The Whitley Pump

The view from Katesgrove Hill

1962 air crash wreckage found at Kennet Meadows

Coley Meadows (c) Adrian Lawson

I met the owner of part of Coley meadows many years ago, and he told me a fascinating tale of two aeroplanes colliding there. He described the area where he thought they had crashed, and for many years I kept my eyes open for any sign. When the Fobney Island nature reserve was being dug I had hoped to find some evidence, but there was none. I looked it up and found a news report; the crash happened on 4 November 1962. There was no detail on the actual location, so I asked a few of the more senior residents, but strangely nobody knew much.

Last year I was surveying the area for a particular bird; the water rail. I had hoped to find evidence of them breeding, so for a few days I ventured into the less accessible parts of the meadows at dawn listening for their call. I was successful; they do indeed breed there, and then by chance I found a few fragments of crumpled aluminium. I had stumbled on the site of the crash of one of the planes, which made the day doubly successful. It was nowhere near where I had assumed the wreckage might lay; it was much closer to Rose Kiln Lane and actually on the other side of the river to where the farmer indicated.

Cracked glass from the Coley meadows aircrash. (c) Adrian Lawson.

Not far away, and completely by chance, I found a piece of cracked tempered glass in early February. A few minutes later I realised that at 10 mm thick, this wasn’t a piece of a car windscreen but from an aeroplane. I had stumbled upon the site of the second crash. I went back to check and, sure enough, there is a lot of this glass in a small area. I assume most of the wreckage has long since been carted off, so all that remains are small bits of debris. I have no idea which plane is in each location; one was a de Havilland Chipmunk and the other a Beagle Terrier, but I would love to find out more.

The tale of the crash is told in Coley Park and beyond; just a few words describing what must have been a traumatic event. Despite the efforts of those who raced to the scene, the two pilots were killed (the report of which is quite harrowing), but I have yet to find their names or anything else about them. I think a little memorial would be in order.

Kennet Meadows in winter (c) Adrian Lawson

  1. Dawn chorus at Coley Meadows
  2. Katesgrove’s bountiful river valley
  3. Coley Park and beyond
  4. Friends of Fobney Island

1 comment

  1. The Woodley aircraft museum may well have some news on this and if not may well be interested in your article?
    A post tonight on Old Reading Plus site a plane crash has been mentioned that occurred in Tilehurst just after the start of the war. No connection to the Whitley crash but interesting all the same.
    Needs someone to research both crashes with the end result being a memorial to honour both instances? Just a thought.

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