20.02.1945 No. 122 Squadron Mustang III FB187 Fl/Lt. Ralph Osler Webster
Operation: Practice / Aerobatics (Authorised)
Date: 20th February 1945 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 122 Squadron
Type: Mustang III
Base: RAF Andrews Field
Location: 1/4 Mile North West Great Bardfield, Essex
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Ralph Osler Webster 127955 RAFVR Age 22. Killed
We would very much like to contact any relatives of this pilot as in July 2014, we have been contacted by a member of the public who recently found one of the wheels from the aircraft and would like to present it to them.
Update: 15th October 2017 - niece of pilot contacted us - further information follows.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Fl/Lt. Ralph Osler Webster authorised himself to fly the aircraft for flying practice and aerobatics taking off at 14:40 hrs. At 15:20 hrs was noticed by several witnesses, one of which was the most reliable, a member of the ROC. He stated that he picked up the aircraft at about 15,000 ft.
By the noise it was making he thought the aircraft was in a dive. He then heard a slight explosion, saw several pieces detach from the aircraft including one of the wings. He did not state that the aircraft was in a spin at the time, although others said that it was. The aircraft hit the ground at high speed, minus the port wing flap and the port elevator. The pilot remained in the aircraft and was killed instantly, the aircraft did not catch fire, either in the air or on impact.
Initial report: The main part of the aircraft struck soft ground penetrating to a distance of 10 ft. This crater was adjacent to a river and within a short time had become filled with water, completely burying the engine and most of the fuselage. The detached pieces formed a trail, down wind of the probable track in the following order: Inner portion of port mainplane, outer portion of port mainplane, main wreckage and outer portion of port elevator, port wing ammunition panel, port flap, inner portion of port elevator.
Pilot details: Fl/Lt. Ralph Osler Webster had flown a total of 694 hours, 148 on the Mustang. His last flying assessment was given at 58 OTU, Grangemouth after 300 hours flying experience and was classed as ‘above average’. Sq/Ldr. J.A.G. Jackson considered Fl/Lt. Webster an excellent and experienced pilot. At the time of this accident the pilot was on his second tour of operations.
Aircraft details: Mustang III manufactured by North American Aviation Inc, Dallas, Texas. Engine - Packard Merlin V. 1650-3 No. 320335 manufactured by the Packard Motor Car Company, Detroit, Michigan, USA in January 1944 - installed on FB187 on the 13th February 1945. Total running time had been 12 hours with all relevant modifications completed. Hamilton 4 blade propeller fitted - Hub No: 130811. Flown a total of 191 hours with a modification 597 - strengthening outer tailplane rib at elevator outer hinge.
Loading details: Lightly loaded for aerobatics. Armed with 4 x.50 calibre Brownings and ammunition. No fuselage tank was fitted at the time, total fuel carried - 75 gallons in each wing.
Weather details: Fair, visibility 8 miles, cloud 3/10 - 6/10 cumulous at 2,500 - 3,000 ft, wind surface north north west, 15 mph.
Investigation: The port wing failed in download at both stations 75 and just inboard of the fuselage. Both failures very clean. Starboard wing was complete and in position until impact - severe crumpling and telescoping of the wing had taken place. The fuselage had been complete until impact. Severe damage was caused and the main portion of the fuselage was covered with water - the rear part had been detached on impact and was on the edge of the water. The fin remained attached to the tail end, but was severely crumpled on impact.
The starboard undercarriage remained attached and in the up position, the port leg became unlocked and extended after failure of the hydraulic pipe lines upon wing failure. The tailwheel remained attached to the stern frame.
Both the power unit and installation were buried in the crater which rapidly filled with water - these were not recovered. No recognisable parts of the cockpit were found and consequently impossible to check any control settings.
The Accident Investigation concluded that the rivet attaching the port outer elevator hinge bracket to the tailplane had failed, occurred during pulling out of the dive. The aircraft then bunted and the port wing became detached under load.
Modifications were ordered to replace the rivets with a larger size.
Above: as described (courtesy MOD)
58 OTU Course 29/1 Grangemouth, Scotland: Front row: Fl/Sgt. Wojcik, Fl/Sgt. Finney, P/O. Parker, P/O. Webster, P/O. Zajdel (1), Fl/Sgt. Grondowski (2). Middle row: Sgt. Wlodarski (3), Sgt. Benner, Sgt. Gowers, Sgt. Taylor, Sgt. Luffman. Rear row: Sgt. Durys, Sgt. Pietrzak (4), Fl/Sgt. Urbanczyk
(1) P/O. Stanisław Zajdel killed whilst with 316 (Polish) Squadron on the 09th November 1944. More here.
(2) Fl/Sgt Stanisław Grondowski killed whilst with 315 (Polish) Squadron on the 11th September 1943. More here.
(3) W/O. Alfred Krzysztof Wlodarski ADF on the 14th July 1944. More here.
(4) W/O. Alexander Pietrzak killed whilst with 309 (Polish) Squadron on the 02nd August 1945. (note: Alexander Pietrzak was the father of Stefan Pietrzak Youngs - the technical designer behind Aircrew Remembered and so of course, must have known F/O. Ralph Webster as one of his instructors at 58 OTU in 1942, also based at Andrews Field at the same time in 1945) More here.
Fl/Lt. Ralph Osler Webster. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 23.E.9. Son of Lt.-Col. William Joseph Webster, MC., and Janet Hay Webster, of Kasauli, Punjab, India.
After extensive research work by Chris Bowles this page has finally been constructed and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot. To Annette Skeet for contacting us regarding the wheel from the aircraft. Also to Rosalind Heslop - niece of the pilot who contacted us in October 2017. Thanks to National Archives at Kew and also to sources as quoted below: