LAIT logo Spitfire V W3628 - Dunsop Bridge

16th July 1942

Updated 10.01.2004

Sgt. T.T. Nawrocki

Sgt. Nawrocki in Poland, seated front row, first left, Mr Danilo is standing extreme left.

One of the main primary sources used by Aviation Archaeologists is the RAF Form 1180 accident record card, but many who have used them will know that certain categories of these have disappeared, probably in the early days of Aviation Archeology when the original cards were available for perusal. For our area of the UK it is Spitfire V records that appear to have been selectively "removed" and one such card was that for W3628.

The loss of this vital piece of information was compounded by administrative errors in the recording of the loss of Spitfire V W3628 made during wartime, due to which the pilot, Sgt. T. Nawrocki of 315 Sqn. was recorded by the Sikorski Institute as having lost his life at Lunecliffe, near Lancaster. This sadly led to the pilot's daughter being misdirected several years ago and visiting the latter site in error. Following discussion with our associate member Mr. R. Danilo (former 307 Sqn. Pilot) who knew Nawrocki, trained with him and they both escaped from France on the last evacuation ship the "Arandora Star". We decided to investigate further and inquiries at Lunecliffe soon traced an eyewitness to the crash - of a Hurricane! We soon identified the site as being that of Hurricane IIb BM 955, which crashed on a ferry flight on 09.12.1941, resulting in the death of its pilot Second Officer A.E. Green A.T.A. However tracing the true crash site of W3628 was further complicated by an error in the entry in 315 Sqn.'s ORB in which the dead pilot and his aircraft are reported has having been found at "Mossop Ridge, Lancs." a place name which does not exist, even in local usage. Finally a further document came to light via the MOD Air Historical Branch, giving the location as "Dunsop Bridge", complete with a grid ref! albeit in the Cassini system.

Sgt. Nawrocki (second left) in an informal wartime pose. Spitfire V W3628 undergoing work at Woodvale

The circumstances surrounding Tadeusz Nawrocki's fatal last flight also proved to be something of a mystery. He took off on the morning of 16th July 1942 in Spitfire V W3628 Code PK-W for a routine test flight after it had undergone a 240 hour overhaul, but failed to return. He apparently found the aircraft to be in order and at 10.18 hours he transmitted that he was flying in cloud East of Preston at 3000 feet and he intended to descend through the cloud. Nothing further was heard from him and when he became overdue and no news of him landing elsewhere was heard, searches of the hill country along his assumed flight path commenced, despite bad weather and poor visibility. For two days pilots from the squadron continued a thorough search, but were hampered by the poor conditions and it wasn't until late on the 18th of July that a farmer reported sighting the wreck of an aircraft on high ground above the tiny village of Tarnbrook. It was reported that the aircraft had disintegrated, but the cockpit was apparently intact with no sign of Nawrocki, only a half opened parachute taken out of its pack and a little further from the wreck a discarded Mae West and a flying helmet with blood on it. The following morning at 8.00 am a rescue team comprising of some 30 airmen from Woodvale and 180 other persons began a large-scale search operation, they spread out across the moor and began a systematic search for the missing pilot.

Crash site on the moors above Dunsop Bridge
Looking down towards the crash site of W3628 (Approx. centre of picture, just beyond the heather)

Mr R. Danilo, Mr Worswick etc.
Mr Danilo (1st on left) & Mr Worswick (2nd from right)

At 13.30 hours, local Home Guard member Bill Worswick spotted the pilot's body lying some 900 yards from the aircraft - his uniform blending in with the surrounding heather bloom and making him so difficult to find. It appeared, after examination by the Squadron medical officer, that the unfortunate pilot had died some time before. Sgt. Nawrocki had sustained an injury to the head and a severe battering to his legs in the crash, but had been able to extricate himself from the cockpit, spread his parachute out to aid observation by searching aircraft and lit a small fire using his signal flare pistol. It seems after a while he decided to make his way off the moor, but having only covered some 900 yards he collapsed and lost consciousness, probably due to internal injuries and internal hemorrhaging, and died before being found.

Funeral procession for Sgt. T. Nawrocki

His grave at Formby

We were fortunate enough to trace two witnesses to the search for Sgt. T. Nawrocki, following an appeal in the local press, both of whom gave remarkably clear accounts of their role in the operation and their recollections of the crash site. Having gained permission to enter the private Grouse Moor where W3628 came down, we used this evidence to locate the area, but unsurprisingly no evidence of the tragedy 57 years before could be found. Tadeusz Nawrocki lies at Our Lady's R.C. Church of Compassion, Formby. Grave No. 16, Row 1, Section G.A. which bears the date on which his body was found - 19th July 1942.


Mr R. Danilo (Deceased), Mr. W. Worswick, Mr. V. Richmond, Russell Brown, Mark Gaskell, Wilhelm Ratuszynski, Sikorski Institute.


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