wings_museum_sussex_surrey
 
Can you help?
Have you ever witnessed any aircraft crashes during World War Two? We are looking to hear from anyone with ANY information regarding aircraft crashes in the UK and Europe. Have you ever wanted to know more about why it crashed or perhaps you have often wondered about the pilots name, age etc. If so we can often help.
 
WANTED
WW2 Casualty Groups - RAF, Army, Navy. We will ensure their names are not forgotten.
 
WANTED
Volunteers wanted to attend museum during open weekends - would suit retired person within the Surrey/Sussex area.
 
BAPC Member

Member of the British Aviation Preservation Council

WINGS MUSEUM
REGISTERED CHARITY
NO. 1117879
 
royal_air_force_rafa

 

 
Hawker Hurricane Mk1 V6621 - 253 Squadron RAF Kenley
Crashed 29th September 1940 at 16.00 hrs Townings Farm Chailey.
 
P.O. Graves – RAF Kenley
P.O. Graves – RAF Kenley
 
On 28th September 1940 P.O. Graves was in combat over the South of England flying Hurricane Mk1 V6621 from 253 Squadron based at RAF Kenley. P.O. Graves was slightly injured in combat with Bf109's over Weybridge, Surrey when suddenly his Hurricane was mistakenly attacked from behind by a 501 Squadron Hurricane and set alight. P.O. Graves baled out near Chailey, Sussex, and was admitted to Brockley Park Hospital, Haywards Heath. His Hurricane plumeted to earth and crashed near Townings Farm, Chailey were the aircraft burnt out. Foruntately P.O. Graves lived to tell the tale and post war years was able to tell the story to his family. P.O. Graves remembered seeing the Hurricane in his rear view mirror firing shortly before being hit, he himself was very close to an Me109 at the time and no doubt in the confusion of battle his Hurricane was caught in a burst of machine gun fire from the 501 Squadron machine. This kind of "blue on blue" incident unfortunately still happens today, the reality of war in any time period has a price to pay.
 
 
Pilot - P/O Richard Courtney Graves RAFVR (83289):
 
Richard Courtney Graves was born on 3rd April 1921 in London. His father, Arnold Graves, was of Irish descent and his mother, Marie Antoinette Hinot, was French. His father had served in the RFC and subsequently the RAF in WW1 and had been with 30 Squadron in the Middle East.
 

Graves was educated in England and France, attending a Roman Catholic boarding school in France when his mother returned there together with his younger sister after her husband walked out of the matrimonial home.

 
He joined De Havilland as an apprentice at Hatfield in 1939, also joining the RAFVR as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his flying training at 9 FTS Hullavington, was commissioned and arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 17th August 1940.
 
Richard Graves received his commission to the rank of Acting P/O on probation on 17th August 1940 and was later confirmed in the rank of P/O. He had been flying with 253 Squadron briefly from 9th to 13th September 1940 but was posted to 85 Squadron from 14th to 27th September 1940 before being posted back to 253 Squadron at RAF Kenley on 28th September. The very next day he was in combat over the South of England in Hurricane V6621 and injured in this combat with an Bf109 over Weybridge, when his Hurricane was mistakenly attacked by a 501 Squadron Hurricane. Earier in the day he had himself shot down a Bf109.
 
P.O. Graves continued service after his crash at Chailey & post war life:
 
Graves was flying one of twenty-four Hurricanes which flew off HMS Ark Royal to reinforce Malta on 27th April 1941. He joined 261 Squadron and went to the Middle East when the squadron was disbanded in May. He then joined 30 Squadron and served with it in Egypt, the Western Desert and later in Ceylon in 1942. Graves was released from the RAF in 1947 as a Squadron Leader.
 

He then held various short-term jobs with French Radio, UNESCO and others until he went to Morocco to visit his mother who had re-married a French General who was the last Military Governor at the time.

 
He joined Mobil Oil and met his wife-to-be when posted to Casablanca. His next posting was Dakar, Senegal in 1954 as the depot manager for Mobil Oil at the airport. He remained with Mobil Oil in Aviation Sales and Marketing for the whole of ex-French West Africa until the early 1970’s when he took early retirement, having moved to Paris in the early 1960’s.
 
He moved away from the Paris area to the east of France to Epinal. While driving back home one evening in July 1978 he suffered either a diabetic coma or heart attack & tragically Mr Graves passed away.
 
