USAAF P-51D Mustang 44-64084.

‹ Return to

USAAF P-51D Mustang 44-64084.

Photo above; fragments found at the scene, bits of aluminium, rubber tubing and perspex.

Flight Officer Darnaby H Wilhoit, USAAF, was killed when his P-51D Mustang crashed at Plainsteads Farm south of Glossop in the High Peak on 29 May 1945.

His Mustang had been one of a formation of 23 being flown from RAF Debden near Saffron Walden in Essex to Liverpool. With the war in Europe at an end, the Mustangs were needed in the continued fight against Japan, and from Liverpool would be shipped to the Far East.

However, poor planning and problems during the flight (one pilot had left his mic jammed on preventing all the pilots from contacting each other) resulted in two of the aircraft crashing and the remaining 21 either finding their way to Liverpool by good fortune or returning to base.

The flight plan did not take into account the high ground of Derbyshire, or the poor weather and smog in the industrial North West of England.

Witnesses on the ground saw F/O Wilhoit’s Mustang “…break cloud at a low altitude, turn hastily, as if to avoid a hill” before it struck the ground at Plainsteads Farm.

The other P-51D to crash was that of formation leader First Lieutenant Frederick (see photo below) 12 miles to the north at Saddleworth. 1st Lt Frederick’s wingman had a very lucky escape when “sticking to his leader’s starboard wing, with mist streaking past (he) suddenly saw the other’s aircraft disintegrate in a ball of fire, felt a jar on his own port wing and pulled aside, not climbing for height, but holding low, preferring to keep even doubtful visual contact with the ground…”
He eventually made it back to Debden.

Quotes from Peakland Air Crashes – The North by Pat Cunningham (2006)

The impact point is in the foreground.


24 comments on “USAAF P-51D Mustang 44-64084.
  1. nondesigner59 says:

    Fabulous DoF and info..

  2. C J Paul (chris) says:

    great work again ian love that last image mate vey cool shot…

  3. theojames says:

    great shot i love the sheep looking in the backround

  4. Richard Tierney says:

    Excellent Ian

    I wonder why knowing of all the crashes in the High Peak throughout the war, the leader did not plan to fly up the East coast to the Humber turn left and fly directly West to hit the West coast around the Mersey and then into Speak? They could have flown VOR all the way and just left down over the coast with no high ground at all… They could have got a radio fix from Warton/BurtonWood/Speak and then been confident they were over the Irish Sea and come in low over the Mersey into Speak, flying over the river and straight into Speak aerodrome… Like you say bad planning. I think Paul said some years after the war they carried out test on really experienced pilots using flight simulators and they all crashed in theory trying to navigate and "let down" over high ground. The wingman of the leader was a very, very lucky young lad!

    The High peak has certainly claimed its fair share of aircrew over the years 🙁

  5. **Hazel** says:

    Just had to fave this Ian!! Amazing DOF and a very sad story again beautifully told!!!:-)

  6. Air Frame Photography says:

    Another great find Ian.

  7. Ian D B says:

    Thanks everyone.


    Richard, according to Cunningham the route they were told to fly by Group Operations was a direct line across the Peak District, with the advice that 3,000 feet would be enough. The formation leader himself further advised the other 22 pilots that the terrain would be ‘flat and level’.
    Seems to have been the fault of both the formation leader and the Ground Operations Officer. As mentioned, the radios were out of action due to one pilot accidentally blocking the frequency.

  8. andyholmfirth says:

    Cracking image Ian.So much drama and tragedy up there.I was talking to someone last night who’s dad used to take them wreck hunting when they were kids.Hense the story in "Pennine Reflections" – which is a true account rather than the fiction I thought it was !

  9. amyrey says:

    A sad and needless loss.

    Love the nosey sheep in the background!

  10. mick cooke says:

    brilliant ian

  11. pasujoba says:

    Great work Ian , I,m gonna have to try harder this is much more vibrant a presentation than mine

  12. Lazenby43 says:

    I thought about your photographs as we flew over the area returning to Manchester the other day.

  13. SolarScot. says:

    i,m glad you find these places Neal was just saying today my Mother witnessed a Spitfire crashing when she was a lass and now she has gone the stories she knew have gone with her so it is important to document these events

  14. Ian D B says:

    Yeah, you’re right, it’s summat we’re aware of. When we were younger it didn’t matter, we took that generation for granted. Keep saying it John, this is the last chance to see. For the majority of these wreck sites too, in the short while I have been doing this, I have seen debris from sites dwindle as people continue to take home souvenirs. As Paul has said, ours is the last generation to be able to see these visible remains.

  15. cgullz says:

    [] wow did they have VOR back then? i thought it would be all NDB and probably very average low level?

    love the shot Ian, very idyllic setting with the sheep and all – no one would ever know otherwise but for historians and enthusiasts that keep old stories alive. super work… amazed the rubber has stood the test of time!

  16. Ian D B says:

    Keep meaning to ask, you must be a frequent flyer, you mentioned the Piper Archer the other day?

    Jeff you don’t wanna be thinking about my photos when you’re coming in to land at Ringway.

  17. cgullz says:

    ah that will involve flickmail 🙂

  18. Richard Tierney says:

    [] [] Sorry meant VFR ( Visual Flight Rules ) As Ian said a cock up all round… you cant tell me that Operations were not aware of how the Peak can be so dangerous if the weather closes in., Also the NW and the North Midlands were always shrouded in smoke and industrial pollution, the USAC had been flying up and down the country from Scotland, Warton and Burtenwood for 4 years by then and should have been a lot more circumspect and treated the area with due caution. After all it was peactime and they were not on operations that might have forced them to fly into adverse weather conditions… I imagine there are 100’s and 100’s of young aircrew that lost their lives through bad leadership and a leader that was too "enthusiastic" I have been out with Ian and Paul around this area and it is littered with crash sites and wreakage,, a very sad testiment to the dangers of flying through and around High Peak… I agree with Ian, these sites are dissaperaing fast, looted by souvenire hunters, before long there will be just the scars in the landscape and memories….. It is like tourist chipping bits off the Cenotaph and taking them home, to stick on the mantlepiece.

  19. gastephen says:

    Great work, Ian! Like the selective focus.

    ~ Graham ~
    Drop by my photostream!

  20. *Psycho Delia* says:

    great use of focus in this..

  21. pasujoba says:

    Sadly Richard , we do appear to be in the minority with that view point although we are not alone . There are others fighting the cause too.
    Despite it being illegal to sellthe wreckage you can buy chunks on Ebay for a tenner or less. Having been in contact with Ebay for many months now I can confirm that they refuse to do anything to stop it , claiming it is not illegal in all countries so they dont feel they can actually ban the sales even if generated in, and using items from, crash sites within the UK. It seems to me that going to the Police with it would only end in ridicule for me , they have bigger fish to fry , Ebay and the thieves realise this so continue with the sales regardless of morals . That is the power of both the internet and the Dollar.
    You can even by parts at Airshows and Aviation memorabilia carboots ! ( I saw some at Duxford last year) And thats in full view of museum officials , the RAF, the police ,everyone! We have no hope of ever stopping it. Best thing we can do is take pictures of it and post them on Flickr , at least here they cannot steal the memory.
    By now it is very likely that the people taking the items are aware of us and our views and we are no doubt despised for having those views.

  22. Hermen Goud says:

    Sadly, the pictured flying P-51 came at crash at Duxford, during Flying Legends.

  23. Ian D B says:


    Thanks for pointing that out, I had forgotten I’d used that photo. A sad loss.

Leave a Reply

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