AN ASK ANDREW SPECIAL FEATURE
IT is a matter of Second World War memory
and pride that an American pilot is held in high regard by Nantwich
people for the way he flew his stricken plane away from Nantwich to
avoid hitting any building or residents.
But now research for a
thesis by a local
university graduate has cast a new light
of the air crash. Although some of it was known at the time, the idea
that the pilot used his skills to avoid a greater catastrophe persisted.
This feature is not meant in
any way to detract from the American's heroism.
We stand by that regard for
The feature was prompted by
a question from a visitor to "A Dabber's Nantwich" website.
memorial to airman |
previous Ask Andrew questions
What caused the American pilot's crash?
WHY did Arthur L. Brown crash? Why was he in
Nantwich and where did he come from?
Picture of 1st Lt Arthur Brown in
Canadian Air Force uniform,
supplied by Derek Inskeep, a local
See item below for a meeting with Mr Inskeep.
WE know that on
January 14, 1944, 1st Lt Arthur Brown of the
United States Army Air
Force, flying in a Thunderbolt plane, crashed near to the River Weaver
behind Shrewbridge Road, Nantwich. His body was never found.
Townspeople erected a memorial to his memory at the spot
where it is thought he crashed.
He came from Long Island, New York, and was no doubt
over here to prepare for the subsequent
D-Day landings in June 1944.
His grave was regularly
tended by local Guides and Brownies and relatives of his have been
over to visit. It is now cared for by the Nantwich branch of the
Cheshire Regiment Association
There is a Nantwich street, Brown Avenue, named after him.
Picture of grave by Andrew Lamberton
A Republics P-47D Thunderbolt, similar to the one flown by 1st Lt Arthur Brown when he
crashed in Nantwich. This D model is pictured at East Wretham.
Alan Clark of
Peak District Air
Accident Research, says the bubble canopy
was used from part way through the production of the D model. He adds:
"The aircraft in the photo, 42-8545, was a P-47D-5-RE. 5-RE refers to
the production batch and factory. The one which crashed off Shrewbridge
Road was from the 1st block, D-1-RE, but they would have looked the same
from the outside as most changes between production blocks were
Picture: US Air Force via R.A.Scholefield
oxygen problem lead to fatal crash?
CORNES B.A. (hons), a graduate from Keele University, North Staffs - who
supplied the results of his research - said: "As far as I'm aware this
is the most complete research ever done on the crash."
He added: "This
is all original primary source research which is in the public domain.
information and that of United States
Army Air Force
witnesses come from reports held by the US historical research
archives at Maxwell Airforce Base, Alabama. The eyewitnesses on the
ground are my own research."
Formerly living in Nantwich, Daniel now lives in Betley, near Crewe.
On his screen is a P-47D Thunderbolt aircraft.
14, 1944, 1st Lieutenant Arthur Leslie Brown took off from A.A.F.
Station, code F-342,(previously RAF Atcham, Shropshire) on a
high-altitude training flight; his aircraft bearing the serial number 42-7925.
Lieutenant Brown was flying the latest model of Republics P47
Multipurpose attack plane, the P47D. Despite being a relatively
experienced pilot, with over 321 hours in his log book, Brown had only
15 hours logged on this type to date.
The P47 was the largest single-engine fighter aircraft of World War
Two weighing in at over nine tons when fully loaded; three times the
weight of a Spitfire .
The range which the P47 offered enabled the American daylight bombing
offensive to have fighter protection all the way to Germany and back.
However, the nature and date of this training flight would suggest that
Brown was in training for D-Day which would follow some five months
later. It is within the scope of imagination that Brown, should he have
survived, would have been part of the high-altitude umbrella cover for
the invasion of Europe.
after 14:00, the flight, probably consisting of 12-plus aircraft, was
over Nantwich having just completed the first of their high-altitude
At this point, Captain Potter, who was leading the formation, noticed
that one aircraft was missing from Purple section.
Potter tried to call the missing aircraft but received no
response. He then requested the controller at Atcham to call Brown but
unfortunately they, too, received no response.
During the crossover turn, Staff Sergeant Decker was in the formation
above Brown's and observed as Brown's aircraft broke from the formation
and was seen to make several sharp turns, climbs, and dives. Next time
Decker glanced back he noted only two aircraft in Purple section.
