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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 20542
Last updated: 1 December 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic CNBR model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
English Electric Canberra B Mk 2
Owner/operator:231 Operational Conversion Unit Royal Air Force (231 OCU RAF)
Registration: WE119
MSN: 71083
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:New River, 3 miles SE of Ware, Hertfordshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire
Destination airport:RAF Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire
On the 20th December 1954 a Canberra B2 bomber, WE119, lost control at high altitude and dived into the ground at St Margarets, 3 miles south east of Ware, Hertfordshire. The plane was on a training flight from 231 OCU at Bassingbourn. The plane crashed into the New River (an aqueduct serving London) at a point between the church and St Margaretsbury, at that time a children’s home. Of the 3 man crew, 2 pilot officers were killed but one bailed out some distance away and attended the enquiry in Hertford. Fortunately no one on the ground was hurt. It was a night flight and we heard that 2 bodies were found during the night and a third one had bailed out some distance from the aircraft and was not found until a search next day.

I know this as I was living as an 8 yr old child in St Margaretsbury Children's a Home at that time.
Plane suffered engine failure and was on a 6.5% glidepath prior to crashing into trees in front of a Children's home.

Per eyewitness report: "I witnessed overflight of aircraft (without engine noise) at a distance of 0.83 miles from impact. My Uncle, Major General George Fanshawe was somewhat closer at a distance of less than 300 metres from the crash site, whilst waiting at a level crossing at St Margarets station.

A significant explosion occurred on impact with parts of the aircraft found in a radius of more than 2 miles. I engine was buried 5-6 meters into the ground in front of St. Margaretsbury children's home

The plane crashed into the New River (an aqueduct serving London) at a point between the church and St Margaretsbury, at that time a children’s home. The three man crew died, but fortunately no one on the ground was hurt."

This is incorrect. The pilot F/O Crombie bailed out and survived. The two remaining crew were killed. I remember distinctly one of the jet engines imbedded just in front of the mansion (a children's home), and small pieces of wreckage scattered over the ground and in the trees. Most wreckage could be picked up by hand, and RAF servicemen spent considerable time raking and collecting all the remains.

In the grounds of St Margaret’s church there is a log from a tree in the vicarage garden that blew down in a gale on January 25th 1990. Embedded in the log is a piece of the Canberra bomber and a sign relating the history of the event.


1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings – Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.167 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Royal Air Force Aircraft WA100-WZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1983 p 31)
3. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/253:
8. 25 SLEEP THROUGH CRASH ON THE LAWN (The Straits Times, 22 December 1954, Page 2):

Revision history:

03-Jun-2008 23:26 JINX Added
08-Apr-2012 10:58 Anon. Updated [Source, Narrative]
03-Apr-2013 23:46 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
23-Aug-2015 19:50 Smallpaws45 Updated [Narrative]
08-Mar-2017 20:29 Anon. Updated [Narrative]
12-Nov-2018 21:25 Nepa Updated [Operator, Destination airport, Operator]
10-Jan-2020 22:04 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
10-Jan-2020 22:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]
10-Jan-2020 22:24 stehlik49 Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Nature, Operator]

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