Seven Oaks plane crash, 76 years ago

2016-09-07 06:00

LAST week the Greytown Gazette received an email from a Mr A. Doyle in London querying whether it was possible to check on a plane crash which occurred in Seven Oaks in August 1940 in which three men were killed.

According to him two airmen, Squadron Leader Dunlop and Flight Lieutenant James who had been based in what was then Southern Rhodesia had belonged to the Empire Air Training scheme – the third was a Captain Adams, an army officer of the West African regiment.

This interesting, and probably now not well known bit of Umvoti history was reported upon in the Greytown Gazette of Friday 29 August­, 1940 as follows:

“The three occupants of a military aeroplane were killed instantly when it crashed into a wattle plantation owned by Mr C.J.J. Crowe a few miles from Seven Oaks between 8.30am and 9am on Wednesday morning.”

There was a heavy low lying mist at the time and from about 8.30am residents heard a plane flying low and circling for some time over the farm of Felix Martens and R.J. Sharp. It was assumed that the pilot was trying to find his way through the mist to land. Martens and Sharp reported that the sound of the engine stopped for a moment and a few seconds later a terrific crash was heard.

Both these gentlemen “dashed in the direction of the sound and discovered the machine in a plantation”. The plane had crashed through the trees embedding the engine in the grounds and was ”smashed to matchwood”. Plane parts and personal belongings were scattered over a wide area.

The three are buried in the Pioneer Cemetry in Harare. Evidently during World War II a total of 182 pilots belonging to the Empire Air School were killed.

According to Rupert Crowe, Seven Oaks, the Zulu­ name for the farm where the crash occurred was Banoyi (aeroplane).

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