Tragedy over Dorset

The Whitley bomber was outdated at the start of the war but with no alternatives available was kept on offensive operations until 1942.

In the early hours of 4th April a black painted Hurricane night fighter from No. 87 Squadron flying from RAF Charmy Down, Somerset was patrolling in the dark watching for the frequent German raiders targeting the ports of South Wales and Bristol. With no technical aids and reliant only on his eyes, the pilot of the Hurricane found a twin engine bomber heading south at 10,000 feet. It was headed in the direction of German bombers returning to bases in France.

The pilot stalked the returning German raider for several minutes unseen before opening fire and watching the bomber spin out of control to crash near the market town of Sturminster Newton in Dorset. Four crew members were able to escape by parachute, but the rear gunner was later found dead in the wreckage.

The tragedy was that the rear gunner was Sgt William Brindley of the RAF. The Hurricane night fighter had shot down a Whitley bomber from No. 51 Squadron, on course for the the Nazi battle cruisers at Brest. Sergeant Brindley now lies in the cemetery near RAF Dishforth, his home base.

This was but one incident of ‘friendly-fire’. How common such events were is hard to assess, as no publicity was given to them at the time and RAF records remain opaque.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Pilalas April 4, 2016 at 11:49 pm

How pleased and proud it must make the site editors to make such a clear connection between the events of a day and the kin of those directly effected, and how wonderful in this case for Mr. Brinkley to learn what actually happened. Congratulations for a job well done.

William Brindley August 22, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Thank you for shedding some light on what happend to my uncle whome I am named after . I was told a different story as a child and think my father and grandparents never new the truth. regards Bill Brindley

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