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 him.

   The feature was prompted by a question from a visitor to "A Dabber's Nantwich" website.


A town's 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?

JOHN MACINTYRE                                                                                     JULY 2012


Picture of 1st Lt Arthur Brown in Canadian Air Force uniform,

supplied by Derek Inskeep, a local historian

See item below for a meeting with Mr Inskeep.


Andrew replies:

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 internal.

Picture: US Air Force via R.A.Scholefield







Did oxygen problem lead to fatal crash?

DANIEL 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.

  "The airfield 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.


Daniel writes:


ON January 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 [1].  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.

   Shortly after 14:00, the flight, probably consisting of 12-plus aircraft, was over Nantwich having just completed the first of their high-altitude crossover turns.

   At this point, Captain Potter, who was leading the formation, noticed that one aircraft was missing from Purple section.



   Captain 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.

   It 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 accident.


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. [2]


[1] Crosby. F, The Complete Guide to Fighters and Bombers of the World, Anness Publishing, London, 2006, P136 and 148.


[2] Location determined from photographs held by Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell Airforce Base, Alabama, USA.


Theory on 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 Nantwich Grammar School when the American plane crashed and saw it coming down as I was standing in the playground with my friend, John Allin.


   We 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 house.

   I always doubted the story that the pilot had tried to divert the plane as my recollection was that it came straight down.

Michael Lloyd                             NOVEMBER 2014

Local historian assists in quest for facts about crash












Daniel Cornes and Derek Inskeep discuss the finer points of

1st Lt Brown's crash

Picture: Andrew Lamberton

DEREK Inskeep, a local historian and author who has already made a name for himself for his research into a wartime 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 myself."

   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

Brown, was employed in an aircraft production factory near to Freeport, New York, where the family lived. She worked on Thunderbolt aircraft. His father was a painter.

    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.

   Derek and Andrew investigated the site of Doddington Furnace, shown on a 1767 Delves Broughton map.


Andrew Lamberton writes:

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 story.






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. He wrote:  


Dear Mrs Brown,

I expect you will have heard, some time ago, from the USA Air Force of the sad news of your son.

   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 impossible.

   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


have 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 grave

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 pilot

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.


lSo, 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 commemoration'


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 to date.

   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 him.

   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.


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