Excavation of Hawker Hurricane V6621 by the Wings Museum
Thursday 14th September 2017.
MoD Licence No. 1847
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_crash_site_marked_out
Crash site marked out showing extent of deep readings.
 

On Thursday 14th of September 2017 a team from the Wings Museum gathered at the crash site of a Battle of Britain Hawker Hurricane Serial Number V6621 that crashed at Long Ridge Farm, Chailey, Sussex on 29th September 1940.

 
?Kevin Hunt of the Wings Museum briefed those present on the dig about the procedures of the excavation and also the hazards of possible .303 ammunition that would possibly be buried at the crash site. This briefing also advised people on the procedures of handling significant artefacts to avoid any possible damage.
 

We had the privillege of having the son and grandson of the pilot present on the dig to witness the recovery of the remains of their father/grandfather’s Hawker Hurricane from its final resting place, where it has laid for the last 77 years.

 
The site of the excavation was then cordoned off with hazard tape and after a deep scan survey with a Magnatometer the impact site (recorded during previous deep surveys) was pegged out ready for the top soil to be removed by the excavator. Once the first 12 inches of top soil was removed and set aside, to be reinstated once the dig was complete, we then instructed the digger driver to slowly & carefully scrape back 6 inches of soil at a time, this allowed us to examine the soil for any evidence of the impact point.
 
The first evidence of the impact of the Hurricane was highlighted by an area of chalk which is not natural to the local area and this is believed to be the material used to back fill the crash site in 1940 by the RAF Recovery Team. In the middle of the chalk deposit was a darker area of natural clay soil. We understood from a book “The Battle of Britain Then and Now” which suggested that the site had been excavated in the 1970’s. We believe that this area of darker clay deposit was evidence of disturbance from that excavation carried out in the 1970’s.
 
As the digger excavated and scrapped back layer by layer, the very first evidence of the aircraft could be seen in the form of “Dural” (aluminium), along with fragments of shattered wooden propeller. We decided to focus the excavation to one side of the main impact area where the team had recorded a strong magnetometer reading, which we hoped might be the remains of a wing with potential .303 Browning Machine Guns remains. As we removed the earth 6 inches at a time one of the members of the team discovered a browning machine gun mount. Apart from this find and a few rounds of exploded .303 ammunition very little else was recorded. Finally at a depth of 4 feet a large iron object was discovered, the digger was stopped and the team began to dig the object by hand. Unfortunately this item turned out to be a section of cast iron pipe with the remains of several shattered clay pipes present underneath. With this object removed the maganatometer was utilized to determine if any other anomalies were present. With a careful and extensive grid pattern search the magnetometer did not record any other readings. It is possible that this was the remains of an old land drain that was perhaps damaged by the Hurricane when it crashed to earth in 1940.
 
With this area exhausted the dig moved over to focus our attention on the main reading and the digger began to scrape down 6 inches at a time until the first significant remains of the aircraft were discovered at a depth of approximately 3 feet. One of the first finds was a brass union from the aircraft coolant system which was in good condition. As the team excavated by hand the burnt remains of the tail wheel tyre, together with the axle, still in position were discovered. The words “Dunlop” could be made out and this item was carefully excavated and lifted out of the soil. The tail wheel tyre was discovered just to one side of the impact area and because the tail wheel remains retained the various assemblies such as the tyre, axle and 3 stainless steel bolts for the wheel hub which had long since corroded away, we believe this was evidence of an area that had been missed by the recovery carried out in the 1970’s. Having carefully extracted the tail wheel tyre another find was discovered in the form of a steel tube from the fuselage structure which was discovered pointing vertically into the ground, this was carefully extracted and found to retain one of the Stainless Steel “Fish Plates” which was so typical of the Hurricane airframe structure. By digging this area by hand many other smaller components were retrieved including sections of wooden propeller, smashed engine casing, brass cowling fasteners complete with the part number, wiring and several more stainless steel fuselage brackets. Several lengths of stainless steel wire intersected the excavation area, these were the tension wires from the fuselage area that kept the fuselage frame under tension during flight. As this area was cleared of finds the digger was used to clear the loose soil out of the excavation area so that the team could begin digging once again by hand. One of the team members then discovered an area where a number of larger items were tangled together, these included a section of centre section about 14 inches long and some other steel structural brackets from the centre section. Tangled in with the remains of the fuselage tension wires were some larger engine components, including a shattered oil filter scavenge pump, cylinder head bolts, sections of engine casing with exhaust outlets complete with an exhaust valve still present. Other airframe brackets and twisted tubes were recovered along with a completely squashed cylinder liner. What was amazing about this find is that the piston was completely withdrawn from the liner before being squashed flat by the final impact. This would suggest that the main engine block was completely shattered from the impact. The engine artefacts showed evidence from fire damage so we can conclude that the aircraft set alight from the engine area.
 
