USAAF C-47 Crash Near Brighton

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On 19 November 1944 USAAF Douglas C-47A 43-15046 crashed into a hillside about 5 km NE of Brighton, East Sussex. Some sources suggest the crash site to have been nearer to Lewes. Apparently it flew into a hillside at 180 m in restricted visibility with the loss of all 5 crew and 20 of the 25 passengers. I have been unable to obtain any more information about the crash. Can anyone assist me with either additional information or suggest other lines of enquiry that I might usefully pursue? My thanks in anticipation!

AA

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All I can add is It was a 439th Troop Carrier Group aircraft. You should be able to obtain the accident report from the US.

Garry.

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There is a photo of the wreckage in "Bombers Over Sussex " 1943-45 by pat burgess and Andy Saunders 1995,on page 33. It came down 3 miles West of Lewes. It came down near Newmarket plantation above Falmer. witnesses saw the aircraft flying low from West to East and then vanish behind the ridge followed by an explosion. There were several survivors but sadly 23 died.

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Hi AA,

I live in Lewes, and believe the C-47 came down close to the site of the current Newmarket Pub/Restaurant, which would tie in with T-21's comments above. The current A27 trunk road takes me past the site most days.

I am happy to follow the matter up locally (town library archives etc) if you need me to. There have been a number of articles in local press (over the 20 years we have lived there) relating to wartime aviation incidents in and around the town, and the C-47 crash is one that is always mentioned.

Paul F

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Was this the aircraft where someone found the crew door for it not so long ago in a hedge near Beachy Head? Never sure if that story was apocryphal...

TT

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Hi AA,

I live in Lewes, and believe the C-47 came down close to the site of the current Newmarket Pub/Restaurant, which would tie in with T-21's comments above. The current A27 trunk road takes me past the site most days.

I am happy to follow the matter up locally (town library archives etc) if you need me to. There have been a number of articles in local press (over the 20 years we have lived there) relating to wartime aviation incidents in and around the town, and the C-47 crash is one that is always mentioned.

Paul F

Many thanks for the information and the offer. I'll PM you.

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Hi AA,

Have responded to your PM, and suggest we use PMs until you/we have something worthwhile to post, or until we need more help - there must(?) be more forum users based in the Brighton/Lewes area, but I don't know of any.

Cheers
Paul F

c-47 near Lewes

I have a detailed report on this from the USAAF and Sussex Police.

The report of the USAAF states the pilot to be Lt Donald Q Reid. Aircraft was flying in minimum vis and at minimum altitude when it struck a 645ft high hill. It was thought possible that a strong downdraft on the downward side of the hill may have contributed. I have at least two photos of the wreck and, I think, a list of all on board.

Profile picture for user avion ancien

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I have a detailed report on this from the USAAF and Sussex Police.

The report of the USAAF states the pilot to be Lt Donald Q Reid. Aircraft was flying in minimum vis and at minimum altitude when it struck a 645ft high hill. It was thought possible that a strong downdraft on the downward side of the hill may have contributed. I have at least two photos of the wreck and, I think, a list of all on board.

Bonsoir Tangmere1940

Your post is most interesting. I will contact you via a PM.

AA

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Hello AA,

Included below is a copy of text from the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 439th TCG Unit History, I hope it helps somewhat.

1. Organisation … No changes
2. Strength ……… As of November 30th 1944
Officers … 125
E.M …….. 261 and 3 E.M. attached.

3. On November 6th the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron left A45 and moved to A-39. The move which took about a week was accomplished by air and by motor convoy.
4. On the 19th of November 1944, Aircraft 43-15046 crashed on a hillside in England. The ship was coming back to A39carrying military personnel back from leaves. In the accident twenty-three (23) of our own squadron personnel perished and four (4) were injured. One Frenchman was killed and one injured and a Group Headquarters man was also killed in the crash. The disaster was investigated and it appears that the aircraft was flying at a minimum altitude with minimum visibility and that in attempting to descend after clearing a 645ft hill the aircraft was probably forced into the ground by the turbulent weather. The clearance showed that the aircraft had 30 personnel aboard including crew, 13 type B-4 bags and all personal equipment. Aircraft was not believed overloaded. List of men killed is included in history. Men of the squadron who were hospitalised:

Walter J. James, T/Sgt, 14163559 Severe burns
Bryce D. Hacking, Sgt, 39910905 Burns, Other injuries
Orazio R. Toglia, Sgt, 32864198 “ “ “
Eric Ackerman, Cpl, 32997325 “ “ “

5. Awards and Decorations:
The Purple Heart to:
F/O Robert E. Spivey – T674
* * * * *
Awards of the Bronze Star Medal:
Max F. Alters, 1st Lt., 0-864273
Herbert B. Bailey, Jr., 2nd Lt., 0-402350
William K.Bulmer, Ex-1st/Sgt – 32472843
William A. Heinz, M/Sgt, 32141718
Leo M. Thielmier, T/Sgt, 18165916
Bernard Danker, S/Sgt, 33064393
Frank M. Klunder, S/Sgt, 32316141
* * * * *
Bronze Battle Star for the ETO Ribbon
(Not mentioned in previous histories)

92nd Squadron Personnel
Killed in Air Crash of ship 43-15046, 19th Nov, 1944.

