Keeping with the World War 2 theme that I mentioned in my previous post, I’d like to mention one of the most bizarre aircraft accidents that occurred anywhere in the world during the conflict.
On the 29th of September 1940, two Avro Ansons on a cross country training flight from No. 2SFTS at Wagga, NSW, collided near Brocklesby in New South Wales at 10:45am. The two aircraft locked together in flight. The crew of the bottom aircraft LAC Jack I. Hewson and LAC Hugh G. Fraser bailed out along with the observer from the top aircraft, LAC Ian M. Sinclair. The pilot of the top plane, LAC Leonard G. Fuller, discovered that he was still able to control both his aircraft and the plane wedged underneath, and managed to fly both aircraft about 8 kms, using the power from his starboard engine. He belly landed the two aircraft safely in a paddock of a farm belonging to Mr T. Murphy, approximately 5 miles south west of Brocklesby.
The only reason that the two aircraft stayed airborne was due to the quick thinking of Hewson, who increased the engines to full power of his Anson immediately after the collision and locked his controls when the two aircraft came together. Without these actions, both Ansons would have spiralled out of control with the weight of the two planes locked together.
Here is a photo of this amazing landing:
Hewson was the only person injured in the accident. He spent four months in hospital after the accident and did not resume flying until the end of January 1941. When the collision occurred, he was not wearing his parachute and Hugh Fraser had to pass it to him through the wreckage of the cockpit. Hewson then had to put the parachute on sitting on the floor. The collision occurred at about 3,000 feet and the aircraft were losing height all the time. By the time Hewson got the parachute on he then had to climb out through the broken perspex onto the starboard wing and slid off at about 900 ft.
When Hewson opened his parachute he had not clipped it on properly and it tangled and he was upside down. It finally opened fully at about 100 feet and he slammed into the ground so hard that his spine was jarred and he was temporally paralysed. He eventually recovered and returned to the RAAF, where he served until the end of the war. Fuller went on to fly with the RAAF in Europe and was awarded the DFM. Unfortunately he was killed at East Sale in 1944 when he was hit by a bus while riding a bike.
The bottom aircraft was written off in the accident, but the top plane was repaired and returned to service.
News of the remarkable landing soon spread, and it was featured in a British Pathe newsreel:
The site of the crash has a commemorative sign and plaque.
My source for this story is Paul Dunn’s exhaustive website “Australia At War”
This amazing website has the most complete and thorough history of military activities in Australia during the Second World War. You could spend a couple of days looking through all of the information that Paul has collated over many years.