March 1941

Hampden Bomber

A Hampden Medium Bomber of No. 83 Squadron RAF crash-landed on Wilbury Park near Warren Farm on 22nd March 1941. It was returning from a mine laying operation near Kiel and had strayed from its route back to Lincolnshire and was almost out of fuel.

The pilot, Flight Lieutenant R P C Thompson RAFVR, tried to find Boscombe Down airfield but the cloud was too dense. He decided to put the aircraft down with its wheels up and he came in very low over the railway line close to Hampshire Gap; he made a perfect emergency landing. The crew of four walked away completely unharmed. They used the telephone at Wilbury House (Cholderton 264) to let their Headquarters at RAF Scampton know the situation. They took the train to London and then on to Lincolnshire, still in their flying kit and still carrying their parachutes!

In a letter to his younger brother John, he wrote
“We had such fun the other day. Coming back from a long trip we were running out of petrol so we decided to do a blind approach landing. We failed because the cloud was down on the ground over the aerodrome, so eventually we got fed up and I put her through some telegraph wires into a ploughed field with wheels up……..”

Less than two weeks later at 2am, the same crew in a different Hampden, returning from another mine laying trip off La Rochelle, crashed into high ground at Hangingstone Hill on Dartmoor. All four crew members were killed.

In 1993, Flight Lieutenant Thompson’s brother visited Newton Tony to see where the successful crash-landing had taken place and ‘walked the course’.