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Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb, EN864
107th Observation Squadron, 67th Observation Group, US 8th Air Force

Great Shefford, Berkshire

22nd May 1943

The weather on the afternoon of 22nd May 1943 was fairly typical for late spring with overcast skies and scattered showers. Captain Hal Conner had taken off from Membury in his Spitfire at approximately 15:40 hrs on a local training mission. He had been up for about 30 minutes and was climbing through cloud. Just as he emerged from the cloud at about 2,700 ft. the engine cut out instantaneously although the propeller continued to windmill. Captain Conner tried several times to restart the engine which was by now emitting black smoke. The plane started to lose altitude and as the engine was still refusing to respond the pilot decided to bail out and landed safely in a field about one mile north-west of Great Shefford. The aircraft dived in to the ground about half-a-mile north-east of the same village and was completely destroyed.

The following is an account of the crash given to the authorities at the time by an R. Langford, then living at 6 Council Houses, Wantage Road, Great Shefford: "I was at Great Shefford at the time of the accident, about 4.15 p.m., 22nd May 1943. The ceiling at this time was about 1,500 ft. I could not see the plane for it was either in or above cloud. I heard the engine splutter about twice and then cut out completely. A few seconds later it came diving through the cloud at about a 45 degree angle and crashed in a field a little north of Great Shefford. Approximately four minutes later the pilot appeared descending by parachute through the cloud."

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© Copyright 2004 Roger Day