Supermarine Seafire's MB362 & MB369, 880 Sq 3/2/1943
Motto: To seek and to destroy
(Seafire 1b) Picture CMR Models http://www.cmrmodels.co.uk/
On 3/2/1943 MB362 being flown by Sub.Lt (A) Lloyd H Johnson RNZVR and MB369 being flown by Sub.Lt (A) Anthony Charles Armstrong Smalley RNVR, both of 880 Sqdn (It seems MB369 may well have been an 801 Sqn aircraft) were engaged on camera gun attack training when they collided at 6000 feet, near the Woodwick range, causing both the aircraft to crash, one in a field near Rendall and the other into the sea near Tingwall. Both the pilots were killed.
Sub/Lt L.H.Johnson.Photo: NZ Weekly News. Sub/Lt A.C.A.Smalley. Photo: Jonathan Smalley
The bodies of the two Royal Navy pilots were recovered and following a service they were laid to rest in St.Olaf`s Cemetery, Kirkwall with full military honours.
Above: Headstones of the two Navy pilots in St.Olaf`s. Photo: Kit Johnson.
Above: The area of sea into which MB362 crashed off Tingwall. This position was taken from the Shapinsay Air Sea rescue boat while searching for the aircraft. Photo: Kevin Heath.
Above: The Field where MB369 crashed. Photo: Kevin Heath.
Relatives of both airmen have been contacted by ARGOS and it was learned that Sub/Lt Lloyd Johnson`s brother and Great Niece visited the cemetery to pay their respects on a trip to Orkney in 2008, all the way from New Zealand. We are most grateful for all the information supplied by both families and hopefully some form of memorial can be erected on or near the crash site of the Seafire in Evie.
Above: Kit Johnson and Daughter Charlotte at St.Olaf`s. Photo: Kit Johnson.
The hunt for Seafire MB369
Enquiries into the accident actually started in 2004 when Dave Earl and Dave Ramsey were visiting the area on 24th May, he spoke with local men Irvine Wood and John Firth who both recalled sparse details of the event, Mr Wood recalled how one of the aircraft had dived in at some height and crashed in a field, and Mr Firth said he knew the owner of the land if we wanted to have a look for it.
A search was made of a field but despite finding numerous metal objects, this was in the main farm waste and no remains of the aircraft were found.
Some 5 years later on 16 June 2009 with our newly formed aviation group and fresh information from another local man Jim Nicholson, a new search was conducted, with group members Kevin Heath, Dave Earl, William Shearer, Dave Ramsey and Geoff Bland, this time using a mini geo detector, good signals were found and we were almost sure we had the site, but rumour was that an Army base was in that area and that got us thinking that what we found were remains of the camp.
It was later established that this was Hackland Camp, home to the 9th Batalion South Lancashire Regiment, and so William Shearer ordered the camp diary for the date of the accident, it would appear we had indeed found just the camp remains, but an entry in the diary stated that the Seafire had crashed near to the camp area and that wireless equipment and other parts from the aircraft had been salvaged.
Above: The crash site in the centre shows up as a bright green grassy area. Photo: Kevin Heath.
So armed with this new knowledge along with fresh information from another witness Ivy Ballantyne of Sunnybrae Farm, a new search was conducted on 27 July 2009 by Kevin Heath and William Shearer and this time one small piece of stainless steel was found on the surface of the field in a disturbed area, this piece fortunately contained a set of numbers confirming the aircraft type and with further detector readings and what were almost certain to be the two 20mm Hispano canon protuding out of the ground.
Above: Stainless steel part bearing the `300` part prefix for Spitfire. Photo: Kevin Heath.
Above: The end of the two Hispano cannon which led to the discovery of MB369.
Above: Mini Geo survey of the Seafire in a field near Rendall & right in 3D
The Dig. 23/24 July 2010
Photo: Nelson Winkler
Trenches 2 & 3 showing (A) the port side 20mm Hispano cannon, (B) the starboard Hispano cannon, (C) the top of the engine casing and (D) the internal parts of the engine with three of the twelve cylinders.
From the dig the team was able to establish that the aircraft crashed 30deg beyond the vertical. Most of the wreckage from behind the fuel tank which is located just forward of the cockpit appears to be missing and was most likely taken away by the recovery team in 1943. The main items of interest recovered were the two Hispano cannon, the shattered remains of the aircrafts Merlin engine, the aircrafts compass & the pitot tube, a speed indicator located under the port wing. It was to position of this find, together with the angle of the cannon which told us the way the aircraft crashed.
Mk VIIIC Pitot tube
Above: This picture shows a row of cylinders on one side of the Merlin engine we believe to be from the Seafire MB362. Photo: Dave Gentile.
THE SEAFIRE DISPLAY AT THE ORKNEY VINTAGE CLUB SHOW
At the Orkney Vintage Club Show in Kirkwall today 15th August 2010, ARGOS set up a display surrounding the crash of the Seafire in Rendall, and all the work on research,the excavation of the crash site, details on the pilot and relics from the dig were open to the public for the first time. The event proved to be a great success and generated lots of interest in our work on various projects, and remembering our fallen heroes, we recruited several new members on the day.
Photos: Julie Ritch.
WREATHS LAID IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE TWO PILOTS.
Today 24/10/2010 ARGOS members Kevin Heath and William Shearer, along with members of Kirkwall British Legion bearing standards, held a moving short service and laid wreaths at the graves of Seafire pilots Lts Johnson & Smalley at St.Olaf`s Cemetery, to honour these two men who were killed in the collision over Evie 1943. Photo: Kevin Heath.
SUB/LT SMALLEY RELATIVES VISIT ORKNEY.
Nephews Jonathan & Wayland Smalley pay their respects at their Uncles grave in St.Olaf`s on visit to Orkney at the end of September. Photo: Kevin Heath.
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