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Aircraft Crash - 78 years ago today.

In the booklet "A New Look at Old Brompton-on-Swale" there is reference - in the article "East of the Great North Road" by Dorothy Fenton - to an aircraft ("a Mosquito") from Scorton crashing on Hollow Banks Farm in the early 1940s.

As it turns out, the aircraft wasn't a DeHavilland #Mosquito - it was another similar two-engined fighter/bomber - a Bristol #Beaufighter - of 403 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, based at Scorton. 403 Squadron were called the Lynx Squadron and had the motto "We Kill By Night". Sadly both Pilot (Flight Lieutenant John Robert Browning Firth, aged 27) and radio operator / navigator (Pilot Officer Fred George Harding, aged 24) were killed. Here is the full story.

During the night of 28th / 29th August 1942 the aircraft was scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft off the North East coast. They located and attacked a Dornier Do.217 some thirty miles East of Whitby at 23.00hrs. The combat resulted in the enemy aircraft being shot down into the North Sea but during the combat the Beaufighter was hit by the returning fire and the starboard engine put out of action. When they were returning to base the weather around Scorton was poor with visibility reduced, as they approached for a landing the aircraft struck the roof of Hollow Banks Farm, between Catterick Bridge and Scorton at 00.15hrs.

Sadly, both airmen were killed as a result of the accident and part of the aircraft was seen sticking up from the roof of the house for a number of days until the wreckage was cleared.

Photo: Fred Harding on the left and John Firth on the right. Photograph from (via Mr Jim Rutland).

John Firth is buried at Streatham Park Cemetery (Square 1, Grave 7132). He was the son of Robert Browning Firth and Ruby Kathleen Firth, of Hove, Sussex. However, one RCAF source (see below) indicates he was Canadian and from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Frederick Harding is buried at Eltham Cemetery in Woolwich (Sec. H. Grave 717).

He was the son of Frederick James Harding and Daisy Florence Harding and the husband of Margaret Ida Harding, of New Eltham.

Links to Further Reading

This blog post was made at the 00:15am 29th August 2020, on the 78th anniversary, to the minute, of this tragic event.

"We shall remember them"

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