Avro Shackleton WR970, Foolow, Derbyshire

‹ Return to

Avro Shackleton WR970, Foolow, Derbyshire

7th December 1956. All crewmen were killed when Avro Shackleton WR970 crashed in a meadow just beyond the village of Foolow in Derbyshire.

The aircraft was a prototype MR 3 version on a test flight. Cunningham (2006) says the crew were “examining the stalling characteristics of the aircraft with bomb bay doors open and radar scanner extended; the attack configuration, as it was known.” The pilot reduced the airspeed so the aircraft would stall, at which point the Shackleton rolled over and down through thick cloud, spinning upside down as it went.

From the various accounts, it seems Squadron Leader Jack Bertram Wales may have been on the verge of regaining control but had lost too much height to prevent the Shackleton from striking the ground.

Squadron Leader Jack Bertram Wales OBE, DFC (A V Roe test pilot)
George Alan Blake, flight engineer
Charles O’Neill, technical observer
Roy Greenhalgh, technical observer

Shackleton WR 970 photo from wikipedia commons


Section of wall rebuilt after WR970 crashed through it.

Quote from Peakland Air Crashes -The Central Area, Pat Cunningham, 2006.

24 comments on “Avro Shackleton WR970, Foolow, Derbyshire
  1. rob of rochdale says:

    Love they yellow of the buttercups and the dof is perfect. Well done Ian!

  2. Nate Parker Photography says:

    Grim description- oh to be a test pilot!

  3. cgullz says:

    wow, that is a massive aircraft! great description, wonderfully concise detail and i love how you report the facts – very TAIC worthy. i love the respectful resting place image, the buttercups just feel like flowers to those lost, really nice.
    as far as the testing, i know they gotta do things like that but it still makes me wonder. it sux that given a bit more alititude these guys might have made it.

  4. f3liney says:

    Even without the poignant back-story, this is a really pretty photo in its own right.

  5. pasujoba says:

    Classy shot Ian and the usual thorough job on the background info and shots

  6. snowman.1 says:

    Nice shot and an interesting back-story. One minor question – I’d have thought it would be the wings the pilot was stalling, not the engines?

  7. Ian D B says:

    Many thanks everyone


    Yes you are quite right, I have just read back what I wrote, had in mind the pilot reducing the airspeed by throttling back on the engines resulting in insufficient lift. I’ve amended it replacing the word ‘engines’ with the word ‘aircraft’. Thank you for the heads up; I’d read that several times and not noticed the error.

  8. pugsley1970 says:

    Hey, nice to come across this post, George Allen Blake the Flight Engineer on that plane was my Granddad 🙂 thanks.

  9. Ian D B says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/91428436@N06] pugsley1970, Hi, good to hear from you. Nice to be remembering your Grandfather at this time of year. Have a good Christmas and thanks for taking the time to comment.

  10. ian donnelly says:

    I don’t know if you can help me. I am trying to help someone locate the burial site of Jack Wales.
    Would you have any idea about that or could you suggest any leads?
    Many thanks.

  11. Roger Varney says:

    Roy Greenhalgh was my friend.

  12. Michael Daniel says:

    Hi Ian,
    Interesting to read your account of the Avro Shackleton WR970 however I have different recollection, at the time I was a 10 year old school boy living in Eyam, the next village to Foolow,.
    As I remember it we were all out in the school playground, possibly lunchtime or afternoon break and the plane flew over quite slow with at least 1 engine smoking badly, the plane was obviously in distress and heading towards Foolow, after school a number of us went up to Foolow on our bikes and the remains of the plane were still on fire with the emergency services in attendance.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your comment, I don’t think you have a different recollection, rather your description is more complete than mine.

      The aircraft was being tested to see how the stall warning equipment was working, specifically with the bomb bay doors open and the radar scanner extended. Previous tests of the Mark 3 prototype had the same issue, aircraft rolling when stalled.

      During this trial the Shackleton became inverted, with oil then flooding into the engine air intake – which meant that as you saw, the engine was popping and smoking as the pilot tried to restart it. This was only determined by the air crash investigation which could find no other reason for there being oil in the intakes.

      So your memory is spot on!


  13. Paul Foster says:

    Great to see this story being recalled so many years on, I am George Alan Blakes great grandson, and I’ve been to this crash site, not for around 40 years though.
    I’d heard that it would have been possible for the crew to bail but the plane would have hit the village, so they stayed in to crash it in the field just beyond Foolow.
    I don’t know how true that is, but as a young boy hearing that story about your grandfather gave me an enormous sense of pride.
    Thank you for the beautiful pictures.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Paul, thank you for your visit and comment, glad you have found this page and like the photos.

  14. Derek Jackson says:

    8 June 2021
    Hello all, just reminiscing and found this site. To Paul Foster (above, I was working with Alan Blake on the Vulcan STS airframe at Woodford on the morning before he departed on the fateful test flight, he was apologetic about having to leave me with our job, but saying it would only be for a couple of hours at the most. I never did visit the crash site, but loosing Alan was a sad loss to me and I have never forgotten him, he was a very nice guy.

  15. Brian Jackson says:

    Sorry Derek you were not working with Alan I was, installing the front flare chutes on WR972 and if they had not been in such a rush I would have been on it, but Charlie O’Neil said he did not have time to do the paperwork, so it saved my life.
    The rush was because the Works Manager, Len “Cock” Bailey, had been down to the Flight Sheds thumping the table wanting to know why the test flight programme was behind schedule.
    Jack Wales should never have tried stalls at such a low altitude as all the aircraft with that wing design flipped upside down in a stall, from the Manchester, Lancaster, Lincoln to the Shackletons, and probably the York and AWA Argosy.
    Alan Blake was one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. I had to collect all his tools and put them away after we were told the aircraft had crashed. I was an 18years old apprentice at the time and I have never forgotten that day.

    • Charlie Elliott says:

      Charlie O’Neil was my Uncle, my mother’s brother, I was named after him, sadly I did not ever get to meet him.

  16. Jane Corry says:

    Hi particularly to Brian and Derek Jackson. I am Allen Blake’s youngest and only surviving daughter and was 8 years old at the time of the crash. I will never forget that day and often relive it 65 years on. I have visited the scene of the crash 4 times. Foolow is such a pretty village and you can’t help but marvel at the fact that Jack Wales managed to miss the cottages.
    I only recently came across this site and, I cannot tell you both what your words meant to me. As an 8 year old I loved my dad very much and used to wait at the top of our road to meet him being dropped off by Cyril Dean (I think I have his name correct) who worked at Avro.
    At that age you don’t understand a person’s character he is just your dad. To read what you both said about him being a “nice guy” and “one of the nicest people you could wish to meet” was fantastic and made me feel even more proud than I already was. Thank you both so much.

  17. Brian Jackson says:

    Jane, Nice to hear from you but sorry to hear you are the only survivor of the family.
    I have never forgotten that day and have had many bad nightmares about it. It took me many months to get over it.

  18. Geoffrey Parrish says:

    I had my first flight as an AVRO apptrentice in a Mk 2 Shackleton along with a few others coopted from the Woodford offices as ‘live ballast’ for a test flight involving stalls with changing centre of gravity effected by moving us fore and aft. It was a joy ride for us but sobering in retrospect of the subject crash. Jack Wales was our pilot then, doing a routine job. His future wife lived a few doors away from my home in Audenshaw 6 miles E of Manchestsr

  19. Geoffrey Parrish says:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *