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Airspeed Oxford HN594, Brown Knoll, Edale
The second of two Oxfords to crash near to each other in 1945 in similar circumstances, resulting in the survival of all on board (thanks to the bravery of one man).
December 28 1945. With the war over, two airmen who’d served in South Africa were on a navigation exercise to familiarise themselves with flying twin engined aircraft in a British winter.
Instructor Warrant Officer Robinson had just taken control during the handover. Cunningham says that both trainees had expressed concern at the height of 1,000 feet on the altimeter, knowing that there was higher ground in the vicinity. Warrant Officer Robinson “…merely laughed at their apprehensions, assuring them that he knew the area like the back of his hand.”
They could have been famous last words, as the plane crashed at that moment, but fortunately he or Flying Officer Croker had just pulled back on the stick to gain height regardless of how well he knew the area, or the back of his hand. The effect of lifting the nose caused HN594 to hit the hill flat – and crucially there was no fire.
The crew were badly injured in the crash and Warrant Officer Robinson later had a leg amputated. Croker was severely injured but managed an agonising epic crawl down the hillside on all fours to get help, having first wrapped his badly injured mates up in parachutes. Somehow they managed to survive the night, and were found the following day.
After the war, George Robinson made a pilgrimage up to the crash site every year. Ted Croker went on to play football for Charlton Athletic and later was secretary for the Football Asssociation. He’s the man responsible for the Charity Shield game. While his bravery on Brown Knoll won him a King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct, a fallout with Margaret Thatcher over football hooliganism possibly cost him a knighthood. Ted Croker died on Christmas Day 1992 aged 68.
Warrant Officer George Robinson, pilot, instructor
Flying Officer John E Dowthwaite, pilot on course
Flying Officer Edward A Croker, pilot on course
Peakland Air Crashes – the North, P Cunningham 2006
The Independent on Sunday
Video of news report of the reunion posted by grandson of John Dowthwaite (please see his comment below).