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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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RAF Crest
25.05.1946 RAE Farnborough Mustang III KH505 Sqn Ldr. Edward B. Gale

Operation: High speed research

Date: 25th May 1946 (Saturday)

Unit: RAE Farnborough

Type: Mustang III

Serial: KH505

Base: RAF Farnborough

Location: Broxbourne, Hertfordshire

Pilot: Sqn Ldr. Edward Bagley Gale AFC. C1618 RCAF Age 28. Killed


At approximately 10:57 hrs on the 25th May, 1946, Squadron Leader Gale RCAF of RAE Farnborough took off from Farnborough Airfield in Mustang Mark III KH505 on a self authorised test flight.

Weather: Cloud 9/10 base at 1,500 ft. Wind 15-20 mph. Visibility 10 miles.

Engine type: Packard Merlin No. V. 1650/7 - running time total: 31 hours 35 minutes. (Ground crew reported that they consider it to be the best engine they had ever known having been extremely trouble free) Airframe: Manufactured by North American Aviation, Dallas, Texas. Total Air flying hours: 49 hrs 20 minutes.

This flight was in order to carry out the ninth of a series of high speed dives from high altitude, for the purpose of providing data for research on the behaviour of wing sections near the speed of sound. This pilot previously had successfully carried out eight of these dives, in which he was required to dive the aircraft from 40,000 feet to 20,000 feet at an angle of 45°, not exceeding an indicated air speed of 450 mph

At approximately 11:10 hours an aircraft, subsequently identified as Mustang KH505 was heard over Broxbourne in a high speed power dive. The sky was overcast with cloud base at 1500 feet, and witnesses observed this aircraft suddenly appear diving at a phenomenally high speed and at a very steep angle. The aircraft disintegrated on crashing, killing. the pilot instantly.

Subsequent investigation could trace no evidence of structural failure and most of the aircraft remains were buried so deeply that it was impossible to obtain technical evidence of any value.

Squadron Leader Gale who was regarded as an exceptionally capable and careful pilot, had a total of 2906 hours solo on all types, of which 17 hours were on Mustang aircraft.

The findings of the Court of Enquiry into the accident founds that at 10:57 hrs BST Squadron leader Gale took off from Farnborough Airfield in Mustang KH.505 in suitable weather conditions to climb to a height of 40,000 feet and carry out a 450 power dive test to reach a Mach Number of 0.82 in order that recordings of pressure plots and panel distortions might be made by the Automatic recording instruments which were fitted in the aircraft. It is reasonable to suppose that Squadron Leader Gale carried out the procedure which he had adopted during the previous eight climbs which he had done in this experiment and continued on his take off course of approximately 070° at normal climbing Rev. and boost. On this supposition thirteen minutes after taking off (at 11:00 hrs BST he would be a height of approximately 26,000 to 28,000 approximately 50 miles from his point of take off. This agrees fairly well with the distance from Farnborough to Broxbourne Bury Estate. At this place it is presumed that the pilot lost control of the aircraft which dived vertically at a great speed into the ground taking him with it. Weather conditions at the scene of the accident precluded any visual evidence until the aircraft broke cloud at between 1,500 and 2,000 feet when it was seen to dive vertically into the ground without any effort at recovery.

The Court had satisfied itself that the aircraft was in a serviceable condition when it took off and there was insufficient evidence to attach any responsibility for the accident to any person or persons,

The possibility of oxygen failure was thoroughly investigated in view of the statement made by Corporal Gurnett, Instrument Repairer that the aircraft oxygen bottles had to be recharged, The samples taken from the three transport cylinders used to recharged the bottles in the aircraft were tested by the Physical Laboratory at Farnborough, and this would preclude any oxygen trouble being blameable on any one but the pilot himself since the oxygen system installed in Mustang KH505 was completely controllable from the pilots seat.

Since it is presumed by the Court that Squadron Leader Gale was carrying out a normal climb and did not intent to dive the aircraft until reaching the height of 40,000 feet, the possibilities of a structural failure at a climbing air speed of 180 mph are very remotes.

The Court is of the opinion that something physiological caused the pilot to lose control of the aircraft, which crashed before he had time to recover and regain control. This circumstance cannot be defined but might be attributed to lack of oxygen or a panel blowing off and knocking the pilot unconscious but no proof exists of either of these possibilities.

The Commanding Officer of RAE Farnborough stated that this was a most regrettable incident involving the death of a highly skilled pilot. It is a great pity that the true reason for the crash must remain obscure, but the Commanding Officer considered that the findings of the Court were entirely in keeping with the available evidence.

Burial details:

Sqn Ldr. Edward Bagley Gale AFC. Brookwood Military Cemetery. Grave 61.E.8. Grave inscription reads: “SOME DAY, SOME TIME, WE HOPE TO SEE THE ONE WE LOVE SO TENDERLY.” Born on the 15th December 1917 at St.Cyr, Quebec. Son of Leonard and Lavina May (née Bagley) Gale from Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. His father predeceased him in December 1941.

Edward Bagley Gale enlisted in Quebec as a Pilot Officer, 29 January 1940. Trained at No.1 SFTS (graduated 13 August 1940. Logged over 2,430 hours - 2,200 of these as an instructor.

The award of his AFC was promulgated in the London Gazette, 2nd May 1944.

Originally researched by Chris Bowles for Aircrew Remembered (Feb 2016). Dedicated to the relatives of this pilot. Updated by Aircrew Remembered (Jul 2021). With thanks to the National Archives for detailed information.

RS 16.07.2021 - Updated narrative and new photograph

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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