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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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414 Squadron crest
03.11.1942 No. 414 Squadron Mustang I AG654 RU-F F/O. Clifford L. Horncastle

Operation: Patrol

Date: 3rd November 1942 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 414 Squadron R.C.A.F.

Type: North American Mustang I

Serial: AG654

Code: RU-F

Base: R.A.F Tangemere, Sussex

Location: Tangmere, Sussex.

Pilot: F/O. Clifford Leonard Horncastle J/3520 R.C.A.F. Age 24. Killed

Mr Chris Clarke is anxious to trace relatives of Clifford Horncastle in order that he maybe able to return the identity tags and supply them with further information / photographs. His father, Fl/Lt. Frederick Clarke was a very close friend.



Taking off at 12.15 for an operational patrol but, just a few moments after clearing the airfield boundary, the engine appeared to lose power and the Mustang lost speed and height. The engine picked up again and AG654 climbed to around 600 feet. At this point an explosion was heard and flames were seen coming from the rear of the engine nacelle. About 400 yards from the crash point the cockpit hood was jettisoned and the pilot was seen to be attempting to get out of the cockpit, but he failed and the Mustang dived into the ground. 

Examination of the wreckage showed no evidence of an explosion in either wing or tank compartment. No gun heaters had been installed. The engine was almost completely destroyed in the crash but there were signs that the fire in the air had been mostly concentrated at the rear of the engine. It was noted that the backfire screen for the starboard cylinder bank had disappeared although the port screen was still intact. The accident was assumed to have been caused by a backfire, initiated by an insufficiently warmed up engine, igniting fuel vapour in the induction system.

On impact it disintegrated and burst into flames F/O. Cliff Horncastle died four days before he was to be the best man at the wedding of Fred Clarke.


Mustang I AG654 the usual aircraft of Fl/Lt. Fred Clarke (courtesy Chris Clarke – ‘Collection of Fl/Lt. Frederick Clarke’)


F/O. Cliff Horncastle in the cockpit of a Kittyhawk, No.414 Sqdn were using these aircraft before receiving the Mustang fighter (courtesy Chris Clarke – ‘Collection of Fl/Lt. Frederick Clarke’)


F/O. Cliff Horncastle on wing during cleaning / re-arming (courtesy Chris Clarke – ‘Collection of Fl/Lt. Frederick Clarke’)


Left – right: Sq/Ldr. Frank Greenwood, F/O. Cliff Horncastle, Fl/Lt. Fred Clarke, W/Cmdr. Doug Smith and Alan Macdonald. (courtesy Chris Clarke – ‘Collection of Fl/Lt. Frederick Clarke’)


Left: Grave marker of F/O. Horncastle. Right: Grave at Brookwood (courtesy Chris Clarke – ‘Collection of Fl/Lt. Frederick Clarke’)

Burial detail:

Flying Officer Clifford Leonard Horncastle J/3520 R.C.A.F. Brookwood Military Cemetery, Woking. Grave 33. F. 10. Son of Leonard Henry and Jessica Horncastle, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Acknowledgments: With thanks to Mr Christopher Clarke, Canada for the photographs used from the collection of his father, Fl/Lt. Frederick Clarke. Thanks also the Sussex History forum for crash details.

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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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