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Mystery of St Michael's Mount plane crash solved

By CMJohannaCarr  |  Posted: February 06, 2013

  • Mystery of St Michael's Mount plane crash solved

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Mystery surrounding a plane crash over St Michael's Mount in the years after the war has been solved with the help of Cornishman readers.
At the beginning of January this newspaper asked if anyone could help to find out about a dramatic incident witnessed by a young Penzance lad.
Reader John Faber, 71, remembered a fighter plane disintegrating over St Michael's Mount and crashing into the sea but despite trying to research the event through the Cornwall Studies Library and online, Mr Faber had been unable to track down the full story. 
Thanks to an unprecedented response from readers, parts of the tale have now come to light.
The crash happened on July 26, 1950 and involved a Meteor on a training exercise ahead of an air display the following week from RNAS Culdrose flown by Lieutenant H Charlier, who died in the crash.
Thornley Renfree, of Paul, said he believed the plane was Gloster Meteor T7 trainer VW436 from 702 Squadron, the Naval jet evaluation and training Unit – the first unit of the RAF or Navy to receive this type of aircraft.
He added: "Some years ago a diver showed me an exhaust tube from a jet engine he had recovered from the sea near the Mount, probably from this aircraft." Witnesses described seeing one of the aircraft's twin engines dropping into the sea before the plane followed it.
Penny Lally of Penzance was just five when she saw the tragic accident.
She wrote: "There was a trail of smoke coming from the plane and then it exploded in a million pieces over the Mount... I was so worried about 'the man' being the pilot, and no one believed what I had just seen... This all had a marked effect on me as for many years I would run and hide under a table whenever I heard a plane and woke up scared when I heard the drone of a plane at night."
A Cornishman report published the day after the crash said that a nearby tug on a salvage mission had rushed to where the plane had disappeared into the sea and an amphibious biplane – an air sea rescue Walrus – from Culdrose was also send out immediately.
Small boats from Penzance and the bay also joined in the search but despite looking until dark, no trace of the downed pilot was found.
The following week a report said that thousands of west Cornwall people had travelled to the airfield to watch the air display that Leuit Charlier had been practicing for.

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