the pilot’s body and engine of which were recovered by a young Bill and his father Roland. I thought this story was romanticised and sensationalised but later found out it was pretty much correct without too much exaggeration.

The location of the crash site was, as is now difficult to access.

In about 1989 I had the opportunity to visit the site as the area of hillside between the river and footpath along the hilltop had been cleared of gorse, brambles and bush. It was possible to walk down the hill to the site with relative ease.

The location is within a small copse of mainly Sycamore trees which at the time would have hidden the crashed plane from view of the path above.

On entering the copse which had now grown to a small wood I saw a flat plateau with branches of the trees leaning outwards as if damaged by something big. The view beyond was of the pylons and cables across the river.

I could see the route the plane took under the wires and finished at the place I was now standing. As if by magic I looked down and found a piece of buckled aluminium with remnants of green paint, I knew I was at the right place.

Looking around the ground you could see the remains of a fence with rotten posts. Attatched to the wires were rusted pieces of chicken wire. This was known as the rabbit fence and the last resting place of the pilot, I shuddered at the thought.

Afterwards the hillside regrew and access was made very difficult again.

View from the hilltop above the crash site 360° panorama

About 18 years later I attempted to gain access to the site by travelling along the woods from Burton along the river bank. The copse was still there and the plateau but the hole in the side with the broken branches was now gone and the view of the cables now overgrown. I looked around in the leaf litter for bits of metal and only found a small piece.

I then decided to research the crash and see what else I could find.

This is what I found:-

The Aircraft

Throughout WW2 Wellingtons, Lancaster’s, Hurricanes etc were often seen flying along the Trent in both directions and even German aircraft. They used the Trent for navigation as it was one of the longest rivers in the country.

Returning planes could also come in from over the North Sea and look for the Humber; follow it then turn left at the falls, then follow the river to various airfields nearby. A similar route was also made easier for aircraft doing target practice off the Lincolnshire coast by flying West inland from the coast, looking for Lincoln Cathedral and taking a bearing to the many airfields close by.

RAF trainers still fly along the Trent.

As well as the large planes smaller planes or trainers as Bill called them were also witnessed. One particular was a small (Yellow or yellow underbelly) trainer that was often seen Buzzing around the river.

This yellow (Trainer) was one of many or multiple sighting of the same plane.

Talking to people over the years from Burton who had heard about the crash had their own ideas of what model it was; which included: Spitfire, Hurricane, or the most popular guess was a Boulton Paul Defiant. This in my ignorance I then repeated to others.

The (yellow trainers) were not trainers at all but were flown by fully qualified pilots with multiple flight hours under their belt. They were Miles Martinets and were mainly used for target practice, dogfight training and Air Affiliation.

Previously any obsolete aircraft were used for this role. This was the first aircraft to be specifically designed as a tug aircraft.

Based on the Miles Master the engine was brought further forward to compensate for the drag of the drogue targets.

Miles Martinet with wind driven winch

The Martinet would usually fly to a safe area over the sea and unfurl from the rear a drogue target on the end of a long line. Trainee pilots would then attack the target mid-air or Anti-Aircraft batteries from the coast. Later the target after been wound back in would be checked and scored for accuracy. Some Martinets had an electric winch and some had a small exterior propeller driven winch for the target cables.

Usually there were two occupants 1 pilot and 1 drogue target operator.

The Martinets were painted all yellow, yellow below green or yellow belly with black stripes to be easily distinguishable and so hopefully not being shot by accident during live firing exercises. The Martinets had no armour protection for the pilot.

In our area the Miles Martinets were based 82 O.T.U (Operational Training Unit) at RAF Ossington near Newark.

Miles Martinet

As a pilot during a daylight exercise the easiest way to navigate was using V.F.R (Visual Flight Rules) This would include rivers, and prominent land marks.

To get to the Lincolnshire coast target area from Ossington was basically fly East until you hit the coast. To return, head West until Lincoln Cathedral and take a bearing to your own air base, which there were many nearby. The alternative route could have been: fly North along the coast until you see Grimsby dock tower, turn left up the Humber estuary and follow inland to the Trent. Take a left and follow upstream.

If weather was bad, low cloud or fog, low flying along Humber and Trent would allow you to use the river as navigation. The main obstacles on the route were Grimsby Dock Tower, Keadby Bridge and the pylons and cables over the river just north of Burton.

