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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 21027
Last updated: 5 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: WH716
MSN: 71682
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Combs, 2 1/4 miles SSW of Stowmarket, Suffolk -   United Kingdom
Phase: Initial climb
Departure airport:RAF Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire
Destination airport:RAF Shepherds Grove, Suffolk
EE Canberra WH716, 231 OCU, RAF: Written off 10/5/1955 - Dived into ground at night at Combs, two and a quarter miles South South West of Stowmarket, Suffolk after climb-out from GCA approach practice.

The aircraft had made a practice GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) at night to RAF Shepherds Grove, Suffolk and had been seen to climb away normally. WH716 subsequently dived into the ground at 70 degrees and inverted. The most likely cause of the accident was the failure of the tailplane incidence actuator.

The crew of the aircraft, who all perished, are shown as:

Pilot Officer Robert Michael Brown (Pilot, Service Number 3139052 aged 22)
Pilot Officer John Edward Ratcliffe (Navigator/Plotter, Service Number 4117643, aged 20)
Pilot Officer Peter John Hawkes (Navigator Observer, Service Number 4117642, aged 20)

All three were buried at Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth Cemetery, Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, in adjacent graves (Section JJ graves 8,9, and 10)

Note that the crash location is spelled "Combs" on most maps, although it is pronounced locally as "Cooms". Hence the crash location has been given two different names! Combs is a village and civil parish in the English county of Suffolk. It is also located directly to the south of Stowmarket, within a half-mile (800 metre) of glacial valley known locally as 'Slough', at approximate co ordinates 52.17N 0.987E

In addition, the official records at the National Archives at Kew give two different crash locations, neither of which mention Coombs: File BT233/271 describes the crash as "Canberra B2, WH716: near Ipswich, Suffolk, 10 May 1955", whereas File AVIA 5/34/S2752 states the crash location as "Canberra B2 (WH-716). Location: Near Shepherds Grove Airfield"


1. Halley, James (1999) Broken Wings Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents Tunbridge Wells: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. p.171 ISBN 0-85130-290-4.
2. Royal Air Force Aircraft WA100-WZ999 (James J Halley, Air Britain, 1983 p 52)
3. Category Five; A Catalogue of RAF Aircraft Losses 1954 to 2009 by Colin Cummings p.134
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File BT233/271:
5. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/34/S2752:
9.,_Suffolk .

Revision history:

13-Jun-2008 01:17 JINX Added
27-Jun-2008 05:47 collie Updated
05-Apr-2013 15:14 Dr. John Smith Updated [Cn, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
20-Jul-2014 20:07 angels one five Updated [Aircraft type, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
30-Nov-2016 14:13 A.J. Scholten Updated [Cn]
12-Nov-2018 21:26 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
12-Jan-2020 22:40 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
12-Jan-2020 22:42 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]
13-Jan-2020 14:10 stehlik49 Updated [Operator, Operator]
20-May-2020 18:04 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
20-May-2020 18:09 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Narrative]
20-May-2020 19:47 MIG21 Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Operator]
21-May-2020 17:20 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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