RAF Vickers Valetta VW832, Jordan, 1957.

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RAF Vickers Valetta VW832, Jordan

The father of a friend at work was one of the crew members of Valetta VW832 which crashed at Queria in Jordan with the loss of all on board. Fl Lt Wilkinson was aged 36 and from Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. He had previously served with the RAF during the war as a navigator with Bomber Command.

On the morning of 17th April, 1957, VW832 took off from Aqaba in the south of Jordan heading north east for RAF Habbaniya, which is about 50 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq. There were 23 passengers on board, soldiers with the 10th Royal Hussars mostly.

Valetta VW832 was transferring the troops to RAF Habbaniya as part of the withdrawal of forces, though the British would also have to leave Iraq a couple of years later following the coup in 1958. Jordan had been under British control since the end of WW1, and although later regaining independence, the British maintained military bases there. However, by the mid 50’s, unrest in the Middle East began to make the news and the Brits were asked to leave Jordan following the Suez Crisis. This was one of the first flights out of Jordan.

Encountering severe air turbulence on take-off, VW832 suffered structural damage to the port wing spar, which caused the wing to disintegrate, and the aircraft crashed in the mountains near Queira, barely twenty miles from Aqaba. There were no survivors.

This photo and the one above are from the London Gazette reporting the tragedy.

2

They were buried on a rainy day with full military honours at RAF Habbaniya, their bodies being transported to what had been their original destination. After the British left Iraq, their graves were completely neglected. But since 2005, US forces have made good again and have annually placed poppy wreaths on Remembrance Sunday. It is hoped Iraqi forces will maintain the tradition following US withdrawal from the base.

114 Squadron Crew;
Fg Off Cyril Anthony Nash, pilot
Fl Lt Howard Wilkinson, navigator
Sgt Peter John McCarthy, air signaller (wireless op)

Passengers

Sgt. Goldstraw W.
Cpl. Patterson R.
L/Cpl. McHugh J.
L/Cpl. Worswick N.
L/Cpl. Jewell R.J.
Tpr. Baldwin A.
Tpr. Baldwin N.
Tpr. Bell N.W.
Tpr. Brooke E.G.
Tpr. Butler A.
Tpr. Clarke V.B.
Tpr. Hallam E.
Tpr. Hughes J.
Tpr. Jacklin A.K.D.
Tpr. Johnson R.
Tpr. Macrow A.R.
Tpr. Parsons S.S.
Tpr. Sissons J.
REME att;
Cpl. Beattie R.
L/Cpl. Gunion J.C.,
Cfn. Mugridge D.J.
Cfn. Truss B.S.
Army Catering Corps att;
Cpl. Liddiard P.

Edited photo of Fl Lt Wilkinson from an old newspaper cutting.
Untitled

These two photos used with kind permission of E. Wild.

Liz’s parents on their wedding day.

Sources vary as to the number of passengers on board, though more recent reports maintain the number was 23.

EDIT 11 May 2015.

Comment by Andrew Hill.

“My father Gerald Hill served with the X Hussars in Jordan, he told me that on the day he was due to fly home he was diagnosed with food poisoning and this is why he was not on flight VW832. He said food poisoning saved my life, but a lot of his friends died that day, after the crash he had to guard the wreckage and finally came home by ship. He passed away in 1998 after a long illness.”

These 4 photos below by Gerald Hill and used with kind permission of Andrew Hill.

RAF Transport Command replaced Dakotas with Valettas (though VW832 was with the Middle East Air Force). The Valetta was based on the Wellington bomber.

40 comments on “RAF Vickers Valetta VW832, Jordan, 1957.
  1. *Psycho Delia* says:

    i love seeing these shots.. even though they make me sad.. especially when you know relatives of the people involved.

  2. pasujoba says:

    Great background info , great series , Ian.

  3. richardr says:

    Particularly sad to have survived the war, only to die in a crash.

    1-2-3 History

  4. mick cooke says:

    a very sad story , but if you didnt tell them ian nobody would know

  5. andyholmfirth says:

    Compelling story and images.

  6. Neal. says:

    Interesting that it was one of the first flights out.

  7. Corwin's Trumps says:

    What a devastating image, but wonderful documentation of this man’s life.

    Seen in 1-2-3 History (post 1, comment on 2, view 3) (?)

