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Archive Report: Allied Forces

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No 415 Squadron
09.09.1943 No 415 Squadron Handley Page Hampden I AD799 F/O Robert Sidney Arnold

Operation: Test Flight, Night Training

Date: 9 September 1943 (Thursday)

Unit: No 415 Squadron

Type: Handley Page Hampden I

Serial: AD799


Base: RAF Thorney Island, West Sussex

Location: 4 miles north east of Nutbourne near Chichester, West Sussex

Pilot: F/O. Robert Sidney Arnold J/13113 RCAF Age 25 Killed (1)

Nav/Air/Bmr: F/O. Clyde Ezra Coons J/14649 RCAF Age 33 Killed (2)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Donald Keith Stroud R/115118 RCAF Age 21 Killed (3)


Hampden AD799 took off from RAF Thorney Island at 11.05hrs for a night test flight and was seen at 11.29hrs to crash and burn a few miles from the aerodrome. The aircraft flew through trees approximately 20 feet before it hit the ground, but the aircraft was apparently in "stabilized yaw" (turning at low speed and altitude), with this being the primary cause of the accident.

Map showing the area of the crash near Nutbourne, West Sussex

A Hampden type aircraft and RAF Thorney Island (courtesy Imperial War Museum)

Witness statements:

Statement 1

I authorised P/O Arnold to carry out an air test on Hampden AD799 at 10.00hrs 9 September 1943 as the aircraft had just been passed out as serviceable by the maintenace wing following an acceptance check. The weather was good. The pilot was new to the Squadron but experienced on the type and had done one operational flight with the Squadron 23 August, 1943. The pilot had also signed the pilot order book and was conversant with the 'Pilot notes' for this type. Signed F/O. Peter D Mackie

Statement 2

I am Captain of an aircraft of No 415 Squadron and I was sitting in the Duty Officer's Office and through the open door I saw a Hampden doing a steep turn to Port at about 1200 feet. The aircraft seemed about 4 miles away. It was a very steep turn. When the aircraft started coming out of the turn it was seen to dive apparently under control. It then continued to turn very flatly to port and when at about 200 feet it was seen in side view to be quite horizontal though still turning and losing height rapidly. It disappeared behind some trees and a few seconds later there was a bright flash and a great deal of black smoke. The time was about 11.30am September 9th, 1943. There was no sign of fire in the air prior to the crash. Knowing the characteristics of the Hampden aircraft the impression gathered was that before recovering sufficient speed the aircraft went into a stabilised yaw. Signed F/O. Manuel Del Campo

Left: P/O Coons, Sgt Stroud and Sgt Swainston. Sgt Swainston was one of the normal crew members, but wasn't on this training flight (both courtesy of Bryan McLeod)

Left: No 32 Operational Training Unit at Patricia Bay where both Sgt Coons and Sgt Stroud had completed part of their training and No 1 Central Navigation School at Rivers where Sgt Coons had attended Course No 46 (courtesy of Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Brandon, Manitoba)

West Thorney (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, West Sussex and a memorial in the memory of those who gave their lives for their country (both courtesy Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

Burial details:

F/O. Robert Sidney Arnold. West Thorney (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, West Sussex. Grave Ref: Plot 1. Row B. Grave 8. Son of Sydney Whitaker Arnold and Ethel Arnold of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (1) Robert was born 1 September 1918 in Vancouver. Educated at John Oliver High School 1931 - 1936. Worked as a Lab apprentice for Western Wholesale Drug Ltd 1938 until enlisting 13 June 1941. Rob completed part of his training at Brandon, Edmonton and No 5 EFTU (Elementary Flying Training Unit, High River, Alberta. While training at High River LAC Robert Sidney Arnold had a flying accident on 12 January 1942. LAC Arnold was flying solo in Tiger Moth 4059 and was coming into land. The weather that day was windy and gusty. A witness sated that the wheels touched the ground, the aircraft bounced, the throttle was opened and the plane stalled, turned to the right and went down to the ground from about 50 feet. Severe damage to the aircraft. LAC Arnold was injured and taken to the station hospital. Gained his Flying Badge 31 July 1942 and was appointed to Commission on the same date. Arrived in the UK 27 March 1943

