Friday, 25 November 2016

The death of Amy Johnson

During a recent visit to Herne Bay I saw a statue of the British aviatrix Amy Johnson.


At the time I understood that Amy Johnson died when her aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary about twelve miles north of Herne Bay ... but I subsequently discovered that the truth was somewhat more complicated.

Amy was a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary. This was a group of male and female civilian pilots who ferried military aircraft between factories, Maintenance Units (MUs), and active service squadrons and airfields. It was during one such flight that Amy Johnson died.

On 5th January 1941, Amy was flying an Airspeed Oxford from Prestwick to RAF Kidlington near Oxford when she went off course due to bad weather.

An Airspeed Oxford.
It would appear that the Oxford ran out of fuel and Amy bailed out. Her parachute was seen by the crew of HMS Haslemere, and she was seen to be alive and in the water. The ship's commanding officer - Lieutenant Commander Walter Fletcher - dived in to save her, but the heavy seas, strong tide, and snow prevented him from doing so. He was rescued, but later died in hospital. He was awarded the Albert Medal posthumously for his attempt to save Amy.

HMS Haslemere.
Amy Johnson's body was never found.

4 comments:

  1. Will McNally,

    Ouch! I'll change it asap!

    Thanks for spotting that,

    All the best,

    Bob

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  2. Thanks for this. I remember first hearing about Amy Johnson thanks to the Al Stewart song. Later, when the internet came along, I found out who she was. Sad story.

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    Replies
    1. Michael Peterson,

      Her crash was - and still remains - a mystery. There have been lots of suggestions as to why she was so off course ... but none of them seem to be provable.

      All the best,

      Bob

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