Seafires LR693 & NM929 Carnforth
11th November 1943

Last updated: 11.11.2017

Seafire LIIC
Seafire IIC, of  No.899 , Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Indomitable, 1943

TypeSerialUnitBaseDutyCrew Fate
Seafire L.IICLR693No. 886 SquadronHMS RingtailWing Air ExerciseS/L R.A. ColbeckK.
Seafire L.IICNM929No. 808 SquadronHMS RingtailWing Air ExerciseS/L E.A. PhilpottK.

On the 11th November 1943, a number of aircraft were flying from HMS Ringtail (RNAS Burscough) on a "Wing air exercise" when two of the aircraft, Seafire IICs LR693 of No. 886 Squadron and NM929 of No. 808 Squadron, collided and crashed 2 miles North of Carnforth. Both aircraft were recorded as Cat. Z (= likely to be struck off charge) and both pilots were killed. A local witness described how approximately a dozen aircraft went over at around 14:00 hours, but that two appeared to have dropped behind the rest and were "weaving", when they collided and dived into fields either side of the A6 near the Clock Garage at Yealand Redmayne. One aircraft impacted in "Cuttygreaves field", the other in a field opposite the filling station - The engine from the latter aircraft was said to have broken free on impact and to have narrowly missed a farmer working in the field.

S/L R.A. Colbeck
Sub-Lieutenant (A) Ralph Austin Colbeck RNZVR

Sub-Lieutenant (A) Ralph Austin Colbeck, Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, was aged 21 and was assigned to the Escort Aircraft Carrier HMS Attacker (D02) with No. 886 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm. The squadron had partly re-equipped with Seafire L.IICs in March 1943 and its full strength of 9 Seafires and 6 Swordfish Is embarked on HMS Attacker from RNAS Machrihanish (HMS Landrail) on July 12th. They took part in Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of mainland Italy, covering the Salerno landings in September. No. 886 Squadron then returned to RNAS Machrihanish in early October 1943 and shortly afterwards joined the newly formed 3rd Naval Fighter Wing at HMS Ringtail.

Sub-Lieutenant (A) Eric Alwyn Philpott, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, was aged 23 and was assigned to  HMS Battler (D 18), an Attacker-class Escort Aircraft Carrier with No. 808 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm. The Squadron had re-equipped with Seafire L.IICs in December 1942 and embarked on Battler on 31st July 1943 headed for Gibraltar. On September 1st they became part of the task force for Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of mainland Italy, covering the Salerno landings. On the 17th September 808 Squadron transferred to HMS Hunter (D 80), another Attacker-class Escort Aircraft Carrier which was to return to the UK for a re-fit. The squadron arrived at HMS Ringtail on 6th October 1943 to train in close air support as part of the newly formed 3rd Naval Fighter Wing.

Search 1Search 2
Methodical grid searching over a number of fields revaeled where the two aircraft had come downSmall parts and 20mm Hispano ammunition were spread over a wide area

Though neither aircraft proved to have impacted with sufficient force to leave significant remains buried, we did find that at least one of the aircraft had clearly begun to break up in the air after the collision and parts, especially 20mm Hispano cannon ammunition, were spread over a wide area. One of our members - Gareth Brown - spent considerable time methodically grid searching over several fields to record the path of the falling aircraft and ascertain where they ended up.

Seafire parts 1

Seafire parts 2

Section of armour plate and two of the many 20mm Hispano cases foundLead mass balance weight from a control surfface

Sub Lieutenant (A) Ralph Austin Colbeck was the son of Wilfred Howard Buckley Colbeck and of Mary Winifred Colbeck, of Puru, Auckland, New Zealand, and is buried in Burscough Bridge (ST. John the Baptist) Church yard,  Sec. E. Grave 2566

Sub-Lieutenant (A) Eric Alwyn Philpott was Son of Henry and Amy Etta Philpott, of Woodthorpe, Nottingham and is buried in Arnold Cemetery, Redhill, Nottinghamshire, Class A. Cons. Grave 121.


Acknowledgements:

Fleet Air Arm aircraft, 1939 to 1945, [by] Ray Sturtivant with Mick Burrow. - Air-Britain, 1995. - ISBN 0851302327, Mark Gaskell, Gareth Brown, Auckland War Memorial Museum 

 

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