The official investigation conclusion from the USAAF states that Brown
suffered from anoxia - insufficient oxygen in the body tissues - as a
result of a failure in his breathing apparatus. Although it is dependant
on the individual, most people require oxygen from 8,000 to 12,000 feet
upwards and we know that Brown was flying at 22,000 to 24,000 feet from
the statement of S/Sgt Decker.
At this point it is worth addressing some witness testimonies given
by those on the ground. Several eye witnesses that day say they saw
Lieutenant Brown's aircraft performing reckless aerobatics prior to the
crash. In addition, one eye witness reports seeing smoke trailing from
the plane in question.
is likely that the manoeuvres performed by the plane were simply those
of a plane with an unconscious pilot at the controls and the smoke that
some witnesses on the ground reported were simply the vapour trails as
the plane dived from high altitude; typically vapour trails are seen on
aircraft operating above 15,000ft as was the case in question.
Lieutenant Brown's aircraft impacted the ground at high speed
at approximately 14:10. Witnesses report a loud bang upon impact but no
fire was seen thereafter and the aircraft quickly sank into the ground
leaving little for RAF salvage teams who arrived shortly after the
From the evidence encountered, I would have to conclude that Lieutenant
Brown was rendered unconscious by an unknown cause, most likely to be
related to oxygen delivery equipment failure.
This clearly goes against
the popular opinion that Brown deliberately avoided the town but does
not in any way serve to degrade the status of Brown's memory; ultimately
Brown was a brave airman who made the supreme sacrifice so that Nantwich
and the rest of Europe could be free.
Lieutenant Brown's true resting
place is approximately 15 to 30 feet to the left of the current
gravestone as you face it. Some reports have stated Lt Brown crashed
into the river but photographs held by the USAAF disprove this theory.
crash in doubt as plane 'came straight down'
Andrew received the
following e-mail after
the article had been on the
website for a time.
I WAS a pupil at
crashed and saw
it coming down
as I was
standing in the
my friend, John Allin.
hurried to his
house in Shrewbridge Road
after school as
we thought it
had crashed in
that area and, in
fact, it was
close to his
story that the
pilot had tried
to divert the
plane as my
that it came
Local historian assists
in quest for facts about crash
and Derek Inskeep discuss the finer points of
1st Lt Brown's
Picture: Andrew Lamberton
DEREK Inskeep, a local historian and author who has already
made a name for himself for his research into a
aircraft crash at Bridgemere, near Nantwich, was consulted on the
events of the Thunderbolt crash.
Andrew Lamberton commented: "We are indebted to
Derek for the detailed research that he has
undertaken about the Nantwich crash and the
background information regarding 1st Lt. Arthur L.
Brown that he has shared with Daniel Cornes and
Andrew and Daniel met Derek at his home in Hough to discuss the accident.
Among facts revealed to
Andrew and Daniel by Derek were that the pilot's
mother, Mrs Nettie
employed in an
factory near to
York, where the
family lived. She worked
His father was a
In 2007, Derek published
"Wings of White Linen”, an illustrated book of
his research on the Bridgemere crash of a Wellington
bomber. He was the man behind the erection
of the memorial plaque on the roadside.
Six of a
seven-man crew, flying from RAF Chipping
Warden, Oxfordshire, on a training mission, died when their
aircraft crashed in a thunderstorm on October 28,
1944. The seventh was injured.
A memorial service is
held every October in the car park for
those attending the service.
Derek is an authority on the Delves Broughton
Estate, being born and brought up at Blakenhall.
Andrew investigated the site of Doddington Furnace,
shown on a 1767 Delves Broughton map.
IT was a real privilege to be
with both Derek and Daniel at the meeting at Derek's home.
Both are very enthusiastic and passionate about the subject.
Derek’s depth of knowledge of his
subject is exceptional and it would be a
tragedy if his story is left untold. He was hoping that he
would be able to produce a book on the subject and he
certainly has all the information he needs to do that.
But an unfortunate recent
illness has put his plans on hold for the time being and
we wish him well as he recovers.
Without Derek, we
would never have been able to produce such a fantastic
Letter tribute to airman
This is the letter
sent to 1st Lt Brown's mother in May 1944 by
the farmer on whose land the plane crashed. See the full text below.