  8. het broertje van.. says:

    ……………………such a sad story…………………wonderful serie here!!!

  9. SolarScot. says:

    interesting story Ian

  10. Steve P.Kane (S.P.K.Photography) off & On says:

    awesome my friend

  11. Steve P.Kane (S.P.K.Photography) off & On says:

    awesome my friend

  12. sidewinder54 (Closed For Business) says:

    Another very interesting & very sad story Ian… Superbly presented as always.

  13. Tech Owl says:

    You will have to write your own book Ian – great detail as usual

  14. A damned fool with a camera says:

    Fascinating photographs and words. Thanks for putting these up on Flickr.

    Any idea who the figure (with his back to the camera) in the picture is?

  15. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/29795076@N03/]
    Thank you very much for your comment!

    I don’t know who the figure is, possibly an investigator from RAF Habbinayah?

  16. helalan says:

    terrible crash. My father was on the plane…Robert Beattie. In fact my mother has always believed there were suspicious circumstances with this crash.

    • Eugene Young says:

      Hello I am doing some family research and think that I maybe related to the pilot.Does Anyone have a picture of him by any chance. His name was Ceril Anthony Nash.

      Thanks

      • David (also a.k.a. Dick) Sheffield says:

        I have a picture somewhere of Tony and me outside our tent in the Canal Zone (Abu Sueir or Fayid – can’t remember which.We were in the same squadron (114) and I flew with him at least once. If I ever find the photo will happily email copy to you.

        • Caroline Gemmell says:

          Hi Dick
          Do you remember my uncle Peter McCarthy in 114 squadron at all & would you have any photos of him? I would really like to know more about him

      • Melanie says:

        Hi Eugene, Cyril Anthony Nash was my uncle, known to us as uncle Tony, though he died before I was born. I do have photos. How are you related?

  17. Ian D B says:

    Hi helalan. I seem to recall reading something similar during my research into this. And there was a discrepancy regarding the numbers of people on board, but that’s not unusual. It was indeed a terrible crash, an enormous loss of life. Thanks for dropping by and sharing, it’s always good to hear from the relatives of those involved.

  18. Duncan Grant says:

    I had many encounters with the RAF Middle East Valettas whilst serving at RAF Idris in 1955/56. They had a good record as a hard working and reliably safe workhorse which adds to the poignancy of the incident in Jordan.

  19. Andrew Hill says:

    Hi

    My father Gerald Hill served with the X Hussars in Jordan, he told me that on the day he was due to fly home he was diagnosed with food poisoning and this is why he was not on flight VW832. He said food poisoning saved my life, but a lot of his friends died that day, after the crash he had to guard the wreckage and finally came home by ship. He passed away in 1998 after a long illness.

  20. Chris Hughes says:

    I was a member of the MEAF Band, and we happened to be in Habbaniyah when this accident happened. The funerals were spread over two days and we played for both. A harrowing experience, slow-marching in the rain, in white tropical uniforms to the enormous graves… I remember the ‘dots’ on my music disappearing as the ink ran… Each RAF lorry carrying coffins had an eight man (I think) escort slow-marching on either side, with arms reversed.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Chris,
      Your words paint a vivid picture. Detail like the dots on your music sheet running in the rain… priceless.
      Thank you so much for commenting.
      Ian

  21. Peter Davidson says:

    My brother was serving with the army (REME) at Aqaba when this crash happened, and I remember his account in his letter home (I was 13 at the time)of his task of welding up coffins for the victims. He was very much affected by the experience.

  22. Derek Rennie says:

    I was there as a member of the 10th Hussars.
    The saddest thing was that the Baldwin twins were on that plane. Army regulations at the time were that twins were never to travel anywhere together. The twins kicked up such a fuss about being separated that those in charge relented and allowed them to fly together.
    Another of those killed was Trooper Jock Hughes. I have 2 photos of him taken the night before the flight at a party. He was to be demobbed as soon as he reached England. I wish there was some way to reach his remaining kin so that I could pass the photos on.

