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Aircrash - Compton Martin - 1944

On March 14 1944 an American B-24 Liberator Bomber took off from Morrison Field, Florida enroute to RAF Valley in Wales via Bermuda and Marrakech. When the pilot (2nd Lieutenant Russell Major) and crew arrived at RAF Valley the visibility was so poor he decided to reroute to Filton in Bristol. The plane headed south of Bristol to begin the circuit and descent. Unfortunately it hit the trees as it climbed up the hill in Compton Martin, the tail sheared off, and the aircraft crash landed in a field near Hazel Farm. Five crew including the pilot were killed and five survived.

 For more details of the crash see:

There is also a report of the crash by ex-policeman Noel Campbell published in the Ubley book 'Lovely Jubley'.

IBelow: Detail of the graphics for the plaque showing a plan view of a B-24 bomber

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The background to this proposed memorial

Ken Parsons mentioned at a Blagdon Local History Society meeting that here was an event that needed a memorial. He recognised that it had not occurred within the Parish of Blagdon, but it had occurred on land owned by Yeo Valley and there had been a desire by several local people to mark its significance. Compton Martin, within whose Parish the tragic accident had happened, did not have a history society nor the resources or where-with-all to  do anything about it. However Blagdon Local History Society did and Ken, the Society Treasurer, was keen to instigate an event.  

He had come across a collection of information gathered by 'Hairnicks' on the social media site Flickr. 'Hairnicks' turned out to be Nick Croker, ex-local 'Bobby' and ex-Steward of the Blagdon Village Club. The key information regarding Brian Durbin as a witness was invaluable, as was the collection of material by Noel Campbell, ex-policeman for Compton Martin.

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Below: A 'Description of Accident' as released by the  Aircraft Accident Investigating Committee. At best it seems a sketchy account of the events leaving no real impression as to how it happened. However events like these were all too common when a war was being waged non-stop and inexperienced pilots and aircrew were exhausted whilst flying in unfamiliar terrain using very primitive equipment compared with what we take for granted today. 

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Description of the Accident                                                                             22ND MARCH 1944


……….. recommendations for actions to prevent repetitions.


  1. On 14th March1944 at approximately 12.55 , B-24, No. 42-2110039, crashed in an open field one (1) mile SW of Compton Martin. The pilot of this aircraft en-route from Marrakech, French Morocco, to Valley, Wales, on arriving over Valley Air Base, decided to head for St Mawgan where the weather was better rather than chance and instrument landing at Valley. The pilot on leaving Wales became lost and decided to make a landing at the first available airport, which was Filton airport. Some eight (8) miles from the scene of the crash, the pilot made a dry run of the field and Flying Control outlined the runways with flares. Weather was instrument with occasional breaks in the fog and light drizzle. On his second approach to the field with wheels down, the field was closed in tight. The field elevation is 200 feet, directly to the East in the pilots circuit is a hill of 670feet. The aircraft hit the tree-top on this hill and the tail was sheared off. The plane lurched across the field , and explosion occurred, completely destroying the aircraft, and resulting in the death of three officers and two enlisted men.


2. In the opinion of the Aircraft Accident Committee this accident was due to:


 a. Instrument weather in the Somerset County area where the pilot first became lost.

 b. Insufficient altitude to clear high elevation in the vicinity of Filton airport.


3. It is further recommended that pilots and co-pilots departing stations for the UK be instructed to exercise great care in the event of emergency let-downs over unknown terrain in the Theatre of Operations.


                                                     AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT INVESTIGATING COMMITTEE

                                                    DONALD C. GOWEY, 1st Lt, ROBERT M. MILLER, 2nd Lt,

                                                    RALPH F. CONWAY, Maj, AC

Above: A further 'Confidential' and 'Restricted' report reporting the deaths and casualties of the incident with further details on the circumstances. The weather conditions were described as fog, clouds and drizzle and visibility was 'near zero'. However it was good enough for the Ubley school children to see it fly over their school.

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