The Leigh Hurricane Crash 1941
"The irony of this incident, is that if Sergent Quince had flown 2 years later, the aircraft could have turned to port over Leigh School and aimed for the 1410 yard runway number 3 at RAF Blakehil. Sadly the airfield hadn’t yet been built........."
On the 31st October 1941 a Hawker Hurricane from 52 OTU (Operational Training Unit) flying from Aston Down crashed in my home village of the Leigh in Wiltshire. 1379744 Sgt Walter Ernest Quince was flying Hurricane V6795 and his engine failed over the village. A loud banging was heard in the sky as the engine misfired.
Here I have attempted to identify the likely flight path of the doomed aircraft and illustrated the approximate crash site from source accounts, along with information from aircraft discussion groups, local residents, modern online maps and historic maps from the Cricklade Muesum – my thanks to Marion Parsons author ‘Cricklade Revealed Part Five’, (Albert Hussey account), Janet Furze, Paul Pip Giles, Paul Povey (Cricklade Museum) – modern overlay, map scans and aircraft heading by VP. My thanks to all who have contributed. Marion’s excellent ‘Cricklade Revealed’ series is available from the Cricklade Museum.
The Crescent is a row of houses on the Malmesbury road, next to the site of the old bacon factory and is now the site of a moden dwelling. I have overlayed the 1920’s map image showing the site onto a modern aerial photo for clarification. As ever, I would be grateful for any corrections or calrifications.
An eye witness account in ‘Cricklade Revealed’ part 5 from farm labourer Albert Hussy, describes children, who were coming out of Leigh School ‘instinctivly hitting the ground’ as the plane flew low over them, crashing behind the houses of “The Crescent” into a wall of the old bacon factory. In another account, the same aircraft is described as ‘skimming across the Malmesbury Road’ before crashing into the old bacon factory. These two accounts imply that the aircraft took one of the two indicated flight paths, though further clarification has not been ruled out.
The Hurricane ended up nose down and the terribly wounded Sgt Quince was cut out of his harness using a knife from farm labourers who were working nearby and taken to the side of the B4040 road, wrapped in a blanket, where ARP warden, Mrs Gleed, wrapped his injuries in lint boiled in water. After what appears to be some hours (as there were very few telephones available), medical assistance eventually arrived from Wroughton hospital.
Sergent Walter Ernest Qince, aged just 20 years old, died from his injuries the next day on the 1st November 1941. He was the first fatality at the Wroughton hospital since it opened in 1940. The irony of this incident, is that if Sergent Quince had flown 2 years later, the aircraft could have turned to port over Leigh School and aimed for the 1410 yard runway number 3 at RAF Blakehil. Sadly the airfield hadn’t yet been built.
The wrecked aircraft was broken up and removed by the Air Ministry some days later – the exact cause of the engine failure is
Sergeant Quince is buried at the Whitworth Road Cemetary in Swindon in grave number 183 in section G. Although listed in the commonwealth war graves records, I was surprised to find Sergent Quince has a private grave without the CWG marker. I left flowers as a mark of respect to this young man and I hope my efforts into publishing this article onto this site go some way in ensuring another small piece of local war time history is preserved without going too far beyond the scope of this site.
All this happened within 2 miles of my home. There is no excuse, nor greater reason not to ignore the legacy of those who made our history - we remember and we respect.
Lest we forget Sergent Quince x
Picture credit - Sargent Walter Ernest Quince, kindly supplied by Annie Quinn - February 2022