Oxford BM837, Winter Hill

24th December 1943

Last updated: 15.11.2010

Type Unit Base Duty Crew
Oxford Mk.I

No. 410 Squadron

Hunsden Cross country Flight

1

Over the years several aircraft have struck Winter Hill, which dominates the skyline above Horwich and the tragic loss of Bristol 170 Freighter Mk.21E G-AICS on 27th February 1958 was one of the worst air disasters of the time (To be covered in detail soon). The purpose of this investigation was to re-establish and record the precise impact point of the Oxford BM 837, which I discovered some 20+ years ago when a small burnt area littered with broken wooden stringers and fragments of yellow painted fabric was still visible - if you knew where to look! 

In the intervening years this visible evidence had disappeared - the wood had probably finally succumbed to the elements and rotted away and the bare peat "burnt" area was now fully recovered and overgrown with coarse grass and heather - unfortunately the notes that I made at the time (long pre GPS!) only gave an approximate location. Despite poor visibility on the day we decided to continue, as the hill is surmounted by a large TV transmitter complex, meaning plenty of landmarks to aid navigation! However it was still damn cold and after a couple of hours grid searching with only fragments attributable to G-AICS being found, we were getting disheartened. We knew the two impacts were close together and my colleague, Mark Sheldon had even identified a section of wreckage from BM 837 included in the evidence photographs on the original board of inquiry report on the loss of G-AICS! As usual, just as we were ready to give up, we came across a signal some distance from the others and on investigation a small fragment of yellow painted fabric came out with the piece of metal. Concentrating on this area several more signals were also accompanied by fragments of splintered / rotten wood and yellow dope finished fabric, then a "AM" marked bakelite junction box showed that we had a military plane. Finally a rocker cover from an Armstrong-Siddeley Cheetah engine confirmed our suspicions.

Visibility was far from ideal!

Only tiny fragments of BM 837 remain, just below the surface.

Oxford BM 837 was allocated to No. 410 "Cougar" Squadron based at Hunsden in Hertfordshire at the time of the crash and was being flown by Flt. Lt. Martin Anthony "Cy" Cybulski RCAF, who had been warded the DFC on the 9th Nov 43. Having completed his tour of duty just four days earlier, he was flying on a cross-country flight on the 24th December 1943 from Hunsden to an unknown destination to take up a new post in No. 9 Group, when he began to descend at his estimated time of arrival, only to strike Winter Hill some 40 feet below the summit, destroying the aircraft and leaving him seriously injured. 

Name Position Status
F/L M.A. Cybulski, DFC Pilot Inj.

Flt. Lt. Cybulski was quite a celebrity it seems:

On March 27th 1943, with his navigator, P/O H.H. Ladbrook (RAF) - He completed Fighter Command's first daylight penetration by a Mosquito into Germany - After crossing the North sea, they flew across across northern Holland at low level, reached Meppen, just across the German border and flew down the Ems to Papenburg before turning westward for home where they landed at 17:25 having covered more than 600 miles. During the flight they attacked five targets; firstly damaging a tug and two barges, from which debris flew into the air, then a locomotive and a line of six freight cars, two military buses were shot up and finally another locomotive which was left emitting clouds of steam. The record flight was widely heralded in the press, but the pilot's name had to be suppressed lest it bring reprisals upon his relatives in Poland. Cybulski's home was in Renfrew, Ontario, but his grandparents were Polish.

But he was, perhaps, most celebrated for the incident which earned him and his his navigator, P/O H.H. Ladbrook, the award of the DFC - the first won by the Squadron. They had taken off in Mosquito F.II. serial No. DZ 757 from Coleby Grange shortly after 20:00 one evening in late September 1943 for a "Mahmoud Patrol", which involvied orbiting the radio beacons most likely to be used by the Germans to marshal their night-fighters, before they would be guided to a target - the idea being that the Mosquitoes would provide an unwelcome "welcoming committee" should the German night fighters appear. The 90-minute patrol proved fairly uneventful, but as they flew back, Ladbrook got a radar contact, and despite enemy jamming, followed it until he and his pilot caught sight of a Do.217 flying East. As the enemy pilot went into a steep climb, Cybulski closed rapidly and fired a three-second burst. The enemy aircraft immediately exploded violently and began to fall in flames, with burning fuel and oil covering the Mosquito, scorching the fuselage, burning off the fabric covering from control surfaces including the rudder and blistering the laminated wood construction along the length of the fuselage as well as the port wing inboard of the engine and the bottom of the starboard wing. Pieces of the Dornier also struck the port oil cooler, resulting in the loss of oil and making it necessary to shut down the engine. Cybulski was completely blinded by the explosion and the Mosquito went into a steep dive, during which Ladbrook managed to take over and regain control, until after approximately five minutes F/L Cybulski regained his normal vision and resumed control. Taking turns operating the damaged rudder and with only one engine, they nursed the seriously damaged Mosquito nearly 200 miles back to their base, where Cybulski brought the crippled aircraft in, as if there was nothing wrong! The press were once again full of praise for the pilot when photographs of the badly singed DZ 757 (RA-Q) appeared.


Acknowledgements: 

RAF Form 1180, Alan Clark, Mark Sheldon. Norman Malayney - (Manitoba Miltary Aviation Museum Resident Miltary Aviation Historian).

 

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