Low flying was not encouraged and was a punishable offence which could be added to a pilot’s service record.

The aircraft which crashed into the hillside was a green and yellow under bellied Miles Martinet with a Mercury 25 radial Engine. Its number was MS870

It was built by Phillips and Powis at Woodley near Reading in 1943. The following is its movements including the history of the of locations it stayed at:-

19th October 1943: MS870 delivered to 27 Maintenance Unit (RAF Shawbury)

RAF Shawbury

The station's association with flying training goes back to June 1917, when No 29 (Flying Training) Wing and the Airplane Repair Section of the Royal Flying Corps were established, under the command of Major A W Tedder for a short period, on the site of today's airfield. Based at No 9 Training Depot Station, as Shawbury was then known, were Nos 10, 29 and 67 Squadrons operating Avro 504s, DH5As/5Bs, 130 Clergets, Bristol Scouts, Nieuports, Maurice Farman Shorthorns and, for advanced flying training, Sopwith Camels. By 1920 the site had reverted to its original agricultural use.

Darkening war clouds gathering over Germany in the late 1930s saw Shawbury once again activated as an airfield in 1938, under the command of Group Captain H P Lale DSO DFC, although the arrival of No 27 Maintenance Unit (MU) on 1 February preceded that of No 11 Flying Training School (FTS) from RAF Wittering by 3 months. Aircraft types seen operating at RAF Shawbury and its numerous relief landing grounds during these early days included the Hart, Blenheim, Audax, Battle, Gladiator, and Fury. By mid-1940 the FTS was consolidating the training given by civilian instructors to prepare pilots for operational squadrons. In 1942, now renamed as No 11 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit, the unit received its pilots for training from overseas bases - mainly in the USA. Although RAF Shawbury was relatively safe from any serious air threat from the enemy throughout the war (one incident occurred on 27 June 1940 when a German aircraft dropped bombs on and around the airfield) it is reported that one of the Chief Flying Instructors, Squadron Leader P H Maxwell, often flew a Hurricane in defense of the station!

28 November 1943: MS870 Transferred to 82 Operational Training Unit (RAF Ossington)

RAF Ossington

The land for RAF Ossington was requisitioned in October 1940 and work began on the airfield in 1941. Areas of North and High Wood were cleared and the road closed to facilitate the building of the airfield. It was built to the standard pattern of a bomber airfield, with three intersecting concrete runways: 24/06 - NE/SW (2000 yards/1828 m), 26/08 - ENE/WSW (1400 yards/1280 m) and 31/13 - SE/NW (1400 yards/1280 m), surrounding which was the perimeter track from which were 30 frying-pan type heavy bomber hard standings. Four T2 hangars were provided. The Technical Site was to the east and north of the airfield and the bomb dump situated to the south west in High Wood. Dispersed and accommodation sites for a total of 2463 RAF and WAAF, all ranks off to the east near the village of Ossington.

RAF Ossington

Originally built as a bomber airfield, RAF Ossington opened as part of 5 Group, Bomber Command but was transferred to Flying Training Command shortly after it opened in January 1942. The first unit to occupy the site was 14 (P) AFU with its Airspeed Oxfords, who moved in on January 19th 1942 and stayed until transferring to Banff, Scotland in May 1943. The airfield was transferred back to Bomber Command under 93 (OTU) Group with RAF Gamston as its satellite. Ossington's next unit, 82 OTU, was formed from 28 OTU Wymeswold in June 1943, who’s Wellingtons temporarily used Ossington whilst work was being undertaken there. A mixture of Wellington IIIs and Wellington Xs could be seen and operated in support of Bomber Command operations, as did many OTUs, on many of the leafleting raids (nickelling) as a preparation for operation life.

The routine at Ossington was fighter affiliation and target practice. Miles Martinet target tugs were used for live air to air firing and fighter affiliation duties were undertaken at first by the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks (later replaced with Hurricanes) of 1685 Bomber Defence Training Flight.