1st Lt., Roy L. Gritz Pilot
1st Lt., Donald O. Reid Pilot
1st Lt., Stanley E. Lis Navigator
2nd Lt., Russell W. Barron Pilot

T/Sgt. John H. Young Crew Chief
T/Sgt. Howard F. White Crew Chief

S/Sgt. Donald S. Horstick Glider Mechanic
S/Sgt. James H. Holley Instrument Specialist
S/Sgt. Arthur M. Hackett Crew Chief

Sgt. Barbato C. D’Andrea Cook
Sgt. Joseph H. Alba Engineer
Sgt. Jake E. Hesser Glider Mechanic
Sgt. Felix R. Sobkowiak Baker
Sgt. William Hickson Engineer
Sgt. Sherman W. Miller Glider Mechanic
Sgt. Harold F. Mills Glider Mechanic

Cpl. Richard M. Jones Transportation Dispatcher
Cpl. Paul A. Kokko Engineer

Pfc. Charles W. Evanick Engineer
Pfc. Byron G. Peacock Refuelling Unit
Pvt. Roland P. LaRiviere Transportation
Pvt. Frank R. Mixner Engineer

HISTORY OF THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER

The month of November 1944 was a tragic one for the 439th Troop Carrier Squadron. On the 19th of the month the airplane piloted by Lt. Reid and Barron crashed near Brighton, England, while returning to A-39 with 27 members of the involved and 3 other passengers. Twenty-three of the twenty-five killed were of our personnel and also four of the five injured, it was the worst disaster in the history of the organisation.

Russ Barron was the pilot of 'our' C-47 43-15211 (N1944A) when she was ferried across the Atlantic in March 1944, before it became the mount of 92nd Sqn C.O. Maj. Cecil Petty.

I have some further details if you like.

Regards Tom

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Tom

I am extremely grateful to you for the information extracted from the report. But still I am a little confused. The crash occurred in November 1944. The C-47 was carrying troops on leave from, presumably, mainland Europe to the UK. I had always believed that it flew into the north side of the hill. However the text of the report suggests that it must have flown into the south side. Can anyone tell me from where and to where it was flying and why it was at a height of less than 200 metres over the South Downs? There were no USAAF airfields anywhere near this part of Sussex and so I would have expected it to pass over the South Downs well above this height. Furthermore why, if the witnesses are correct, was it flying from west to east at low altitude? It seems very strange. Can anyone more enlightened than me shed light in this particular area of my darkness!

AA

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Hello AA,

It was flying back to Chateaudun from Greenham Common with mostly 92nd Sqn personnel returning from leave though there were two French passengers and a Staff member of IX AF Troop Carrier Command (TCC).

TCC procedures called for low altitude flying sometimes and as Andy said, in the report there was a theory that updraughts/downdraughts may have attributed to the crash as they were an experienced crew.

I have read more on this somewhere, it's just a matter of remembering where and hopefully I can tell you more.

Tom

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As AA knows, I have offerred to look for info in the Sussex County Records, but access to the office is pretty limited outside normal office hours, which isn't too helpful as most of us have full time jobs that mean we cannot get there during normal office hours.

One thought, if the aircraft was flying from Greenham to France, it may have hit the South Coast slightly west of intended track, and then turned east and have been following the coast to look for it's proper departure "crossing point", or to confirm it's position? That might explain why it was on the south side of the downs?

Visibility at the time appears to have been poor, so maybe the crew even believed they were over already the Channel coast and lost height, only to find themsleves at very low level over the Downs?

Paul F

C-47 near Lewes

Paul

If it saves you the visit I already have copies of the reports at Lewes and have promised to send AA copies.

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T1940,

Thanks, but I was primarily going to try and find/copy them in response to AAs original request for help. If you have them and can send him copies, then it saves me digging my way through to them for a second time.

Of course, I am still happy to look for more info in Police or Fire service incident records of the time, which I believe are now held in the same county office/archives, if this helps build the picture further.

I would however, be interested to see copies of the photos, as I beleive the incident happened pretty close to my home. I may then be able to visit the site and try to take some similar photos for comparison.

Paul F

C-47 photos

Here are the photos of the C-47 crash that were being asked after.

There is a third, but shows nothing of any consequence.

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Paul

If it saves you the visit I already have copies of the reports at Lewes and have promised to send AA copies.

I thought that I had sent you a PM regarding the reports but I find that I have not. Must be old age! I'll do so this afternoon.

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More info please

I am interested in this whole conversation. I see that there has been no response in a few years but I have just found it. I am related to one of the survivors and am interested in any of the information anyone might have. We were never told fully what happened and now we are doing his life story and am very interested to find any information there is. Thank you.

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Welcome Bad Day (I seem to have many of these!). Two and a half years on, I cannot remember what information I obtained regarding this crash. But, as soon as time permits, I will look into this and post again and/or send you a PM.

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Very much appreciated your time. Thank you. I wait to hear. Have a good day.

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Tangmere, I've tried to send a PM to you but your inbox is full. What it must be to be so popular! Anyhow, in order that I may do so, can you please clear a little space for my humble message?

Many thanks

AA