On August 13, 1943, a Vickers Wellington (MP622) of RCAF 407 Squadron based out of RAF Chivenor in Devon, landed at Beaulieu Airfield. The aircraft and Canadian crew had been on an anti-submarine patrol but had been told to divert to Beaulieu due to bad weather.
The operational records for 407 Squadron contain the following entry explaining what happened that day.
“Weather foggy. All training scrubbed. Crews on last night’s ops were diverted to Beaulieu. F/L B.W. Pritchard on taking off from Beaulieu, collided in mid-air with a Halifax near Holmsley South. This accident caused gloom on the whole squadron. As ‘Pritch’, Tatton, Tuchtie, Tarver, ‘Tommy’ Main, and ‘Al’ Johnston were one of the most popular crews on the Squadron.”
After taking off from Beaulieu, it had been involved in what I believe was the deadliest air accident to take place over the New Forest during the Second World War.
After just a few hours rest, the tired Canadian crew taxi’d out on the runways at Beaulieu, and took off, planning to return to their home airfield of Chivenor in Devon. The Wellington (code MP622) was soon flying over the village of Sway to the west of RAF Beaulieu, flying just below the clouds.
What they didn’t know though, was that they were now in the flight path of an RAF Halifax of 502 Squadron (JB902) that had taken off from the nearby Holmsley South airfield on a test flight.
Tragically the two aircraft collided, and both crashed on separate sites in the village of Sway. All six Canadian crew of the Wellington died, as did all six British crew of the Halifax.
As if this wasn’t tragic enough, when the Halifax came down, it crashed onto the home of Peter Jenvey. He was living in a railway coach converted into a caravan in a field. He was 68 and had moved from Southampton to the New Forest, as he thought it a safer place to be away from German bombing.
He was also killed, bringing the overall death toll to thirteen.
I was recently contacted by a Graham Moore who is involved with documenting the history of RAF Chivenor and airfields in Devon, who asked if we could visit the two crash sites and place crosses down where the public could see them and pay their respects.
Along historian Richard Reeves and my son, I went and paid our respects including the placement of wooden crosses. You can see how we got on in the video below or watch it on YouTube.
The airmen who died in the accident are named below.
Wellington (MP622) of 407 Squadron RCAF
- F/L Beverley W. Pritchard
- F/O Nicholas J. Tuchtie
- F/O Harold M Tarver
- F/S Alan A. Johnston
- F/S Thomas Main
- F/O Allison G. Tatton
Halifax (JB902) of 502 Squadron RAF
- W/C Francis W Brands
- F/S Gerald W. Hawkes
- F/S Edwin C. Hainsworth
- F/S Henry L. H. Bainton
- F/S Lawrence E. Burgess
- F/S Leslie Fraser
Along with Peter Jenvey, the civilian on the ground in Sway, there were 13 deaths in total.