In June 1944, Ossington lost Gamston as its satellite and the OTU was reduced in strength until it eventually disbanded in January 1945. The airfield passed to Transport Command and the Lancaster of No. 6 Lancaster Finishing School took up residence. A joint venture between Training Command and BOAC, it converted crews from the Lancaster to the civilian version, the Lancastrian, for the England - New Zealand route. The LFS disbanded in November 1945 and from it was formed 1 (Transport) Conversion Unit, whose purpose it was to convert Lancaster crews to the Avro York for the long-distance transport role. Upon disbanding in 1946, flying ceased at Ossington and the site was disposed of soon afterwards. Today, very little remains.

Miles Martinet MS870 Movements

26th January 1944: Involved in Flying Accident Category A.c (Cat.A.c Repair is beyond the unit capacity, i.e., may be repaired on site by another unit or contractor)

15th February 1944: Returned to Operational Service

3rd March 1944: Transferred back to 820 Operational Training Unit (RAF Ossington)

8th June 1944: Involved in Flying Accident Category E.2 (Cat.E2 Aircraft is a write-off and suitable only for scrap)

18th June 1944: Signed Off Charge

The Pilot

The Pilots name was Flight Officer Gordon Smith from Selby, Yorkshire. This is his service movements and Promotions.

Service Movements for Gordon Smith
Service Records for Gordon Smith

Below are the rough translations of the service cards

  1. Started at the Recruit Centre 31/7/41
  2. Moved to the Reserve 1/08/41
  3. Moved to No.1 Aircraft Reserve Command 27/10/41
  4. Moved to no.9 Initial Training Wing 29/11/41
  5. Moved to 59 group pool 18/3/42
  6. Moved to Aircraft Dispatch Centre U842
  7. Discharged from training at RAF Belpers 31/12/42
  8. Transferred to Washington USA to No. 5 British Flying Training School 1/1/43
  9. Moved to the no.7 Personnel Recreation Centre 3/2/43
  10. Returned to UK
  11. Moved to No.5 Advanced Flying Unit 11/5/43
  12. Moved to No 1 Conversion training school 5/10/43
  13. Moved to 82 Operational Training School Unit 11/12/43
  14. Killed on active service 7/6/44


Air Craftsman 2nd class 31/07/41

Leading Air Craftsman 6/07/43

Granted Commn to the emergency as Flying Officer ??(Ex Leading Air Craftsman)

Flight Officer on probation (w) Confirmed in appointment

Killed on active service (Flight Accident) Accident to aircraft 7/06/44

The Pylons

Tall pylon on the West bank of The Trent

The high-tension electric cables over the Trent hang from two pylons, one on the hillside of normal height and the other on the west bank of the Trent. This Pylon having to take into account the height of the opposite escarpment was built very tall, in fact it’s one of the tallest in the country. Depending on the ambient temperature the cables can expand and contract causing them to droop or rise by many metres.

The distance between the pylon tops is 1000mtrs or 1Km.

At present there are two sets of pylons and cables the second being erected in the 90’s. The original being erected in about 1939.

Shortly after the original very large pylon was erected, Bill Readhead and his older brother Jack attempted to climb the Pylon. Jack said he was going to climb that Eiffel Tower pylon and be the first person to write his name at the top. He’d been bragging to mates and people at the time that he was going to do it and be the first, they thought him a little crazy.

On the morning of the attempted ascent both Bill and Jack started to climb watched by various on lookers. The pylon ladder goes up to a number of staging platforms. William only being about 10 got to the first platform and chickened out. Jack carried on.

Jack did indeed climb it and scratched his name into the metal at the top but was very annoyed when he eventually got back down to the awaiting group. Puzzled they asked What’s wrong Jack?

There was already somebody else’s f##king name there! he said.

The Story

On June 7th 1944 the D Day landing operation commenced. At 15:10 the allied troops had almost gained control of Omaha beach. 2374 lay dead or dying at that beachhead.

At the same time on that overcast Wednesday afternoon a young flying officer from Selby fatally crashed his plane into the Burton Stather hillside.

Gordon Smith was a young Flying officer originally from Selby in Yorkshire but was based at RAF Ossington. He was a member of the RAFVR (Royal Air Force Voluntary reserve) his duties included flying Miles Martinets in target practice, and Air Affiliation. He had 362 hours of solo flight experience and 134 of flying the Miles Martinet. He was 22 years old.

Amphibious Sherman Tank

At the time of the crash the Army were constructing a secret amphibious tank trial base just north of the village of Burton. Because of the nature of this work the Field Security Corp (Military Intelligence) were involved and information about what was going on had to be kept as secret as possible.

