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29/05/1945 - North American P-51D 44-64084 & 44-72181

Aircraft Serial No Unit  Station Duty Crew Passengers
P-51D 44-64084 336th Fighter Squadron Debden Ferry flight to Speke 1 0
P-51D 44-72181 336th Fighter Squadron Debden Ferry flight to Speke 1 0

At the USAAF fighter station at Debden, Essex, twelve P-51D aircraft of the 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, known as the Debden Eagles with less than 100 hours were selected to be flown to Speke were they would be crated and sent to the US and then to the war in the Pacific. One of these aircraft was the Group Commanders aircraft No 44-72181 flown by Colonel Everitt Stuart.

P-51 No 44-72181

P-51 No 44-72181

1st Lieutenant Harold H Fredericks and Flight Officer Darnaby H Wilhoit were two of the pilots who volunteered to fly the aircraft to Speke. 1st Lieutenant Fredericks was to be leader of the flight of twelve aircraft flying No 44-72181, by 10:00 hours on the 29th May 1945 all twelve aircraft were airborne and in formation heading for the North West Coast, a distance of 160 miles. Near Leicester they encountered thick cloud and 1st Lieutenant Fredericks instructed the flight to climb to 6,000 feet. They were then no longer in sight of the ground, 1st Lieutenant Fredericks as the only pilot with a radio tried to raise Speke but was unsuccessful.

After 55 minutes had passed 1st Lieutenant Fredericks estimated that they should be over Speke and with ice forming on the aircraft wings opted for a decent through the clouds, his last instructions were to look for any dromes. 1st Lieutenant Beacham Brooker who was 1st Lieutenant Fredericks No 3 aircraft recalled the events that followed.

"As we were letting down through the overcast Fredericks plane suddenly disintegrated in front of me and a ball of fire flung my plane to one side. Immediately I pulled up out of the soup and found that my aircraft was difficult to handle. Looking out at my port wing I saw the reason why, two feet had been ripped away."

1st Lieutenant Brooker had hit the ground with his port wing, after keeping the aircraft in the air and landing back at Debden he climbed out of the cockpit shaken, never to fly an aircraft again.

1st Lieutenant Fredericks

1st Lieutenant Fredericks

1st Lieutenant Fredericks had crashed into the moors at Catleshaw, North of Oldham and is buried in Kentucky after originally being interred  at Cambridge.

Most of the other aircraft who had gone down through the cloud carried on and found Speke in poor visibility, some opted for climbing back up into the clouds and looking for another opening, others became separated and turned back to Debden.

Flight Officer Wilhoit

Flight Officer Wilhoit 

Flight Officer Darnaby H Wilhoit flying in 44-64084 was to be the second victim that day, when he decided for decent and sight of the ground whilst still over the hills, under power he flew into farm land of Monks Road, Glossop, and is buried in Kentucky after originally being interred  at Cambridge.

Position Name Rank Serial No Age  Status
Pilot Darnaby H Wilhoit Flight Officer  T-063542 - Killed
Pilot  Harold H Fredericks 1st Lieutenant O-812408 - Killed

Speke Incidents