Hurricane BN205 - Burscough

4th October 1942

Updated: 06.12.1999

Timewell portrait
Sgt. Plt. Robert Timewell

Pilot's headstone
Grave at Burscough

Surely the most tragic of accidents must be those which occurred within sight of the families of the pilots concerned. Sadly such accidents were not uncommon, as many young airmen could not resist the temptation to fly over their hometowns in order to impress parents, friends or not infrequently girlfriends. LAIT has researched several such incidents - all equally tragic for the families concerned - but that involving Sgt.-Pilot Robert (Roy) Short Timewell proved particularly moving.

Twenty four year old Roy Timewell was well known in the small town of Burscough, his parents owned a large public House in the town and he was a keen Rugby player with Ormskirk RUFC. He had joined the Territorial Army before the war and served in France initially, being evacuated at Dunkirk. He then volunteered for duty with the Commandos, but transferred to the RAF in 1941. In October 1942 he was flying with 539 Squadron based at Acklington and equipped with Hurricane II c aircraft. Apparently a week before the incident he had written to his parents to let everyone know he would be flying over Burscough the following Sunday. Many residents turned out to watch as he gave an impressive low-level aerobatic display for several minutes before flying off in a northwesterly direction. Witnesses interviewed recalled that nobody knew anything was wrong and began to return to their homes as the display had clearly finished, though a few still watching did note that the plane seemed to be losing height. What followed deeply shocked everyone, as the plane disappeared from the view of those on the main street, behind the buildings, it lost height rapidly and it may well have been that Roy Timewell was heading for open ground to attempt a forced landing. At the last moment however, the aircraft struck a high corrugated iron screen surrounding the local football ground and immediately ploughed into the field beyond, bursting into flames as it came to rest and throwing the unfortunate pilot clear. Those nearest to the crash pulled him further away and doused his smouldering uniform with earth, but it was soon clear that he had already been killed in the crash. Sgt.-Pilot Timewell was buried with full military honours at St. John the Baptist Church Burscough the following week and comments in the local paper referring to the "painful sensation created in Burscough" and the "sympathetic gathering" of residents, reflect local feelings. As usual no actual details of the incident were published due to wartime censorship and the site was quickly and thoroughly cleared - leaving few clues as to the manner of this airman's tragic death.

Scene of crash today
Crash site is centre foreground - floodlights now surround the football ground

Our investigation of this incident relied heavily on recording the recollections of local residents - though care had to be taken not to upset any family members who may still live in the area - so there was no local press involvement. The site was soon identified, one of the witnesses interviewed living barely 100 yards away, and little had changed other than the addition of floodlights and the removal of the screen around the football ground. However we were informed that the local Homeguard had spent a full week raking and sieving the soil after the wreck was removed - apparently to avoid local schoolboys collecting souveniers and upsetting the family. Indeed they had made a good job of it too, as two weekends searching with a team of three metal detectorists only found a handful of fragments of the aircraft - parts of switches from the cockpit, a fragment of supercharger, cowling Dzus fastener, remains of the headphone jack plug and the gimbal locking catch from the compass. Though they were all found in a relatively small area, at least pinpointing and confirming that we had found actual crash site.

Few fragments of BN205 were found - top centre is the compass gimbal locking catch.


RAF Form 1180, Mr.J.Wareing, Mrs. R. Meadley, Miss L. Fyles, Brian Rockliffe.


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