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.

EDIT 24 September 2018

I have been contacted by Melanie Andrews, neice of Lance Corporal James Patrick McHugh. She is looking for more photos of her uncle who was killed in the crash. If any readers have any more photos of him, please contact me (email address is on the contact page of this website) and I will upload them with a photo credit. The two below are provided by Melanie and used here with her kind permission. Similarly, if anyone can identify the two other men in the second photo, do let us know.
Thank you,
Ian

43 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. mick cooke says:

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

  4. andyholmfirth says:

    Compelling story and images.

  5. 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) (?)

  6. sidewinder54 (Closed For Business) says:

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

  7. Tech Owl says:

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

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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

      • Hello caroline In response to your question.Asfar as I can remember many of the bodies where disintegrated and on the second day we had to dig up the remains and place an appropriate number of parts into 27 metal coffins which were then sealed by welding before departure.A very sad experience as I knew some of the REME lads

  19. 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.

  20. 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’.

  21. 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

  22. 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.

  23. michael. dudman. says:

    Mike Dudman.

    I was in 626 Ord Depot in 1957 on that fateful day and Jordie Richardson and I was ordered to get as many ambulances ready for an emergency. We already had heard that an aircraft had lost a wing and crashed. Before we had the ambulances ready for the crash site, Capt.Robinson stood the operation down informing us that there were no survivors. Some days later Jordie and I loaded the planes parts into two Bedford trucks and sheeted these over ready to be sent to Farnborough, it was sad handling these pieces. Months later Jordie, me and the rest of 626 left Aqaba being on the rear party and headed for Aden, Mombasa and then home to Southampton. About 10 years ago my wife took me on a surprise holiday back to Aqaba and when we came down the road near the crash site I thought of those unfortunate young guys and their families, I hope they and their families are at peace, God bless.

  24. Derek Rennie says:

    In sad reflection of that time I clearly remember flying out of Cyprus to go to Aqaba on a Valetta plane. It was an anxious flight as everything rattled and the seats had no cushioning just bare metal with a belt to hold you in. It did not help that another Valetta crashed in Cyprus around that time. You may have been on the m.v. Devonshire that my regiment (10th Hussars) left on to go home via Capetown but was turned around and came back from Mombasa as Nasser had opened up the Suez Canal.

  25. Melanie Andrews says:

    Hi

    I’m so pleased I came across this article and the details of this accident. My uncle was L/Cpl J. McHugh. I never knew him but my Mom, who’s now 87yrs old, was very close to her brother who died on that fateful day and often speaks of him. I’ve taken her to the National Memorial Arboretum so that she could see his name and she broke down in tears. She has never really got over losing Jimmy and we only have one photo of him in the family. I’ve read through all the comments with mixed emotions and would dearly love to make contact with anyone who may have any photo’s of the Jimmy McHugh.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Melanie,
      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased you found this page though it’s saddening to read of your Mum at the National Memorial Arboretum.
      I was there myself just the week before last, looking up the names of some post- war crews killed in air crashes. What struck me most was the big, curving empty wall, waiting to have the names of future military dead chiselled in.

      It would be great if someone has any more photos of Lance Corporal McHugh for your family. It’s happened before via these pages, I was provided with one of my dad! So I’d be happy to add the photo you do have already to this page if you wish? Entirely your call, but if you’d like to, my email address is on the contact page of this site. Send me a copy and I will upload it in the main text and comments.
      Ian

      • Melanie Andrews says:

        Hi Ian

        Thank you for your reply. I’d be more than happy to email you a photo of Jimmy and sincerely hope there’s someone out there who has photo’s of him that they are willing to share with me.
        I tend to go to the NMA each year and will be taking a group of Beavers, Cubs and Scouts there on Oct 13th. I feel I can now share a personal story with them when I place a cross at the wall.

        Thank you so much for this article, it really has been important to us, as a family, to find this information.

        Kind regards

        Mel

  26. Ian D B says:

    Page edit – photos added to the main text of Lance Corporal James Patrick McHugh via his neice Melanie Andrews. If anyone has any more photos of him, or can identify the other two men in the second photo, please let us know.
    Ian

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