Miles Master DL981, near Hebden Bridge.

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Miles Master DL981, near Hebden Bridge.

Unable to find anything in print or on the internet about Miles Master DL981, we set about having a look for ourselves. The aircraft crashed near the Pack Horse Pub at Widdop on September 16th 1949. From the Hebden Bridge Gazette of the time, we could easily follow the reporter’s detailed description of the scene to locate the site. Some fragments found at the site confirmed the location.

The Miles Master was a training aircraft, used to prepare pilots for Spitfires and Hurricanes. On this occasion DL981 was used to ferry Flying Officer Sydney Rowe from Leaconsfield, north of Beverley in Yorkshire, to Squire’s Gate, Blackpool. The pilot was Plt 1 Reginald Price. Both men were killed in the crash.

Witnesses reported hearing the aircraft circle the moors above, but could not see it because of the low cloud. Some said they heard the revving of its engine before the noise of the crash sent them hurrying to the scene. It’s not known why, but evidently the pilot was trying to land the aircraft. Were it not for two drystone walls barring his path, he may have made it, this field being one of the few relatively level spots in an area of steep and rough moorland.

DL981 clipped the topstones of the lower wall and tumbled into the wall on the right, overturned and burned in the field. The demolished wall has been rebuilt (just beneath the text in the photo), but it’s not as good a job as the original.

The Pennine Way passes within about 300m of this site.

photo of the wreckage from the Hebden Bridge Gazette reporting the incident.

12 comments on “Miles Master DL981, near Hebden Bridge.
  1. pasujoba says:

    Super information ,well presented as ever Ian . Good picture of a Miles Master too .

  2. andyholmfirth says:

    As low as a drystone wall….incredible.I’ve seen quite a few low flying Hercules type planes through the winter coming very low across Marsden Moor,around Pule Hill and then DOWN into the Wessenden Valley.It’s quite awesome to watch and I’m always reminded of your photostream Ian !

  3. Billy Currie says:

    I just had no idea there were so many of these. Very interesting

  4. Tech Owl says:

    You’ve got a new career if you want it!!
    Nicely put together Ian.
    It begs two questions; why was it so low? Perhaps not sure of its altitude, and these walls look relatively insignificant. Why not just the landing gear taken out?

  5. Ian D B says:

    Thanks everyone.
    Thanks Bryan. I don’t know for sure, it’s just my guess he was trying to land the plane. Why he needed to (if he needed to) is not known to me. He was on course, and about halfway to Blackpool, so presumably not lost or out of fuel?

    It seems to me he was trying to land from the witness statements saying the plane was circling – possibly looking for somewhere to put down? Visibility was bad, so perhaps Price gingerly eased down through the low cloud till he made visual contact with the ground?

    Can’t have been an easy thing to do. Maybe he thought he would clear the wall? There’s a fairly flat field just the other side of it. I presume the landing gear was down, but if coming in to land and travelling at a relatively slowly speed, I doubt the force would be sufficient to rip off the landing gear? The first wall sort of tripped up the aircraft. Having said that, even if he had cleared the first wall, it looks like he would still have hit the second. It’s all conjecture!

  6. sidewinder54 (Closed For Business) says:

    Another very interesting piece Ian.. Great work!!

    Have a wonderful week.

  7. Keartona says:

    Can you imagine walking down this road and a plane appearing from seemingly nowhere across your path!
    You’re becoming quite the detective with all this 🙂

  8. Barry Howard says:

    Beautiful scene with a tragic story behind it.

  9. Kelvin says:

    We now have this story on our website as we are in contact with the son of the pilot, no additional details on the reason for the loss though – but they will be remembered.

  10. Joe says:

    Does anyone know of a plane crash in Mytholmroyd? This is probably going to sound quite strange, but some years ago I was travelling on a bus going through Mytholmroyd, past the school travelling towards Hebden, just before the road drops by the Tudor-stye pub and gets into Mytholmroyd centre. I looked out of the window to see two planes flying very low indeed. Shockingly low, in fact. Both planes were grey and had a propeller on each wing. As they flew overhead I crossed over to the opposite side of the bus to look at them again. One of them flew over the side of the valley, barely making it over the hillside, and the other, just behind it, looked like it wasn’t going to make it. I could see it was about to crash into the hill and readied myself for an explosion. But there was no explosion. It simply disappeared into the hill, as if it were a hologram or something. I was absolutely baffled. I’m still not sure what to make of it all thee years on. Did I see a ghost plane? Some kind of phantom of a plane that once crashed into that hill? Or was the layout of the land once different, and this was the ghost of a plane that once flew there, but before there was a hill in the way? That doesn’t seem very likely. Was it a hologram of some kind, perhaps a military test of such technology? Or was it some kind of bizarre paranormal apparition? UFOs that could travel through solid matter that had disguised themselves as planes? I’m still completely stumped. I didn’t imagine it though, I absolutely saw it, I have no doubt about that whatsoever. Could it possibly have been one plane, and the one that disappeared into the hill was some kind of mirage of the real one? I’ve never heard of such a thing, and can’t imagine what atmospheric conditions could cause something like that. They both looked just as solid as each other. A very, very bizarre event, in any case, and one that is etched into my memory.

    • Ian D B says:

      What year was that Joe, do you recall? There was a biplane bomber which crashed on the moor near Chiserley; Heyford K6900 but that was back in 1936! But it was one of seven aircraft.

      I am never one to believe in ghost stories but have seen some unusual things myself. There will have been a logical reason for this, but one time I saw a stationary grey object in the shifting clouds above me on the moor. It was so low the sound of the engines would have been clear but all was silent and it appeared not to move. And then it vanished altogether, the clouds parted and I couldn’t see it at all! No doubt an optical illusion – and an auditory one too – but it puzzled me at the time how (what must have been) a jet airliner could appear like that.

      There are examples of brocken spectres, where the shadow of someone is projected against the clouds. Only time I ever saw one was whilst flying in a 1940 vintage Piper Cub aircraft. I took this photo of it.

      But I know of no aircrashes in the area other than these. If you could let me know the year though – and the direction of travel of the aircraft, that’d be interesting.

      About the only other possibility I can think of is that it was an illusion created by the landscape – did the aircraft continue up a valley, not seen from your position?


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