Slightly to one side of the engine remains a few internal components of cockpit instruments were found with a very corroded Air Speed instrument face. In this area we also recovered a complete Boost gauge instrument face together with an oxygen gauge both in good condition, these important finds were bagged for attention later were they could be properly cleaned and preserved.
 

As the team worked through the engine remains the propeller hub was discovered at a depth of 6 feet and at a 35 degree angle pointing Due South East. We carefully exposed the propeller hub until we could tie a lifting strop around the hub to allow the mechanical excavator to carefully lift the propeller hub out of the hole. By this point the smell of 70 year old avgas filled the air. The propeller hub was found to be in very good condition preserved in engine oil and fuel. Once the hub was removed from the excavation the team carefully excavated by hand and discovered the engine pinion gear which was very close to where the propeller hub had been recovered. We continued to excavate by digger until we hit natural soil but no further remains of the aircraft were discovered. Our attention then turned to the spoil heaps which were carefully searched by metal detector before being back filled into the excavation hole.

 

The top soil set aside earlier was then finally spread over the area of the excavation and the area was carefully levelled out by the digger to ensure the site was left in a satisfactory condition.

 
Conclusions:
From the evidence of the remains of the shattered engine it would back up reports at the time that the aircraft was on fire, forcing the pilot to bail out. From the stainless steel airframe brackets and part number stamps we could tell that the aircraft was one of those constructed at the Gloster aircraft factory due to the fact the part number had the prefix of a “G”. We could also confirm that the aircraft had indeed been excavated before, most likely by hand, which would have restricted the size of the excavation. The fact that the aircraft had only penetrated to a depth of 6 feet would suggest that the wreckage was largely exposed at the bottom of the crater with the larger items being removed by the RAF Recovery Team in 1940.
 

The finds are now being cleaned and preserved ready for display in the museum. The team is satisfied with it’s findings and a number of interesting items were found to represent this Battle of Britain incident in the museum. The experience also fulfilled the wishes of the relatives of the P.O. Graves who had in the past tried to locate the crash site. A presentation board is now being prepared for the family and also for the farm shop which is situated near by.

 
With thanks to the MoD, Landowner, Townings Farm Shop, John our digger driver, our Wings Museum volunteers and a special thank you to the Graves family.
 
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_team_brief
Kevin Hunt of the Wings Museum gives a briefing prior to the excavation being carried out.
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_first_signs
First traces of the 1940's chalk back fill, the patch in the centre is evidence of the 1970's dig.
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_ammo
1940 dated .303 ammunition.
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/huricane_browning_mount_as_recovered
Forward Browning machine gun mount.
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_tail_wheel_tire
Dunlop tail wheel tire being uncovered
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/wings_museum_digging_team
Small finds being recovered carefully by hand.
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_rolls_royce_merlin_before
Rolls Royce Merlin engine valve (before cleaing)
 
Rolls Royce Merlin III engine pinion gear
Rolls Royce Merlin III engine pinion gear
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_prop_hub
Propeller hub from Hurricane V6621 being recovered from its final resting place.
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_rolls_royce_merlin_part
Rolls Royce engine valve cleaned and preserved for display
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_browning_gun_mount
Browning machine gun mount cleaned and preserved for display
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_gun_sight
Fragment of the gun sight.
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_v6621_boost_gauge
Boost instrument face (note 1940 date)
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/hurricane_instrument_face_relic
Oxygen regulator instrument face.
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/tail wheel axle
Hurricane V6621 tail wheel axle
 
images/Hurricane_V6621/wings_museum_land_owner_board
Presentation of parts presented to the land owner in gratitude of all his help and support.
 
 
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