26th March 1923 – Fatal DH 9A crash
On Monday the 26th March 1923, an Airco DH.9A (serial number E8628) flown by 25-year-old Robert
Cecil Brooke-Hunt from RAF Shotwick was flying over Heswall at about 11.50am. This was his second
solo flight. The aircraft was observed by members of the public to be flying quite high, with the sun
glinting on the wings. Suddenly there were a couple of load explosions and the aircraft was
observed to break up in mid-air, into three parts. The engine fell close by the old Heswall railway
station in the “Heswall Gutter”, the wings floated about a quarter of a mile down the river. The
fuselage landed a couple of hundred feet from the engine in 18 inches of water, with the pilot’s body
trapped underneath it. Brooke-Hunt who came from Lincolnshire was killed instantly. A large number
of people rushed to the site and extracted the pilot’s body from the wreckage. A party of men arrived
from RAF Shotwick to collect the wreckage, but were unable to recover the engine, which was now
covered by the tide.
17th June 1926 – Heswall Golf Club unwelcome player on 17th Green
In the early afternoon of 17th June, a foursome on the 17th green at Heswall Golf Course were
being irritated and put off their game by the antics of a bi-plane directly overhead, circling, rolling and
diving. The aircraft was an Avro 504K (serial number F8789) from No.5 Flying Training School (FTS) at
RAF Sealand with Pilot Officer Pentland at the controls. Pentland who had six hours of solo flying in
his logbook had been sent aloft to practise half rolls. He started at 2,500 feet, and had completed
four manoeuvres and was about to start his fifth half roll when he lost lateral control and went into
an inverted spin.
Suddenly the change in the sound of the engine caused the golfers to look upwards and then scatter
for cover as the aircraft hurtled towards them. At between 500 and 600 feet Pilot Officer Pentland
pulled the ripcord as he tried to extricate himself from the aircraft. The parachute pulled him from the
aircraft and brought him safely to ground. The Avro dived into a field next to the 17th green; the fuel
tank burst and spayed petrol in all directions. Fortunately, none of the golfers were smoking so it did
not catch fire. Apparently, the throttle cables had snapped as the aircraft began a nosedive and the
pilot was unable to shut off his engine. During this accelerated dive, a shower of parts fell from the
Avro, the windscreen narrowly missing two golfers who had just reached the green.
The shaken pilot had entered the record books, as the first RAF pilot to use a parachute in an
emergency, making him the first British member of the Caterpillar Club. To become a member of the
Caterpillar Club, one has to have had their life saved by the use of a parachute. Pentland was taken
to the Club House where he was afforded every hospitality and treatment for his nerves. Later on
that afternoon another 504K landed on the course, this time sparing the greens. It took Pentland
back to Sealand, whilst a lorry and mechanics arrived to salvage what was left of F8789. Incredible
as it may seem, records indicate that F8789 was actually repaired!
31st May 1941 – Civilians killed by jettisoned bombs
May 31st saw a fatal set of incidents, when a German aircraft damaged by anti-aircraft fire was
forced to jettison its bomb load on Lower Heswall. The aircraft eventually crashed in Wales with the
crew of three being rescued before the aircraft exploded. The bombs that were jettisoned fell in
three places. One was on a row of house were a garage now stands. The Shone family lived in one
of the houses. Marjorie Shone escaped from the burning house but her parents were killed along
with her 19-year-old sister Dorothy, who could be heard screaming by rescuers who were unable to
get close enough to rescue her. The headmaster’s house on Old School Hill was also hit and his
adopted daughter Lillian Mills was crushed to death. A young man Joseph Lancelot was found dying
close by the school.
Heswall Children’s Hospital Anson
The Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital at Heswall which was demolished to make way for Tesco
store, used to have an aircraft in the grounds for the children to play on. The aircraft was an Avro
Anson C19 (serial number TX155) delivered from No.27 MU at Shawbury in 1967. It joined a
Steamroller, Fire Engine and Lifeboat in the playground.
|This article was researched by and written by local avation historian Colin Schroeder.