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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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Fighter Command Crest
29.01.1945 No 51 OTU Mosquito FB.VI. HJ775 F/O. Roman Przybylski

Operation: Altitude training

Date: 29th January 1945 (Monday)

Unit: No. 51 Operational Training Unit (OTU - Fighter Command)

Type: Mosquito FB.VI

Serial: HJ775

Base: RAF Cranfield, Bedfordshire

Location: 1/2 mile North East of Weston Favell, Nr. Nottingham

Pilot: F/O. Roman Felicjan Przybylski P-2323/794872 PAF Age 25. Killed

Nav: None for this training exercise


Taking off from RAF Cranfield in Bedfordshire at 13:46 hrs on a training exercise to climb to a minimum height of 25,000 ft. He had been given a decompression test and his pre-flight briefing included instructions in the use of the Mosquito oxygen system.

(Note: His log books did not contain any record of previous experience in the use of oxygen, although a statement made by Fl/Lt. Russell-Steward OC 1 Squadron describes that he had been instructed in the use of oxygen.)

On take off he immediately commenced R/T communication with control in the normal manner.

Control reminded him to check the oxygen system at 10,000, 18,000 and 24,000 ft. At 13:57 hrs on reaching 10,000 ft he replied ‘oxygen OK, 25. He did not provide any details of oxygen settings in any subsequent replies. At 14:24 hrs he reached 27,000 ft with control instructed him to commence descent. He replied that he would remain airborne for a further 10 minutes to try the exercise - control agreed but just 2 minutes later at 14:26 hrs whilst at 23,000 ft he replied that he had begun his descent.

That was the last message received and despite calls from control, no further communication followed from the pilot.

At about 14:30 hrs the aircraft was observed to be in flames and falling to earth. Local ROC posts gave its height as between 8/6,000 ft when first observed. Other witnesses reported that they had been attracted by an aircraft’s engines revving very fast, followed by 2 loud reports.

A reliable witness reported that after hearing the engine noise and before he heard the 2 loud reports he saw the aircraft at a great height apparently flying level. After a few seconds it burst into flames and began falling. As the aircraft came lower it was seen to be spinning, minus its wings and tail unit.

The aircraft hit the ground in a flat spin and the wreckage was gutted by fire. The pilot was shown forward in front of the nose and killed instantly. Other witnesses stated that it took between 15-20 minutes for pieces of debris to fall to earth.

It was found that the top escapee hatch had been jettisoned some 1/2 mile to the north of the main wreckage - indicating that the pilot had attempted a bale out.

Aircraft details: Manufacture by de Havilland at Hatfield and passed for service on 10th June 1943. Repaired by Martin Hearn Limited in Cheshire on the 29th September 1944 after having crashed on landing. Delivered to 51 OTU on the 05th January 1945 and at the time of the loss had completed 322 flying hours. Merlin 21 engines fitted.

Engine details: Port Merlin 21 62059/A.251540 Starboard Merlin 21 63151/A.252086

Pilot details: Began his training on the 16th June 1942 - up to the date of his loss he had 148 dual and 544 hours solo flying hours logged. From the 20th October 1943 - 18th June 1944 employed as a staff pilot at AFU RAF Staverton. June 1944 posted to 12 AFU for conversion training to Blenheims. On the 16th December joined 51 OTU for conversion on the Mosquito. Experience on this type amounted to 4.5 dual and nearly 5 hours solo. Log book records him as ‘above average’ whilst serving at RAF Staverton, ‘Proficient’ as a pupil with 12 AFU. His CO at 51 OTU considered him to be a steady and conscientious pilot and had no special difficulty in understanding English.

Weather details: Visibility 1-3 miles with slight ground haze, cloud 10/10 medium 8-10,000 ft, wind 75 mph at 23,000 ft, 5 mph at surface.

Opinion: It is considered that the technical evidence that during the break up of the aircraft the first components to fail were the wings which collapsed in upload. Indicating that the aircraft was behaving in a manner not consistent with a straightforward descent and suggests that the pilot lost control and that during the recovery wing failure occurred. It is not considered that oxygen lack contributed to or caused loss of control as the pilot seemed to have removed the escape hatch to bale out and that his R/T communications were normal. Suspicion that the port radiator nose fairing the detachment of which could well have led to loss of control and a high speed dive. Its position in the wreck trail (3/4 mile away from main impact point) was consistent with very early detachment and the fact that no apparent failure of the adjacent structure had occurred in the air suggests that the fairing collapsed under aerodynamic loads only.

Burial details:

F/O. Roman Felicjan Przybylski. Skerton Cemetery, Halton Road, Lancaster, England. Section G.R.C. Grave 101. Born on the 01st September 1920 in Poznań, Poland.

Also buried within same Cemetery:

W/O. Marian Lis. Skerton Cemetery, Halton Road, Lancaster, England. Section H.R.C. Grave 24. Further details can be found on the loss page of Spitfire IIa P7607 which was involved in a collision with Spitfire P9079 on the 27th April 1944 - both pilots tragically lost their lives that day.

Researched by Chris Bowles and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to National Archives at Kew, England and sources quoted below.

CB/KTY 14.02.2016

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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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