Handley Page Heyford K6875

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Handley Page Heyford K6875 of 166 Squadron.

22 July 1937. The crew of Heyford K6875 were undertaking a night navigation exercise from RAF Boscombe Down near Salisbury to 166 Squadron’s home at RAF Leconfield near Hull.

The aircraft had drifted 13 miles off track and into the high ground of the Peak District. It just cleared Rushup Edge but being shrouded by low cloud the crew were unaware of the danger they were in. Moments later at cruising speed the starboard wing clipped the ground at Broadlee Bank Tor above Edale pulling the aircraft into the hillside and killing all on board.

Two bodies were found outside the aircraft by those first on the scene, presumably flung from it by the force of the impact, while the other four were still within the burning wreck.

CREW
Sgt Newton W Baker (pilot)
Sgt C P D McMillan (second pilot)
Sgt Jim W Barker (navigating pilot)
AC1 Harold Gray (wireless operator)
AC1 Eric McDonald (unknown, possibly airgunner or mechanic?)
AC1 E J Musker (unknown, possibly airgunner or mechanic?)

Handley Page Heyfords were the last of the big biplane bombers and many squadrons had their Heyfords replaced by Wellingtons the same year as this crash, though the RAF Museum in London (which has in the storage the tailplane from this crashed aircraft) says on its website that the last front line Heyford did not leave No.166 Squadron at Leconfield in Yorkshire until 2 September 1939 (the day before Britain declared war on Germany), being replaced by Whitleys.

Below; A Handley Page Heyford in a training exercise with a Hawker Demon performing a mock attack upon it.

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RAF Leconfield is now used by the British Army Defence School of Transport, Europe’s largest such driver training facility. RAF Boscombe Down is now MoD Boscombe Down, an aircraft testing facility. In 1994 there was a reported sighting at the base of a crash involving the mythical US ‘black project’ spy jet Aurora.

See here for more on the Aurora.

This Google maps view of Leconfield shows a vehicle on a roundabout at what was previously the cross of the two runways and is now an Army driving school.

Another view of the crash site looking south east towards the Mam Tor ridge

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Crash details from Pat Cunningham’s 2010 book High Peak Air Crash Sites which has spot on 10 figure grid references for all the crash sites in this area.

4 comments on “Handley Page Heyford K6875
  1. Paul says:

    Hi Ian ,
    I was chuffed when i found this site ….I was navigating by compass and it was in the early days of my looking ….there is not a lot there is there . It would have been easier to find walking up to it but i chose to drop down from the tops on my way back to the car .

  2. ang wickham says:

    1937 – and by the end of the war bombers had completely changed. my how they changed. i have to say the Handley Page Heyford offers no attraction to me whatsoever, such a starved looking machine. I say that without any reference to performance characteristics, but to my boots i would be feeling like ‘not taking a load out in that one tonight, boss’! Tragic tale, nice documentation [although the modern references mid section threw me a bit at first].

    • Ian D B says:

      Thanks Ang. Heyfords apparently were a delight to fly and much loved by their crews, however I am with you on how it looks. Besides, Heyfords never dropped any bombs in combat, so I understand; I expect crews would have had a different opinion of them if they had had to tolerate flying throough flak and being shot at by Bf109s!
      Cheers for your comment on the confusion; I should change the presentation style, get all the crash site photos in at first then the other stuff afterwards. Was thinking about that, you have confirmed the need.
      Ian

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