At the bottom of Stather hill near Villa Farm was a security post with barrier and sentry hut. Only people with a security pass were allowed beyond for access to their property or for work use. This pass was valid for non-operational periods only. While the tank trials were in operation only the military or personnel with their own special passes were permitted through.

Security pass for Bill Readhead to allow gardening of the rear of two properties beyond the Barrier.
Norman Cooper as a Sergeant in the Military Intelligence.

For the duration the head of the tank trial site security was Sergeant Norman Cooper. He was a member of the Field Security Corp, which became Military Intelligence. As well as being in charge of security and secrecy of the trials and bridging camp he was often seconded to other locations to perform interrogations of suspected spies, stowaways, downed pilots and people of a threat to military and national security.

The sister of Jack and Bill Readhead was Dulcie, who also lived at the Stather with her family including father Roly Readhead.

She met Leon Witkowski a bomber mechanic at an RAF Hemswell dance, fell in love, got pregnant and married him in April 1943.

Leon & Dulcie’s wedding day at the All-Souls Catholic church in Scunthorpe.

In August the following year Leon’s Halifax bomber was hit by flak, exploded mid-air and crashed to the ground in Hungary with the loss of all aboard.

Dulcie was pregnant at the time with Leon’s child.

Three months after the crash Dulcie gave birth to Maria.

Sadly Maria Witkowski only lived for five years until she succumb to cancer.

Dulcie may have known Norman Cooper at the time because of her location and the work her father did to help the military. After the war in May 1948, she married Norman and became Dulcie Cooper.

Roly Readhead was the last ferryman that worked from the Stather. He came from a long line of ferrymen and boat operators working the Trent. The Readheads of Burton can be traced back to 1690.

Roland Readhead, last Burton Ferryman

Because of his knowledge and mastery of the tides and currents he was usually consulted regarding matters of the river. When the military took over the area Roly and others helped with moving people, equipment, water safety and anything else he could do, for a charge of course. Because of this he got a special security pass and had to sign the official secrets act.

The Crash

At 14:40 on June 7th 1944 Flight Officer Gordon Smith of the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve took off from 82 Operation Training Unit RAF Ossington in a Miles Martinet number MS870. He headed out over the green fields of Lincolnshire, his mission was to take part in a simulated attack and dog fight with a Hurricane, it’s likely the Hurricane took off from the same airfield with a pilot who required training or could have been intercepted by a pilot from another airfield.

Travelling south over the falls of the Humber, Ouse and Trent the two planes were engaged in simulated attacks. The Hurricane being more powerful and faster than the Martinet would normally be at an advantage but with a more experienced pilot with knowledge of the area the Martinet could make it a lot more interesting.

Close by were two pylons either side of the river with cables drooped across.

At 15:20 The Martinet flew low over the surface under the power lines stretched across the river. The Hurricane pulled off the mock attack but the Martinet didn’t pull up, after travelling under the wires possibly struck a sand bank, careered over the steep river bank and crashed into the hillside killing the pilot instantly.

The Hurricane after witnessing the crash radioed the details and returned to base. Commanding officer John Hawtrey was informed.

After landing, the pilot was de briefed and exact coordinates logged. Recovery operations were started shortly afterwards.

The military camp at the Burton was contacted and a search party mustered. Soldiers walked along the hillside looking for the plane and eventually found it. Because of its location it was decided access was going to be easier via the river. Roly was tasked with the job of taking Norman Cooper and a couple of soldiers down the river to an approximate location near the pylons. They beached the boat and climbed up the bank. Around the area was scrub, gorse, brambles, difficult to get through on foot. In the middle was a copse of larger Sycamore trees. That’s where they found the plane and body of Gordon Smith.

The Miles Martinet was a fragile plane built with canvas, wood and aluminium.

After it hit the trees and ground it broke into lots of pieces, the engine parting from the frame, wings smashing off and the pilot catapulted through the fuselage landing on a nearby fence. Differing eye witnesses and accounts say he was hanging on a fence, leaning up against a tree, decapitated, serious head damage, head to the left hanging by tendons, dangling from a tree. Whatever the truth, it’s fair to say he was deceased.

