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Aircraft Crash 1940 - Description of accident
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Boxted Airfield in 1944 was the home to the USAAF 56th Fighter Group. On the 2nd November 1944, a P47 Thunderbolt took off from the airfield, piloted by Lt Wallace W. Knief. The aircraft was stripped of its armament and was to be used as target towing practice.

Flying with three other members of the Fighter Group, he was instructed by his leader to carry out an "Immelman" manoeuvre. Soon after the P47 was seen spinning helplessly from a height of 11,000ft towards the ground. The pilot managed to escape from his cockpit at about 4,500 ft, stating he never saw his aircraft again after opening his parachute. The P47 subsequently crashed into a field at Mount Bures, narrowly missing the Thatchers Arms by only 143 m.
Local inhabitants thought it was a German `doodlebug`. The pilot landed safely and survived the war.

The subsequent investigation concluded that the accident was 100% pilot error due to poor handling. However they added in mitigation, that 19 year old Lt Kief, was a recent replacement and due to flying restrictions in the USA, had never spun a P47.

On Saturday 30th August 1977 several members of the Colchester Archaeological Group and the East Anglian Aircraft Research Group sought permission to excavate the wreckage. With powerful metal detectors, the site was easily identified with `metallic` readings so strong, it seemed almost certain the engine and fuselage must still be under the field.
Almost at once traces of grey ash were found below the topsoil, indicating that the plane had burned fiercely on impact.

Excavated aircraft parts including engine nose
(being carried)
Ash from the fire still remains in the soil

One of the first objects located at a depth of 1.5m was the recognisable framework of the pilot`s armoured seat; the buckles of his safety harness together with the cockpit levers and tailplane assembly. The most impressive find was the nose of the engine (see photo above), finally located at a depth of 4m, giving credance to the power and dive of the P47 as it plummeted into the earth.

All of the pieces found were transported to the 93rd Bomb Group Museum at Hardwick, Norfolk where they are still to be found.

Pilots Report
Group Leaders Report
Description of Accident
Result:- Board of Enquiry

Immelman Manoeuvre:- Start the manoeuvre flying straight and level, pulls up into one-half (1/2) loop immediately followed by one-half (1/2) roll and finishes flying straight and level and exactly 180 degrees fromthe heading at entry


Updated 28/11/06