Mustang III SR411 - Darwen

29th July 1945

Last updated: 11.11.2010

No. 316 Squadron Mustang III

 

Type Unit Base Duty Crew Passengers
Mustang III No. 316 Squadron Coltishall Ferry flight 1 -

Built in 1942, SR 411 began its wartime service with the USAAF on the 17th September 1943 under the serial number 43-12427 with the 8th Air Force Service Command and was for a short time assigned to the 335th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Group. It was handed over to the to 22 Maintenance Unit (MU), RAF on 17.03.1944 before going on to Rootes Aircraft, presumably for modification, and finally to 20 MU to await allocation on 17.06.1944. SR 411 was taken on the strength of 65 Squadron at Andrews Field, Essex in November where the Squadron was assigned to bomber escort duties. It would appear that SR 411 remained at Andrews Field when 65 Squadron moved to Peterhead in January 1945 and the aircraft was taken over by 316 (Polish) Squadron, possibly as a replacement aircraft.

No. 316 "City of Warsaw" Squadron had and active and varied career up to 1944 when it was re-equipped with Mustang IIIs whilst based at Coltishall, Norfolk and assigned to bomber escort and fighter-bomber duties. By mid July the Squadron moved to Friston, Sussex for "Diver" operations against the new threat - the V-1 "Doodlebug". The pilots of 316 Squadron proved to be particularly adept at this task and became the highest scoring Mustang Squadron with 75 Flying Bombs destroyed during the hectic two-month height of the "Doodlebug" menace. In October the Squadron moved to Andrews Field where several Mustang Squadrons were to be based to provide a centre for long-range, daylight bomber escort operations. No. 316's main customers were the B-17s and B-24s of the 8th USAAF, as well as the R.A.F. Bomber Command's Halifax's and Lancaster's. This activity reached its peak in the spring of 1945 and notable raids involving the Squadron included low level attacks - on enemy barracks at Poitiers 10.08.44. and on Gestapo HQ at Aarhus, Jutland 31.10.44. Also notable was their involvement in the ill-fated Arnhem airborne landings, where the Squadron's efforts in keeping off the marauding enemy fighters was praised. No. 316's last operation was escorting Lancasters on 25.04.45 for the raid, which destroyed Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden.

Noga portrait
Plt. Herbert Noga

Pilot's headstone
His grave at Layton Cemetery

 

Name Position Status
Plt. Herbert Noga Pilot K.

At approx. 3.30pm on 29th July 1945 Mustang III SR 411 was approaching a misty and industrial haze shrouded Darwen on a routine ferry flight having taken off from 316 Squadron's base at Coltishall, Norfolk. The aircraft was on course, when at 15.45 hours approx. it hit high ground near Bull Hill at cruising speed, disintegrating on impact and killing the unfortunate 316 Squadron pilot - 24 year old, Herbert Noga - instantly. Locals, who heard the plane flying low over the moors and the subsequent impact in the mist, alerted the police and the wreck was soon located, but it was obvious that the pilot was beyond help. Later that day an R.A.F. recovery crew arrived and recovered the pilots body and the remaining larger sections of the aircraft. The young Polish pilot was buried with full military honours and lies in the Polish Memorial plot at Layton cemetery, Blackpool.


Boggy crash site of SR 411 


Fragments of SR 411 lie at the edges

The crash site of SR411 has received attention from several groups of enthusiasts over the last 30 or so years. The first "dig" on the site was carried out by a group of local youths, apparently looking for the aircraft's radiator - for its scrap value! Later the site was visited by the Liverpool based "Warplane Wreck Investigation Group" - resulting in many components from the cockpit, the propeller hub and the tailwheel finding their way into the group's New Brighton Museum. By this time a number of larger items had been uncovered but left at the site, including both main undercarriage legs, presumably having defeated attempts to remove them from the moor. Following the recovery of these two items by myself, the site was the scene of a major excavation by the now defunct "Pennine Aviation Museum". This proved a difficult task due to flooding of the crater, but many artefacts were recovered in excellent condition - though the prize of the dig, a superb propeller blade, was later stolen from the group's museum. Following the break-up of this group, LAIT reclaimed the undercarriage legs, which had been loaned to PAM and also acquired the remaining artefacts that they had recovered. A final unexpected find was made by a metal detector user visiting the site, but searching a nearby footpath for lost coins - a ditch some 300 yards from the impact point yielded a .50 cal. Browning machine gun, barely six inches under the surface.

Plates and the control column top from SR 411

Following a well received display of the artifacts from SR411 at Darwen Central Library, a number of people came forward who had visited the site at various times, including an individual who had removed a propeller blade as a souvenier in the 1960s - which he now donated to LAIT! The most interesting of these "witnesses" was actually one of the first on the scene just after the crash and recalled how the engine had broken from the main wreckage underground and re-surfaced some 30 feet in front of the crater that contained the rest of the aircraft's remains! Unsurprisingly he also recalled this being removed by the RAF recovery team, hence it's absence at the site. He then went on to relate how he and some friends came back later whilst the site was temporarily unguarded and removed a machine gun from one of the wings, which they hid in a ditch some distance away, however they lost their nerve and never returned for it!

.50 pulled from the ditch
The .50 cal. Browning machine gun as found


Acknowledgements:

RAF forms 1180 & 78, Mr. K. Mount, Mr. M. Wheatley, Mr. A. Bucknall, Ted Damick, Russell Brown (photos)

 

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This page & all articles on this site Copyright Nick Wotherspoon 1999