27.12.1943 No. 309 Squadron Mustang P-51d AP240 WC-G F/O. Rajewski
Date: 27th December 1943 (Monday)
Unit: No. 309 Squadron (Polish)
Type: Mustang P51d
Base: RAF Snailwell, Cambridgeshire
Location: Risby, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk
Pilot: F/O. Eugeniusz Leon Rajewski P-1752 / 783433 PAF Age 27. Killed
An eye witness contacted Aircrew Remembered and his recollections are included within this page.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Snailwell, which was located about 3 miles North of Mildenhall, Suffolk on what is recorded as an 'unauthorised flight.'
Killed when he spun in and crashed at 14:30 hrs during an unauthorised mock combat with another aircraft (USAAF Lockheed P-38 Lightning) during a training flight.
We dont have details of what happened to the P.38 or its pilot. We welcome further information on this.
Mr. Pat Tyson and his brother witnessed the crash (also another, that of 1st Lt. Kenneth Harry Underwood 0-753761 USAAF killed in P-38j 42-104334 CG-K of the 38th Fighter Squadron, 55th Fighter Group on the 05th May 1944 - research ongoing and we hope to place a page also to him)
His description of events that day:
Above a model made of the village by Mr. Tyson, also shown are some of the relics from the crash. Shown are mostly .303 cartridge cases which were blown back out of the fire, exploding in the heat they scattered back towards the hedge where we, my brother Brian and I, were crouching with most of the rest of the villagers.
"North is to the right of the picture - which was the direction the two aircraft came from on that fateful day, the USAAF P38 slightly higher than the RAF Mustang, and both trying to turn inside one another. The flat spin started just north of the village - the P38 climbed away north, whilst the RAF Mustang spun over the house top right: Major Aylmers (a retired Indian Army Officer) - and tracked, still spinning and with engine cutting out intermittently, across the village towards our house - shown just off the corner centre of the model (was the old village guild house now known as Little Manor).
My brother Brian and I were standing near one of our barns on South Street watching the aircraft come towards us. Then when almost overhead - it dived and headed North west to cross the small belt of trees just behind where the, (not to scale), silver model is shown. With presumably insufficient height to pull out the Mustang smacked flatly into the field just the other side of the trees with a great burst of flame, followed by black smoke, and the usual hollow echoing bang across the sky we knew so well in those days when an aircraft went down nearby. As it pulled out of the dive it may have clipped the trees on the way. Our old gardener, Mr Stiff as was, ran out of his cottage, which is shown just opposite one of our barns on South Street, and Brian and I ran towards the crash.
We were kept from approaching any nearer at that stage by the village first aider, and a part time firemen. Later some US servicemen from a convoy who had seen the crash from the nearby A45, as then was, came and helped.
In those days most of the villagers dogs ran around freely so a few of these came with us and several were hit, but not badly, by the flying ammo cases - the dogs yelps adding to the noises of the exploding ammo and roaring of the aircrafts fuel tank fire, which soon almost engulfed the whole aircraft.
Several fire engines turned up including, I think, the Bury St Edmunds ones well used to this sort of thing at that time of the war - also some RAF Mildenhall fire tenders - an RAF 3 Group Bomber command airfield at that time.
The Village Red Cross nurse, a brave lady, tried to get to the pilot, who we could all see slumped in the cockpit. Carrying her First Aid satchel she managed to get some way along the wing towards the cockpit, despite the exploding ammo and flames licking up from under the plane, but with the arrival of the firemen, one of them saw her attempts and dashed on to the wing and pulled her back, probably only just in time, as there was another great eruption of flames as more fuel caught light.
It wasn’t until after the still smouldering body of the gallant pilot had been taken from the cockpit, and reverently carried in a blanket by the firemen, the Americans, and a WAAF nurse, into an RAF Ambulance, that we could approach nearer the remains of the aircraft.
Of the few other items shown-mostly picked up in the days afterward - the small luminous plastic figures are from an instrument which I recall was coloured light blue and had a hand dial, maybe a radio or weapon selector or some such. The small icon of aircraft shape was from another instrument which I remember showed position of flaps U/C etc., it also had luminous figures.
Then the show was over, but the memories remained and, I suppose, left a very firm lasting impression, as did so many other events of those days. All the human components were there of what the war was about here in Europe, and our part of it in particular- a gallant Polish pilot, far from home, but still fighting for his country against our common fascist enemies, our great American allies with their flashy uniforms said to be 'overpaid, over sexed, and over here' - several of them (from Rougham 94BG) billeted with us later that year - great guys - who Brian and I and the rest of the family are still in touch with The dear old patriotic men and women of the village, and the gallant firemen and others. I think we felt we were all together in those days. Everyone was or had relatives, involved with the wars day to day risks. Our old gardeners son was a PoW RAF W/OP/A/G. Our village vicar was the lovely man, the Rev A.F. Welling, his son had just been reported killed in Malta, (see webmaster note) and so on and so forth, one could reminisce for ever.
At that time of the war we never felt any guilt at taking these items, sometimes, and mostly, it was to keep a memory of the incident and this included the pilots or crew who we all regarded (and still do) as the heroes of our times."
Webmaster note: The village vicars son, 31 year old, Cpl. Paul Francis Webling 1134366 admitted to hospital on the 19th January 1943 - died of an illness on the 24th January 1943 serving as ground crew with the RAFVR in Malta. He is buried at the Malta Naval Cemetery (Capuccini). Plot F. Collective grave 19. (shown below)
F/O. Eugeniusz Leon Rajewski. Newmarket Cemetery Plot P. Grave 439. Born 16th April 1916 at Grand Rapid, Michigan USA.
Researched for relatives of the pilot Aircrew Remembered visited his grave in May 2013. With thanks to the following for further information supplied, Mr. Pat and Mr. Brian Tyson, Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945'. Mr Pat Tyson, who witnessed the crash.