A couple of soldiers were left at the scene while Roly and Norman returned for further instructions. They later returned with some tarpaulin and wrapped the body up. It was brought back to the jetty and stored in an open fronted garage near the Ferry House pub beyond the security barrier. Later a doctor from Scunthorpe came to pronounce the body dead.

The way it is with gossip in villages it wasn’t long before the local kids had discovered the crash and had found a way to it. Rumour has it that a lad found the pilots service revolver but was later grassed up and had to return it to the police. Other souvenirs were also removed from the wreckage.

The next day the body was taken away by military ambulance and commanding officer John Hawtry came from RAF Kirton Lyndsey to sign the death certificate. The body would then be transferred to his family and buried at Selby cemetery in the family grave.

Gordon Smiths death certificate

Flying Officer 150048 Gordon Smith received the 1939-1945 War medal and the 1939-45 Star for his wartime services.

War Medal 1939 - 1945 1939 - 1945 Star

The Aftermath

The investigation and salvage operation started the day after would continue for the rest of the week. Roly and others transferred officials and military personnel to the site and returned with parts of the plane and left it in front of the Ferry House pub under guarded tarpaulins and was taken away by military trucks.

Most of the metal, wings, cockpit, control panel and majority of what was salvageable was removed including the Mercury engine.

The Mercury Radial engine which had to be balanced in the small boat.
The Mercury Radial engine which had to be balanced in the small boat.
Bill Readhead

The engine caused Roly and his son Bill a bit of worry as of its weight and size compared to the boat. When they loaded it on board there was only about 2" to the water on each side of the boat. Roly was at the rudder while William stood moving his weight around to keep the boat balanced. They managed to get it back without taking on too much water.

After all what was salvageable was removed the operation ceased and the site was left to kids and locals to go over what was left. Most of the bits were taken as souvenirs. There are still bits of the plane gathering dust in sheds and drawers in the village including the rear wheel, Bakelite control knob, magneto cover, parts off the chain sprocket of the control column, wing reinforcement struts, oil tank sump plug stainless pipe attachment and clip, and various other pieces of metal debris.

Of interesting note is what was done with the shards of Plexyglass from the fuselage. The kids would make rings from it.

Ring made from an American bomber Plexyglass.

A thin-walled metal pipe about 1" diameter would be heated up and pushed through the glass to make disk, a smaller rod would then be pushed through the middle creating a washer, while still warm and malleable it would be kneaded and formed into a ring. It could then be sanded smooth and polished or engraved. It’s not known if any of these exist still in the village.

RAF Investigation

These are copies of the RAF investigation forms. The writing in places is illegible but what can be translated is :-

The RAF air accident investigation form 1180, on two sheets
Duty???? EX. With other A/C
I LOGSuspected low flying crash: other a/c had called off attack due line com failure 412: ?
ABOKa/c Struck ground carrying out unautherised low flying
POLPilot suspected of low flying had been involved In low flying case ????, very undiciplined
EOC412 Pilot carried out unautherised low flying
AOC???? ??? ??
AOC? ????? AOC & ADC In C??????

With the findings of this court

(AOC) Air Officer Comanding

(ADC) Aircraft Disposal Company

Results of Investigation

Basically the investigation put the blame squarely on the pilot for unauthorised low flying.

Unlike now, air accidents were not as thoroughly investigated during war time because of lack of manpower and time. A young wreckless undiciplined pilot crashed his plane, wipe his name off the rosta board and get another one.

There was a similar Pilot in WW2 who was highly decorated, was heroic, lost his legs in a crash and learnt to fly again on wooden stumps, was a POW and escaped and became famous for his actions. He was wreckless, he flew low level and broke the rules. His commanding officers wrote on his records Undiciplined The name:-

Douglas Bader
Douglas Bader

The Lipstick connection

Flame-Glo adverts from the 1940’s

Flameglow was an American cosmetics brand which marketed lipsticks distributed by Rejuvia Labaratories Inc. New York USA.

These were manufactured for the American market and were not sold outside USA. These lipstics came in normal and smaller purse size.

Years after the crash, found buried with other debris of the plane was a purse size Flame-Glo lipstick. The case was in remarkable condition. Most of the gold plating had gone but the red painted lines were intact and the branding can be read with an eyeglass. The lid was carroded shut and was unfortunatly broken while trying to gain access. Once opened the pigment stick was still moist and usable with the well recognisable oily lipstick smell, the colour being a light pink.

