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Mustang crash, June 1945, nr Willow Tree Farm Hilgay

page created 16th September 2010, amended/updated Thursday, 31 March 2011
USAAF Mustang Impatient Virgin
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On the 22nd June 1945 a USAAF Mustang P51b single seater fighter crashed about 2 miles east of the Welney Washes & the WWT reserve.

Flight Officer Ross of 376th was on a low level training flight over the Fens when steam entered the cockpit, scalding him badly. He quickly climbed before baling out, landing safely at Willow Tree Farm in a very rural part of the parish of Hilgay just a mile from the border with Welney parish.

Ernie James recalled in his book 'Memoirs of a Fen Tiger' seeing a Mustang that flew low over him and jettisoned two fuel tanks. One exploded on impact; the other was empty and Ernie took it home and planted flowers in it. Unfortunately Ernie didn't say say when or where that happened, or even whether it had RAF or USAAF markings, so it is not possible to link this incident with the crash of F/O Ross. But it would be nice if we could!
Since posting the above, Jeff Carless has e-mailed to say that records show the amount of fuel on take off was within the capacity of the internal tanks, and in any case as this was a post war navigation training flight, drop tanks would have been unnecessary and therefore unlikely to have been carried. So, Ernie's sighting remains a mystery.
In 2002, 57 years after the crash (and three years before Ernie James died) Jeff Carless and David Wade of the East Anglian Research Group positively located the crash site and decided to investigate further, but it was to be some while before they could start to dig. There are formalities of course, permission to be sought and granted, and slots found in the farming calendar.

The process of recovery was slow, a week a year for several years. Jeff told the story on his website, with an illustrated and detailed account of the events leading up to the crash and what they found all those years later. (Link at bottom right)

A good story needs an unexpected ending, and this is a classic. After reading Jeff's account of the crash and excavation go to the next link read the right hand column to see what happened next.................!
above is a USAAF Mustang P51b
nicknamed "Impatient Virgin"
over Cambridgeshire in 1944.

Below is a similar aircraft in RAF colours. RAF Mustang in flight
Text based on information from
Jeff Carless (East Anglian Aircraft Research Group)
and 'Memoirs of a Fen Tiger'
as told to Audrey James.
If you can provide any further details about the crash or those involved, please contact the Webmaster using link bottom right. Thanks.
Related pages on this website
Related External websites
Mustang crash and excavation
What happened next
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