  23. Alan Powney says:

    If anyone has some more information about this sad day, could you please let me know. I am Alan Powney secretary Shiners Club 10th Royal Hussars (PWO) I will be writing an article for our expanding website and newsletter and woul be very interested in any personal stories.
    Thank you.
    RIP

  24. Martin Griffiths says:

    to Alan Powney my name is Martin Griffiths I was in the 14 Armoured workshop REME Aqaba at the time of this nasty accident I went with a group of other men to the site as we were summoned
    to quickly bury the remains as vultures were coming in.This was not a pleasant task as you can imagine. However an instruction
    from the war graves commission said that we had to dig up the bodies again and place the remains in the appropriate number of coffins this was an even more unpleasant task because of the smell which was terrible. the remains were taken I know not where.

    • Caroline Gemmell says:

      Hi Martin
      Were the bodies identified before burying? Just wondering how it could have been done in such a rush, and also as they are all in 7 plots at Habbaniya. Sorry to be tedious about this.
      Thanks & regards, Caroline

  25. Paul Badham says:

    Martin
    My father John Badham was also summoned to guard the remains I do have a few photos of the wreckage with a few soldiers in the background. He served in the Royal Artlillery 187 LAA Battery

    • Derek J.K. Rennie says:

      Hi Paul, I only had one stint guarding the crash site. It was quite enough for me as I had a best friend who perished in it. It had to be one of the saddest days of my life. His name was Trooper Hughes of the 10th Royal Hussars.

  26. Gerald escott 23083201 Cpl RAOC says:

    I served in Aqaba at 626 Ordnance Depot from April 1955 to June 1957 and played soccer and basket ball against the ‘Shiney 10th’
    We were all shocked to hear about the crash, I believe the twins were from Swansea. When it was my turn to fly to Habbanya a lad on the flight became a bit upset and had to be calmed down by the crew.
    I had spent Christmas 1956 at home in Cardiff and returned to Aqaba via Athens and Cyprus on Civvy aircraft. From Cyprus to Habbanya we flew in a Valetta. An hour into our flight one of the passengers, a REME Warrant Officer informed the crew that oil was leaking from one of the engines and we returned to Nicosia. As we landed the engine seized. A bit unnerving by when it was time to take off again we just had to ‘soldier on’.
    On my way to Egypt in April 1955 we were in an Avro-York and a short while after leaving Tobruk one of the engines caught fire and we were lucky to get back to Tobruk where we stayed overnight and flew on to Egypt mid afternoon. I guess I must have been ‘one of the lucky ones’.

    • Gerald escott 23083201 Cpl RAOC says:

      I served in Aqaba at 626 Ordnance Depot from April 1955 to June 1957. I remember the 10 Hussars well and played soccer and basketball against them. Everyone in the Garrison was shocked to hear about the crash, I believe the twins were from Swansea. When it was my turn to fly to Habbanya one of the passengers became a bit upset and had to be calmed down by the crew. I had spent Christmas 1956 back home in Cardiff and returned to Aqaba in early January 1957 via AthenS and Cyprus in Civvy aircraft. From Cyprus to Habbanya we flew in a Valetta. About half an hour into the flight one of the passengers, a REME Warrant Officer informed the crew that oil was leaking from one of the engines and we returned to Nicosia. Just as we touched down the engine seized, a bit unnerving but when it was time to continue our journey to Habbanya, we just had to ‘Soldier on’.
      On my way to Egypt in April 1955, we were in an Avro-York and a short while after leaving Tobruk one of the engines caught fire. We were lucky to get back to Tobruk where we stayed overnight to have the engine replaced and then we carried on to Egypt. I guess I was one of the ‘lucky ones’.

  27. Caroline Gemmell says:

    I am very glad to find this detailed report on the accident – my uncle (whom I never knew) was the wireless operator, Peter McCarthy. He was my dad’s only brother, and dad had left the RAF the year before (after 8 years) as he was so concerned about the poor attitude to maintenance and safety, which he said had carried on from the war. Their mother was so upset, she got rid of anything to do with Peter, so I would really appreciate seeing any photos or information on him as I am researching our family history. Dad went on to become a captain with British Airways for over 25 years

  28. Michael Goldstraw says:

    My father was Sgt Walter Goldstraw who was on this plane. I don’t remember too much about it as I was young when he died. I was told he was due to fly out the day before but he swapped with another soldier allowing him to get back to see his wife and young child earlier. I have been to the National Arboretum in Stafford to see where the names of the people who died in the crash are on a memorial.

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