Some time ago I reported about an air crash on 5 September 1945 that killed two Portsmouth brothers, Flying Officers Arthur and Guy Venables. They were taking off from Istres airfield in the south of France, in the process of transferring to Egypt. 78 Squadron had recently re-equipped from Handley Page Hastings to Douglas C-47 Dakotas.
The Venables brothers were flying in Dakota IV KP235, taking off from Istres in France. The aircraft was taking off at night in poor visibility and a thick mist beyond the end of the runway, the presence of which Flying Control did not warn the pilot. It is thought that the pilot saw the bank of mist ahead and, thinking it to be high ground, pulled the nose of the aircraft up and stalled. With insufficient height to recover, the aircraft struck the ground and was destroyed.
17 men were killed, four of them air crew and 13 ground crew who were being transported to the Middle East. 15 died instantly. One , Corporal Joseph Hutchinson, died the next day. All are buried at Mazargues War Cemetery in Marseilles. The fate of one passenger is still unknown.
Dakota KP235 Roll of Honour
Flying Officer Guy Wilberforce Venables
Flying Officer Arthur Ernest Venables
Flying Officer John Edward Dickson
Flight Sergeant Eric Frank Dean
Corporal Headley Brightmore Archer
Leading Aircraftman Robert Bell
Leading Aircraftman David Briddock
Leading Aircraftman Walter James Chaimberlain
Corporal George Eric Coldwell
Leading Aircraftman Ronald Fulstone Elliott
Leading Aircraftman Victor Robert Haddock
Leading Aircraftman Alfred Edgar Hamshere
Leading Aircraftman George Brice Jones
Leading Aircraftman John Ivor Morgan
Leading Aircraftman Ronald Richards
Leading Aircraftman Edmund Stuart
Corporal Joseph Hutchinson
Pictures of their graves can be found at the The War Graves Photographic Project.
7 men escaped injured: Corporals G W Blewett, G H Orman, E M Lamb, and R W H Williams, and Leading Aircraftmen W Cunningham, E Armitage, and W Graham.
Hopefully we can find out the name of the last ‘missing’ passenger who died on 5 September 1945. Also, I plan to hopefully have a look at the Squadrons operational records at the National Archives, and the RAF Museum at Hendon have records of accidents involving RAF aircraft. Also, was anything mentioned in the local and national press? It would be nice to find out more about the Venables brothers, or even to find out what they looked like.
This crash should serve as a poignant reminder that even though the war had finished, plenty of young men were still serving at home and abroad, and that flying was still a dangerous business.