F/O. Clyde Ezra Coons. West Thorney (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, West Sussex. Grave Ref: Plot 1. Row A. Grave 8. Son of James Robert Coons and Elizabeth Coons of Montreal. Husband of Edith Alice Coons of Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada (2) Clyde was born 22 July 1910 in Port Arthur and completed part of his education at Prospect Avenue School 1926 - 1932 and had worked for the Canadian National Railway 1925 - 1936 and as an accountant with Marshall-Wells Co. 1936 - 1941. Married 19 November 1930 in Port Arthur, Clyde enlisted 5 May 1941 in Winnipeg. In a letter to his aunt and uncle dated April 25, 1943 Clyde say's '.... I imagine that it will be another six weeks or so before I get sent to a Squadron....'

Some of the training units that Clyde Ezra Coons attended before going overseas

Port Arthur Flyer, PO. C. E. Coons, 33 Killed in Action (courtesy Bryan McLeod)

Word has just been received by Mrs C E Coons, 75 Jean Street, that her husband, Pilot Officer Clyde Ezra Coons 33, was killed on active service, Thursday, Sept. 9. PO Coons came to Port Arthur quite young after the death of his mother and attended Prospect Avenue School 1926 - 1932 he was employed by the Canadian National Railways and in May 1936 joined the staff of Marshall-Wells Co. Limited where he was employed as an accountant up to his enlistment in the Royal Canadian Air Force on August 16. 1941. He graduated with honour as an air observer and obtained his wings on September 22, 1943 and immediately received his commission as a Pilot Officer. Following a four month tour of duty on costal patrol at Sydney, BC he proceeded overseas on March 17, 1943 and reached England on April 4, 1943

Besides his wife Mrs Edith Coons who resides with her parents Mr and Mrs Charles Whitely, 75 Jean Street. PO Coons is survived by two children Patty 10, and Michael 4, his father J R Coons who resides in Montreal, and his uncle and aunt Mr and Mrs Guy Smith, with whom PO Coons lived with for 13 years after the loss of his mother.

His burial took place at 19.30 in the morning in St. Nicholas Cemetery on Thorney Island, England, and a memorial service to coincide with the hour of burial was held in St John's Anglican Church here, conducted by Chaplin Rev. J S Smedley. At the service today in St John's Church the RCAF was officially represented by Re. Capt. W A Hankinson, Chaplin at the No 2 Elementary Flying Training School, Fort William. Last Post and Reveille were sounded by bugler Hugh Paxton

Fl/Sgt. Donald Keith Stroud. West Thorney (St. Nicholas) Churchyard, West Sussex. Grave Ref: Plot 1. Row E. Grave 9. Son of George Henry Stroud and Ida Mae Stroud of Toronto, Ontario, Canada (3) Donald was born January 3, 1922 in Clarkson, Ontario and enlisted in Toronto 14 July 1941 completing part of his training at No 32 OTU (No 32 Operational Training Unit, Patricia Bay. Embarked form Halifax 28 March 1943 and arrived UK 4 April 1943. Posted to Initial Training Unit, Turnberry, Scotland 23 June 1943 and then to No 415 Squadron 5 August 1943

A crew of a Hampden is usually four, but on this flight one of the normal crew, Robert (Bob) Albert Swainston was not on board. He survived the war and died Sunday August 2, 2009

Left: No 2 Manning Depot, Brandon, Manitoba and No 7 Bombing and Gunnery School, Paulson (courtesy of Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Brandon, Manitoba)

Researched by: Kate Tame Aircrew Remembered and for all the relatives and friends of the crew. With special thanks to Bryan McLeod for further information and photograph of Clyde Ezra Coons. Other sources as indicated below

KT. 09.08.2016

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