Hurricane AM280


A view of the crash site in 1999, Darren Wingrave stands on the impact point

The story starts back in March 1998

The Thameside Aviation Museum (TAM) was invited to give a talk on aviation archaeology at "THE SQUADRON" North Weald Airfield, Essex, Dave Thorndike, Ron Wingrave and myself.

Dave set up a display of some of our finds with photos of the museum while Ron was in charge of slides and cine film { most digs were filmed on super 8} and myself, left to do the talking, all went very well with a fantastic turnout of members with some very good questions. After the talk had finished we were chatting to members of the Squadron when I was asked by one of them if I knew about two spitfires that had collided over the village of Great Easton near Great Dunmow Essex, I said I did not but I knew of Two Hurricanes somewhere up that way, his name was John Hitchens, he had grown up in the village and could take me to the spot where they had crashed we exchanged numbers and I told him I would start the research as soon as I got home.

A couple of days later I contacted John and told him that the aircraft were definitely two Hurricanes and would now further my research, With the help of the Ministry of Defence Air Historical Branch who confirmed that it was two Hurricanes AM280 and Z5449 both of 3 sqdn.


26th NOVEMBER 1942

On the 26th November 1942 at 11.40 hrs two Hurricane aircraft have just taken off from R.A.F Hunsdon, to carry out air fighter attacks, the pilots of the two aircraft were Flt Lt JOHN LONSDALE, RAFVR. flying AM280 and Sgt A. RANKIN in Z5449, after a couple of minutes they had arrived over the villages of The Easton's and started there practice attacks, on the third attack at about 12.05 hrs Sgt Rankin being temporarily blinded by the sun resulted in the two aircraft colliding, John Lonsdale was killed, his Hurricane AM280 crashing to earth at Wermigs Flower Farm Great Easton.

Sgt Rankin found himself in a spin but managed to bale out of Z5449 and his Hurricane crashed at Nevills Farm , Mill End Green, 1 mile north of AM280.

In a field about a half mile away a young boy had seen what had happened he was called John Hitchens, he started to run towards the crash site of AM280, on arrival at the field he was stopped by some adults working nearby who told him not to go over to the wreck as the pilot was still in it.

The next day John Hitchens went back to the site of the crash, a guard had been posted on the wreck, he asked if he could have a look, the guard said he would take him to it as the pilot had now been removed. He peered inside the tangled remains and could see smashed instruments inside the smashed hulk. Two days later he went back again and it had now been taken away! the guard told John that they could not get the engine out as it was to deep, so the story ends for fifty seven years.
Sgt Rankin took to the air again the next morning at 07.25hrs and carried out a dawn patrol in Barrow Deep - Clacton - Orfordness area, Refuelled at Manston and landed back at Hunsdon at 10.00hrs.

We arrived on site at on Good Friday, the digger was already waiting for us , Tony had to plot the crash site before the digging could commence this was done in a couple of hours and by then the whole team had arrived. This was going to be a long slow dig as we did not want to miss a piece of the aircraft.

a view of the excavation underway

At around 11.30 Anglia TV News come on site to film some of the excavation and interview John Hitchens and myself which was to be screened that night, which it was, this prompted a local man to come to the site that evening and inform us that his father-in-law had pulled the rest of the wreck out around five years after the war and scraped it and as the next day produced very little finds we found this to be true.

We found a very oily patch at about 8 feet { 2.4m } which was where the engine had layed all those years earlier but alas it had gone.

The finds we have are very interesting, we have parts from all over the aircraft including a pair of wing bolts, fuse box cover, one set of induction pipes from the top of the Merlin and of course we have the history.

Fred Dunn smiles from the digger

81682 Flt. Lt John Lonsdale R.A.F.V.R.

Born; 18th September 1914

Son of ; Robert and Esther

Husband of: Doris

Home; Norton-on-Tees, nr Stockton-on-Tees

Buried; Duram Road Cemetery , CI, row B, Grave 24

Joined 3sqdn at Wick early July 1940. 25th July 1940 he shares in the distruction of a Heinkel 111, shot down into the sea off Pentland Firth During a weather reconnnaissance mission. (see new addition below)

Promotion Dates

Pilot Officer. 29/6/40,
Flying Officer. 29/6/41,
Flight Lieutenant. 29/6/42

Total flying hours, 1'069

Aircraft History AM 280

Built by Canadian Car and Foundry Corporation, Ontario Canada, as a Hurricane X/11B

AM280 was built as a part of the 3rd production batch of 100 aircraft, the batch were built in 1941 using revised manufacturing procedures and tolerances to conform to British standards. The aircraft were shipped to the uk during 1941/42 and had eight gun wings and Packard merlin 28s fitted, most were refitted with Rolls Royce Merlin XXs as did AM280, eng No 26955.

The aircraft was taken on-charge 31st March 1942 to 13 MU, 15 MU on 28th May 42, to 1 sqdn on 13th June 42, 3 sqdn 30th July 42.

Category "E" 26/11/42,

Struck of-charge 26/11/42, with a total flying time of 179.55 hrs.

A Hurricane IIB of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

1369341 Sgt A Rankin

We have not been able to trace any details of Sgt Rankin, over to you?.

Aircraft History Z5449

Built by Glosters, taken on-charge 3/941 to 46 MU, To Russia 8/9/41, to 17 sqdn on 20/941, 32sqnd 12/6/42, 247 sqdn 22/9/42, 3 sqdn 22/11/42, 71 MU 27/11/42, struck of-charge 26/11/42



Heinkell He111 on the 25th July 1940 shared with F/O D.A.E. Jones. The Heinkel from Wetterkundungsstaffel 1, was on a weather reconnaissance sortie and crashed into the sea off Pentland Firth at 08.30 hrs.

The pilot, Gefr PAUL MÜLLER, was Killed, his body was washed ashore on 1st August and buried at Kirkwall in the Orkneys where he remains to this day.

Uff A. BAUCH, Uffz R. FRIETAG AND Uffz E. LOCH were also lost but a fifth crew member E. FRANKEN was rescued from a dingy 12 miles off Roro Head by a Royal Navel Destroyer.

The aircraft T5 + AL was lost.
My thanks to; Frank Gee and Ian Hallatt.
  • Our thanks to
  • John Hitchens ( eye witness ),
  • Frank Bennett ( farmer ),
  • Mrs Wermig ( land owner )
  • Peter Thake ( villager ),
  • Tony Dyer ( Hurricane historian and builder)
  • Robin Hill (Historian),
  • IAN HALLATT, who tends John Lonsdale's grave


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