How did it find its way to a hillside in Burton amoung the wreckage of a plane.

Gordon had been to Washington USA between 1st Jan 1943 and returned on 3rd Feb of the same year. Did he meet an american girl and brought this back as a reminder of her and kept it on his person?

Did he buy it and bring it back for a girl in the UK?

Or did it come from the USA and was given to another girl who happened to visit the site and drop it?

Whos knows?

I like to believe it was a momento from an American romance.

Unfortunatly the bottom was broken off while trying to open it which shows the lifting mechanismn and the light pink colour.

The Pipe connection

Remains of a pipe from the aircraft.

At the site amongst the remains were found a brass sump plug still atatched to the iron drain hole and a stainless steel angled pipe connector.

This could have been for fuel or hydraulic liquid, whats odd is that the clamp which is used to hold the hose to the assembley is fastened tight to the pipe further down as if it were moved and the hose just pushed on without being clamped. This is normally unusual but especially for planes where this type of connection is clamped and sometimes wired to double check the hose won’t vibrate off the pipe. There is still a small piece of wire through the bolt.

Did it come off causing him to run out of fuel as he tried to pull up from under the cables or did fuel starvation cause him to dive under the cables in the first place.

The plane had been involved in a previous accident and was repaired, did this contribute to the final crash?

The Berlin Express connection

Bill Overstreet

Two months before the Burton crash in Paris an American pilot flying his P-51 Mustang named The Berlin Express was chasing a German Messershmitt BF-109 in a dog fight. He had opened fire and had damaged the 109. In an attemp to escape, the German flew under the bottom arch of the Eiffel Tower. Not to be out done the US pilot, Bill Overstreet followed under the tower and opened fire again downing the 109. Bill then flew very low over Paris and the river Seine trying to avoid anti aircraft batteries until he left the city and returned to base.

The Berlin Express in Paris

Was Gordon Smith trying to recreate the dog fight he’d just heard about. The tall Pylon on the west side of the river could have reminded him of the Eifel Tower?

The sand bank connection

The Humber and Trent are renouned for their sand banks. Some are semi permanent but many appear at low tide only to then dissapear at the next high tide.

Bill Readhead said that the plane had swoopped low under the power lines and hit a sand bank before being catapulted up the steep bank.

As he wasn’t an eye witness to the crash I presume there was still a mark or debris on the bank when they got to the site. If the tides were right it may have been the case otherwise the river would have washed anything away.

The tide was low but starting to return at the time of the crash so they could have been lucky.

The Defiant connection

During my research, speaking to people who knew about the crash a type of aircraft kept being repeated. It was a Boulton Paul Deffiant. This in my ignorance I then repeated to others.

The Boulton Paul Defiant

The Defiant was designed as a night intercept plane, it was basically a spitfire with an added gun turret rear facing behind the main cockpit. Because of the extra weight of the guns, ammo and gunner. They removed the cannons and guns from the wings.

The idea was to attack the bombers from underneath. They were never very succesfull and were suceptable to attack in daylight as they had no main forward facing weapons.

After they were made redundant in that role some were converted to tug target pulling use. The guns being removed and the addition of a wind or electric powered winch. They also also changed the paintwork to include yellow and black stripes.

Although its possible these Defiant tugs were seen flying along the trent, they were rare and not based in Lincolnshire.


The folowing are the remains of the plane I have managed to collect so far. The photos of which will be sent to the Museum of Berkshire Aviation which is on the site of where the plane was manufactured back in 1943. Hopefully they will be able to help with identificaton.

Collection of fragments from the aircraft crash site

Additional Info

The terraced house on the left is 24 Bondgate where Godon Smith once lived.
The terraced house on the left is 24 Bondgate where Godon Smith once lived.
A line of trainee air gunners getting ready to attack the target.
A line of trainee air gunners getting ready to attack the target being draged by the martinet. I wouldn’t want to be the pilot. In fact special remote control Queen Marinets were made in a bid to reduce the risk of pilot injury.
Officers at RAF Ossington.
WW2 Training officers and staff at RAF Ossington. Gordon smith was a Flight Officer so could possibly be in this picture wearing a cap?

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