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Spitfire MkVb, EN839
12th Observation Squadron, 67th Observation Group, US 8th Air Force
Rabley Farm, Mildenhall near Marlborough.
December 2nd 1942
Captain Walter W. Berg, of the 12th Observation Squadron, had just taken off from Membury on a routine training mission in Spitfire EN839. At about 800 feet the engine momentarily lost power and at 1500 feet cut-out completely. Smoke was pouring from the exhaust stacks and Captain Berg quickly decided to make a forced landing in the nearest available field.
On duty in the vicinity at the time of the crash were Police War Reserve officers Dopson and Purver. In his report, PC Dopson stated 'I saw three aircraft approaching and one plane left the group. It was apparently in distress for it lost altitude and made for a nearby field where it landed, skidding through a light barbed wire fence'. The police officers immediately proceeded to the crash scene. When they arrived the pilot, who was unhurt, had already clambered out of the aircraft.
Captain Russell A. Berg (no relation as far as I am aware to Walter Berg) and Lieutenant Ware, both piloting Spitfires, had taken off from Membury shortly after Captain Walter Berg. They noticed a Spitfire flying at about 1200 feet with smoke coming from its exhaust stacks. They climbed up next to it to see what the trouble was and the smoke stopped. The aircraft then began losing altitude. After it had forced landed Captain Russell Berg flew back to Membury, where he reported the accident, and then returned to the scene in a Piper Cub.
The cause of the crash was officially given as engine failure. However the aircraft was not too badly damaged and following recovery was converted to Seafire 1B configuration and given the new serial number NX925.
The crash landing had occurred at Rabley Stud and Home Farm, Mildenhall near Marlborough and the farmer, Mr Templeman, put in a claim of £2-13-0 (£2.65) for repair to his barbed wire fence. This claim was filed through the RAF via their maintenance unit at Cowley, Oxford.
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Copyright 2004 Roger Day