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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 162382
Last updated: 13 November 2021
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Date:21-DEC-1939
Time:day
Type:Handley Page Hampden Mk I
Owner/operator:44 Squadron Royal Air Force (44 Sqn RAF)
Registration: L4090
MSN:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 4
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Gullane Bay, near North Berwick, Firth of Forth -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Destination airport:RAF Drem, East Lothian
Narrative:
Handley Page Hampden Mk.I L4090 of 44 Squadron, RAF: Lost in a "friendly fire incident" on 21/12/39. Two Hampdens of 44 Squadron were returning to base after a recce flight off the Norwegian coast. Owing to the poor visibility at the time and the firing of the wrong identification "colours" when intercepted by Spitfires of 602 Squadron, the two bombers were shot down by mistake. (They were mis-identified as Dornier Do.17s which have a similar layout: twin engines, narrow fuselage, twin tail fins).

Both planes ditched in the sea. One of the crew of L4090 died in the incident when it ditched into Gullane Bay, near North Berwick, Firth of Forth. The crew member fatality was LAC Terrance Gibbin (Service Number 550960, aged 19), accidentally killed on an air operation. LAC Terrance Gibbon is buried in Kirkleatham (St Cuthbert) Churchyard. The three surviving crew members of Hampden L4090 were

Pilot Officer Patrick Fraser Dingwall
Sgt J.A.M.Reid
Sgt W.K.Lodge

All were rescued and recovered. According to the following published history of RAF Drem (where 602 Squadron's Spitfires were based):

"Day of Tragedy
21 December 1939, a tragic day in 602's history. A combination of errors led to the shooting down of friendly aircraft, and loss of life. A flight of RAF 44 Squadron Handley-Page Hampden bombers were approaching the south coast of the Firth of Forth without properly identifying themselves as friendly, by lowering their undercarriage. Spitfires of 602 Squadron were hastily scrambled, taking-off crosswind. The light was poor, and such was the time of heightened tension, that the Handley-Page Hampdens bore a remarkable resemblance to Dornier Do17 bombers. They both had the same basic layout of twin-engines, and twin-fins on the tailplane. The Hampdens fired flares to confirm their identity, but they were in the wrong sequence. The Spitfires engaged. Two of the Hampdens were shot down in the Forth before the Spitfires realised their mistake. Remarkably, only one Hampden crew member lost his life.

The remaining Hampdens were escorted into Drem by the Spitfires, and landed safely. They stayed overnight, and the next morning after having taken off, turned and roared back over the airfield at full-throttle, bombing the 602 Squadron quarters with hundreds of toilet rolls! Such black humour shrouded much deeper feelings of despair and terror, necessarily swept aside as the real threat continued. An inquiry absolved 602's pilots of any responsibility in the accident - just one of many hundreds of "friendly-fire" tragedies to occur in all theatres of the war."

Its thought that a propeller trawled up years ago belonged to this Hampden. It has been restored and can be seen at East Fortune, next to another prop thought to belong to a Beaufort

Sources:

1. Royal Air Force Aircraft L1000-L9999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1978 p 23)
2. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AIR 81/76: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14141877
3. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1939a.htm
4. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2402844/gibbin,-terrance/
5. http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/ww2/allied/battalion.php?pid=243
6. http://www.rafdrem.co.uk/history.html
7. http://www.divernet.com/wrecks/p298393-splash-landings-return-of-the-avenger.html


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
19-Nov-2013 23:23 angels one five Added
27-Nov-2014 16:11 Bodie R. Updated [Operator, Departure airport, Narrative]
25-Apr-2018 14:14 Dr. John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Destination airport]
30-Apr-2018 19:58 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Location, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
29-Oct-2018 18:19 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
05-Jun-2019 14:22 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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