Our picture shows the aftermath of a plane crash in 1952 in which Squadron-Leader Christopher Gordon Clarke aged 31 lost his life. The accident happened when the pilot, flying a twin-boom De Havilland re-heat jet Venom night fighter, came into collision with a troop-carrying Valetta and crashed into the top of a hill on North Farm, Great Durnford.

The miracle of the crash was that no one in the Valetta, which had an R.A.F. crew of four sergeants, and was carrying eight Army officers and a driver, was killed. All the sergeants, who were forward, were badly hurt, but of the nine in the rear compartment seven escaped with little more than a shaking, although the aircraft, in making its crash landing in a field to the left-hand side of the main Salisbury to Amesbury road, disintegrated over about 400 yards of stubble until there were only two recognisable portions left.

Wing Cdr. James Cliff described at the inquest how he saw the Valetta and Venom both at about 1,000 ft. “The Valetta was doing a very gentle turn and the Venom continued to close in until the starboard wing of the Venom hit the Valetta at the tail, or slightly ahead of it. The wing broke off and the Venom plummeted down straight into the ground.”

The crash was also vividly described by Mrs K. Palmer, of The Cottages, Great Durnford. She said, “I was out in the garden hanging my cloths on the line and I saw the planes together. Next I heard a loud noise, then I saw the jet go into a spiral spin and crash, the flames and smoke leapt up several feet. It hit the cable and we were out of electricity.”

The coroner recorded a verdict of death by misadventure, following a collision in mid-air.