Wednesday, 14 March 2018



Just over four years ago I made an unusual find on the beach. The seabed along the coast is constantly changing, the sands shifted by the tide and the wind. We had endured a series of storms - strong winds and fierce seas. I was down below the cliffs at the Cliff End of the beach and could see the movement of the sand had exposed what appeared to be a tyre.

The surface was smooth so I thought at first it was just a large inner tube, used by fishermen on their boats. But as I scraped away more sand I realised it was much larger than any tube I'd seen before. I posted a picture on a railway forum I contribute to then someone re-posted on a specialist aircraft forum and what emerged was quite exciting.

It appeared that a Wellington bomber, N2767 from 99 Squadron in Newmarket, Suffolk, had run out of fuel after returning from a raid on Dusseldorf on November 9th 1940. The crew were unable to find an aerodrome so made the decision to ditch the plane in the sea, rather than make a normal landing in darkness. The aircraft broke up as it hit the sea but, thankfully, the crew were uninjured. Later the wreckage was recovered and taken away, but the tyre remained, buried in the sand, for over 70 years. 

A police report at the time stated:

"I beg to report that this aircraft made a forced landing on the waters edge 500 yards from the shore. In the course of the landing the aircraft ran into deep water. The shore patrol of "A" Coy 4th Royal Sussex Regiment heard the crew shouting for assistance and with the coast guards they went to their assistance. All were rescued. One of the pilots left the 'plane from the front and fell into deep water. There was some difficulty in rescuing him. The aircraft was washed ashore by the next tide. It is now on the foreshore at Cliff End in the military area. The Officer in charge was Flying Officer Belbin. The crew were all taken to the 4th Royal Sussex Regts billets. One of the pilots was later taken to Military Hospital (probably Brickwall, Northiam) suffering from shock and the effects of immersion in water."

A few days after my discovery a neighbour stopped me and said, 'I've just seen four blokes wheeling a huge tyre up the beach and wrestling it into the back of a transit van!' I was a bit miffed, as it was 'my find'. However, I soon discovered that it had been collected by, and was on its way to, the Wings aeronautical museum in Balcombe, West Sussex, where it now resides.

Aggie, always a star, became even more famous when an article about the find was published in the Daily Mail online.

1 comment:

  1. Chris, Just a point of correction, last time I looked, the Wings Museum in Balcombe was in West Sussex, not Surrey!