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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 22443
Last updated: 30 November 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic L14 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Lockheed Hudson Mk I
Owner/operator:220 Squadron Royal Air Force (220 Sqn RAF)
Registration: N7294
Fatalities:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 4
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Easby Moor, near Captain Cook's Monument, Great Ayton, Yorkshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Initial climb
Departure airport:RAF Thornaby, North Yorkshire
Destination airport:
On 9 February 1940, German minesweepers operating off the Danish coast were reported to the RAF Coastal Command. With the improving weather, a special night patrol of three Hudsons of 220 Sqn RAF was planned on the night of 10-11 February 1940 to fly due east from Thornaby to Horns Reef, then sweep south into the Heligoland Bight. There they would mount a low-level bombing attack on the enemy ships at first light.

The winter of 1939-40 was a severe one. It was a cold night and snow was already covering the hills in the area south and east of Middlesbrough as the three Hudsons of 220 Sqn RAF were prepared at Thornaby airfield to undertake the mission. The three aircraft took of at 0410, 0411 and 0412 hrs. The lead aircraft, the Hudson I N7294 NR-E, failed to gain enough height on take off.

The Hudson flew very low over Great Ayton and then crashed into the first piece of high ground it came to on the North Yorkshire Moors, having flown into the moor just below a stone wall it travelled up through the wall and then onto the hill top near to Captain Cook’s Monument. It was thought the pilot pulled the nose of the aircraft up just before impact which avoided a complete nose-on impact with the side of the hill. The crash ripped the underside of the aircraft off and it ploughed its way across the snow covered moor for a short before coming to rest in a small wood on its side. One witness contacted in 2002 recalled one wing being broken off and the remaining wing being attached to the main fuselage, this wing was left sticking up in the air.

Of the four crew on board, sadly three were killed but the gunner, LAC Atholl Barker survived and was not seriously injured. He was lying on the pull-down bed before going into his turret. He was unaware that anything was wrong with the aircraft. Then there was an almighty bang and after being knocked out for a while he found himself on the ground amidst some debris from the plane. It seems likely that the Hudson hit the exposed rock-face, near the summit, breaking off a large piece of stone which lies there to this day. This would have ripped a hole in the fuselage. Presumably Barker then rolled off the bed, fell through the gap in the floor of the rear compartment, and landed relatively softly in the snow-covered heather.

Despite both legs being injured Barker struggled down the hillside to get help at a nearby farm close to Easby, taking a rest in old mine buildings on the way down. He was found by William Hodgson, tenant farmer at Borough Green Farm, Low Easby around 0600 hrs. Hodgson pushed the injured airman into the kitchen with his shot-gun, not knowing whether he was friend or foe. His son Billy was sent to raise the alarm, while his wife Alice made a cup of tea.

A pigeon called "Polly" trained by a Mr Hartas of Grove Hill, Middlesbrough, though injured, also survived the crash and returned home and later received an award in recognition of pidgeon bravery, the Dicken Medal. The other homing pigeon aboard was killed.

Flg Off om MacKinlay Parker (pilot, aged 21) KIFA
Sgt Harold Francis Bleksley (pilot, aged 24) KIFA
Cpl Norman Richard Drury (wireless operator, aged 23) KIFA
LAC Atholl Barker (air gunner, aged 26) WIFA

When they failed to make contact with their leader, the other two Hudsons set off on their easterly course. The weather was appalling. Two hours after take-off, Sgt Culver turned back, but Plt Off Petrie completed the operation, reporting that the sea was frozen for a distance of 40 miles from the coastline. There was no sign of enemy shipping activity. He returned to Thornaby at 0912 hrs.

The majority of the wreckage was left at the site for a time after the crash due to the heavy snow on the ground and an RAF guard was placed on the aircraft during this time but this does not appear to have stopped youngsters helping themselves to bits of the plane. When the snow had melted some young boys from Great Ayton were exploring and they discovered a yellow painted bomb, they informed the RAF guard at the site about this and it became apparent that the RAF had been looking for it as it was unaccounted for. It was however thought to be a dummy or a dud by the boys (or now thought to be full of alluminium bits to be dropped on the sea).

Hudson N7294 was built to contract 791587/38 by Lockheed-Vega at Burbank, California and was delivered by sea to the UK, arriving in September 1939. After erection and acceptance at MU it was issued to 220 Sqn at Thornaby in September 1939 when the unit began to convert to Hudsons from Ansons. Cat.W/FA damage was recorded following the above incident and it was written off.

There was an official, rather sketchy, enquiry into the accident. This stated that Hudson NR-E "flew into hillside soon after take-off due to formation of frost on inside of windscreen and windows."
This is unlikely to be true since the Hudson had a cockpit heater and it would have been easy for the pilot to clear the inside of the windscreen. The source of this theory was Atholl Barker. He had given various versions of events, initially saying he remembered nothing but later, when interviewed in North Ormesby Hospital, had mentioned the icing of windows obscuring vision.

The true cause emerged later when another Hudson was almost lost in similar circumstances. A more thorough investigation showed it was icing on the wings. Even a thin coating of ice significantly reduced lift. The Hudson would not climb or manoeuvre. At Thornaby the Hudsons were kept outside, and the weather was below freezing. As a result of this later enquiry, wings were sprayed with de-icing fluid, a practice continued to this day.

Atholl Barker suffered medical problems for some time after the crash. He spent time at Winterton Hospital, Sedgefield and was interviewed at a Medical Board in November. He recovered and in October 1942 was promoted to Pilot Officer. Six months later he was a Flying Officer on Liberators, stationed at Reykjavik. He transferred to Bomber Command in 1943. On 22 November 1943 the RAF assembled the greatest force yet sent to Berlin. Flg Off Barker was in the rear turret of a Lancaster of 7 Sqn, MG-G. Only 11 of the 469 Lancasters failed to return home, including MG-G. Atholl Barker was kileld and is buried in Hannover War Cemetery.

"Coastal Command losses of the Second World War, vol 1. Aircraft and Crews losses 1939-1941", by Ross McNeill, ISBN 1-85780-128-8

Revision history:

08-Aug-2008 10:57 Anon. Added
10-Jan-2012 02:49 angels one five Updated [Time, Location, Narrative]
19-Jan-2012 14:41 Nepa Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Operator, Departure airport]
24-Mar-2013 19:44 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
21-Jul-2013 08:45 angels one five Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Phase, Narrative]
21-Jul-2013 08:46 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
08-Aug-2013 04:28 JINX Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Location]
26-Feb-2014 23:42 angels one five Updated [Time, Operator, Location, Narrative]
06-Jun-2015 16:55 Angel dick one Updated [Time, Operator, Departure airport]
10-Jan-2018 13:26 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Phase, Source, Narrative]

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