Felt obliged to provide memorial
MR PHILIP GEORGE, the farmer on whose land
the stricken Thunderbolt crashed, felt nothing was being done about
marking the spot and so felt he had an "obligation" to provide "some
sort of memorial". This is revealed in a letter to the pilot's mother.
Dear Mrs Brown,
I expect you will have
heard, some time ago, from the USA Air Force of the sad news of your
I am writing to
offer you my greatest sympathy and
to say the plane crashed into my field in Shrewbridge
Road, Nantwich, on January 14, 1944. The airforce men tried for some days to
get it out but it had gone in so deep that they found this was
As I understand,
nothing was being done about it and as the owner of the land I felt, out
of respect to the pilot, it was an obligation for me to mark the spot
with some sort of memorial and I know you will be interested to hear I
have now fixed on the spot a very permanent stone slab of which I
enclose a rough sketch.
It is in a very
nice little field, on high ground, along the bottom of which the River
Weaver winds and twists. I have not had the hole in the field entirely
filled up but
made it into a sort of
dell or dingle and have seeded it with wild white clover so that it will
bloom in the summer time. I thought this would be more in keeping than
making the ground all level. As soon as I get the place green over, I
will have some photographs taken and send them on to you.
I may say I know
exactly how keenly you will feel the loss of your son because my family
lost a lad (Spitfire pilot) in the Battle of Britain which brings it
home to me and makes a strong fellow feeling.
My wife joins me in
sending our kindest regards and deepest sympathy.
Yours very faithfully,
P. N. George
Pictured, right, is Mr George's
sketch of the first version of 1st Lt Brown's memorial stone. The 4ft by
2ft stone slab is decorated with "crazy paving stones" together with a
black granite panel, inscribed with the tribute: "Here lies 1st
Lieutenant Arthur L. Brown, USAAF, of New York, who crashed in his
Thunderbolt, Jan 14, 1944. With sympathy and respect."
Brownies tend airman's
Some of the Brownies who tended the
airman's grave, pictured in 1947. They are: back row, left to right:
Shirley Mason, Norma Stockton and June Cooke. Middle row: Sheila Barnett
and Janet Dutton. Front row: Irene Cooke, Jean Sherratt and Barbara
Barnett. In the background of the picture is the bridge which carries
the LNWR railway line over the River Weaver. A field at the time of the
picture, this area is now a well-tended riverside walk.
Paying tribute to brave
GUIDES and Brownies pay tribute to 1st Lt
Brown in a visit to the grave around 1956. Included in the picture is
the Guide District Commissioner, Miss Barbara Rees, Principal of Goudhurst School which was transferred during the Second World War from
its location in Kent to Doddington Hall near Nantwich. She is at the
rear of the picture.
counting the gravestone with the "crazy paving stones" as the first, the
current stone is the third to be laid. The second was made by Frank
Rogers of Rogers Masonry in Hospital Street. Of course, there is a
fourth grave marking 1st Lt Brown's death - at the American Cemetery,
near Cambridge. See the item below.
The pilot's 'official
WHILE the grave tended by Nantwich people is
close to the crash site, the "official point of commemoration" is at the
American Cemetery near to Cambridge.
That information comes from
Geoffrey Gillon, a member of
Find a Grave, a website which helps people to locate graves of loved
ones. He frequently makes a 150-mile round trip from his home to
photograph graves at the military cemetery and keeps memorial pages up
He took these pictures of 1st
Lt Brown's commemorative cross especially for "A Dabber's Nantwich" on a
cold December day with the sun in the wrong direction. Our thanks to
He told us: "The Cambridge
authorities would argue that all or some of his remains were recovered
(from the Nantwich crash site) for interment at Coton. Were that not the
case, (1st Lt Brown's) name would be on the tablet of the missing."
The American flag was placed
against the cross for the purposes of the picture by Mr Gillon. He
explained that when the cemetery staff prepare a grave area for visiting
relatives, they place both the American flag and the Union Flag.
article on 1st Lt Brown's crash appears in "Nantwich Life 2", compiled by Gareth Roberts,
of Nantwich Players.
Copies are still available from Gareth. Call him on 01270 629958.
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