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Tempsford Mosquito HX972

Royal Air Force Badge Royal Australian Air Force Badge

Location: Tempsford (Tetworth Hill) 28th May 1944

F/Lt Keith Newman COOLING (pilot) RAAF
F/O Kenneth Alfred HOWES (navigator) RAF

De Havilland Mosquito.

It seems this aeroplane HX972 of 60 OTU (No.2 Group Support Unit, Swanton Morley) was on a low-level, cross-country training flight when it struck the top of an elm tree which resulted in the loss of the starboard tail plane near Tempsford, causing the plane to crash into a cottage on Tetworth Hill, killing the crew and a civilian, Mr. Fred Gore, on the ground. The Australian web-site records the aircraft designation as HX723.

The RAF records suggest Flt Lt Cooling was from Earlwood, Sydney, New South Wales, and was married with a wife living in Babbacombe, Devon, England, but the data is very confusing. His widow, Mrs Jeanne Elaine Marie Cooling later moved to Bournemouth, Hampshire, UK. Cooling had earlier in the war been slightly injured in an accident involving his Hurricane fighter.

The circumstances of the incident are that during the low-level cross-country exercise, Cooling came into proximity to an USAAF Mustang aircraft. The two craft flew alongside each other for a few minutes, not apparently indulging in any aerobatics, when the Mosquito hit the tree. It is possible Cooling's attention had been momentarily diverted by the Mustang's proximity. Subsequent attempts to identify the location of the Mustang base to interview the American pilot as a witness to the enquiry were unsuccessful. Attached are two images of the enquiry notes. The second contains comments by Cooling's Commanding Officer, and at paragraph 3 makes, in my opinion, a very distressing and insulting comment about a pilot who had just lost his life.

HX 972 Court of EnquiryHX 972 Court of Enquiry
UPDATE 7th May, 2018! I recieved an e-mail from a guy called Ross who has provided some more details about this incident, and confirms it was Mosquito "FB.VI, HX972". He says it was operating from No. 2 GSU (Group Support Unit) out of RAF Swanton Morley, located near Norwich, Norfolk, England and now operated by the British Army as "Robertson Barracks".

Ross is Director of Engineering and Airframe Compliance involved in a project entitled "The People's Mosquito", intending to restore/build Mosquito "RL249" to flight-worthy status. The link to his site will display some stunning images of a de Havilland Mosquito and I strongly urge anyone with the slightest interest in this incredible aircraft to visit it. You may even be tempted to join and support it! www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk/