Aircraft crash in Cresswell quarry – the story of an ‘unsung hero’

26 12 2011

On 6th January, 1942 at 10.10 am, an RAF Whitley bomber aircraft crashed into the clay pit quarry behind Cresswell Street, Pogmoor.  This was one of three Whitley bombers from 102 Squadron that took off from RAF Dalton, near Thirsk at approximately 4.30 am,  on a mission to bomb the docks at Cherbourg, France.

When the bombers reached France, there was too much cloud cover over the port.  They had been instructed to return to base without dropping the bombs as it was not possible to see the target of the mission. The lead aircraft. Z9289, developed engine problems over France and the pilot decided to switch off one of the two engines to prevent it catching on fire.

When the aircraft reached the English coast, it had the opportunity to land at the nearest aerodrome. However, the pilot must have decided to fly back to their home base in Dalton instead. As the plane passed over Derbyshire, it must have been clear to the crew that the aircraft was losing height too quickly.   They jettisoned the payload of bombs over the moors to the south of Sheffield.  When the aircraft reached Barnsley, the pilot tried to restart the faulty engine, presumably to try and gain extra height.  Unfortunately, this engine then burst into flames.

The bomber had a crew of five:

Pilot: Sgt Alexander Hollingworth, Royal Australian Air Force, aged 22, from Bowen Hills, Brisbane, Australia

Second pilot: Sgt John HazeldineRoyal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Observer: Sgt E BrainRoyal Canadian Air Force

Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner:  Sgt Alexander Buchanan, Royal Canadian Air Force, aged 23, from North Battleford, Canada

Air Gunner: Sgt Leonard Jackson, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, from Birmingham

Three of the crew (Jackson, Brain and Hazeldene)  bailed out as the plane flew over Locke Park and then Dodworth Road.  Buchanan made his escape too late.  He jumped out as the aircraft passed over the railway track on the south side of West Road. He got entangled with the chimney of the refuse incinerator and was killed.

According to witness accounts, the pilot, Alexander Hollingworth, now on his own, endevoured to make sure the aircraft missed the rows of terraced houses in that area.  The plane crashed in Cresswell Quarry, just off Cresswell Street.  The pilot was killed.

Postscript

The two crew who died on this mission, Sgts Hollingworth and Buchanan, are both buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Doncaster. Sgt Hazeldine was killed on operations later in the same month on 26th January.  Sgt Jackson was killed on operations on 24th September 1942. Sgt Brain is not listed in the casualty records from the Second World War, so it is assumed he was the only one who survived the war.

The act of bravery outlined above was researched by local historian, Andrew Totty in 1985.  As a result of his efforts, a plaque commemorating this flight was placed on the house that now stands where the bomber crashed and Sgt Hollingworth died.  This ceremony took place on the eve of the 44th anniversary of the crash.
Pogmoor Area Residents’ Association commemorated  the seventieth anniversary in a ceremony on 6th January, 2012.

We are grateful to A. Totty for permission to reproduce the images shown on this page.  The sources on which the content is based include:

Footnote

The propellor, plane parts and crew documents have been donated to the People’s Museum, Barnsley.  This museum is due to open in 2012.  In the meantime, you can follow the museum on Twitter  @PeoplesMusuem

Advertisements

Actions

Information

2 responses

3 01 2012
GERALD J ALLIOTT

PERSONAL MEMORIES OF 6TH JANUARY 1972
GERALD J ALLIOTT LOCAL- HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR

“On 6th January 1942 I was on Victoria Crescent with my brother about eleven in the morning when we spotted a plane on fire and then parachutes of some of the crew as they bailed out. We noted the plane was a Whitley Bomber directly above us so we set of and ran in its direction knowing it was crashing. and ended up at the quarry behind Crosswell Street., he missed the houses by inches.
When we got there we heard bullets exploding around us and noted the pilot was obviuosly dead.. A smashed piece of radio equipment was at my feet but I managed to get two pieces of window and tubing. I no longer have them unfortunately..
It was not long before Civil Defence and Police arrived and the crash site was cleared about two days later. by the the RAF.
It was a very excitting experience to be almost the first there especially at my age, I was only 13, but so sad when I think back at it.”

I gave my story to Dave Griffin of Intake Lane who was most helpful.
I am no joining at this time as I am now 83 and a member
of various Groups in icluding the Steering Committee of EB (Town Hall museum etc).

I wouldlike to be on the mailing list of happenings in Pogmoor/Gawber.

galliott@talktalk.net.

27 08 2012
Barry Crossland

This was my first day at Blackburn Lane Infants School as a 5year old.I remember standing in the classroom watching the plane on fire and seeing two airmen bail out.After the crash we were all sent home.On arriving home on Pogmoor Road I found my mother sweeping broken crockery off the floor that had fallen out of the cupboard due to the shock wave.Our home was about 70 yards from the crash site.
I remember the R.A.F arriving a day or two later to collect the aircraft remains.The lorry,known as a Queen Mary (due to it,s length) took a while to turn into Cresswell Street because of this.




%d bloggers like this: