There was an operational mission to Brunswick this day, and all of the aircraft returned safely. But the 66th Squadron lost an aircraft and two crewmen killed in an apparent unrelated incident.
The 66th Squadron had had a tremendous turn over in personnel due to their being established as a Pathfinder (PFF) Squadron. One of the new crews being transferred into the 66th Squadron was a PFF aircraft #41-28795 and crew from the 466th Bomb Group. 1st pilot was Lt. Forest M.
Musgrave. On this date, this crew was performing a practice flight at 23,000 feet, while on their way to Shipdham with a partial crew. They did this to gain experience and were making a practice run using their PFF equipment in the vicinity of Great Yarmouth.
Sgt. George Russell, engineer, states, “We took off about 1130 hours to go along the coast and practice bombing runs, using the new Radar equipment. This was the reason for the two bombardiers. We climbed to 23,500 feet, leveled off at this altitude for a simulated run on Yarmouth. Just as Lt. Musgrave throttled back, there was an explosion – and then another! “The plane started into a dive which Musgrave and Rice both fought to correct. They succeeded, but it was very difficult to control. During these few seconds, I took off my oxygen mask and went in between the two pilots to see what was happening. The elevator control was turned full up and the auto pilot seemed to be still working. I pulled the emergency release but this did not seem to help. Musgrave and Rice were both struggling to regain control, but could not. Rice looked at Musgrave, and then both looked at me as if to say, ‘What is wrong?’ None of us knew. I had no ear phones on with which to talk with them at that time. “I turned to leave them, and in getting down from the flight deck, I saw and felt that we were in a tight spiral to the right. I stepped on someone’s feet – and drew back onto the flight deck to let whoever this was to get ahead of me and jump. This person did jump and Rice, being right behind me at this time, took his foot and nudged me as if to say, ‘What are you waiting for?’ I then stepped down onto the catwalk and jumped – and waited for a while to pull my chute. “Branch and I landed close to each other – I in a pasture and he in a creek. On the way down, I could see the plane burning in the distance. Both Lt. Musgrave and T/Sgt. Cargill were killed, and Cargill did not get free of the plane. “This was the first time this plane had been flown at high altitude. I have never known conclusively, but have suspected that we had been attacked by a German fighter that had come from out of nowhere. We never even saw the fighter coming. Even if we had, we had no guns or ammunition to protect ourselves. This flight was the first with our crew for Dovey, Branch and Ross. Ross and Dovey never flew with us again.” The aircraft came down near Halvergate, which is located between Acle and Yarmouth. The survivors were sent to a Rest Home on 12 May to help forget this experience. The co-pilot, Lt. Rice, added, “We flew that day with a skeleton crew that had no gunners – our purpose was to test the new Pathfinder equipment, two navigators and two bombardiers. It was near noon when suddenly two sharp thuds jarred the plane and knocked it into a steep right wing-down attitude. The auto pilot was ineffective, so it was disengaged with the thought that maybe it was damage to that instrument that caused this sudden disruption. “It required extreme effort by both of us to bring that wing up again. Then it went into a steep dive. Again, it took extreme effort to correct, but it didn’t stop there. The nose kept rising to an acute climb attitude. Manipulation of throttles and trim tabs were of no consequence, so it was at this point that the decision was made: This equipment is completely out of control. We still have a good margin of altitude. We’d better evacuate while we can. “Permar and Ross were in the nose section and escaped via the nose wheel hatch. Russell, Branch and Dovey were on the flight deck and went out the bomb bay, followed shortly by us two pilots. It was assumed that Cargill was at or near his station located in front of the waist position. He was the only one who did not get out and no one knows why. He may have been hit for all we know. Musgrave got out behind me but his parachute ripcord was still in place when he was found. Again, no one knows why. “The plane went down in a spin and burned. Typically, very few minutes elapsed between the time of the attack and the plane’s impact with the ground. No one reported having seen or heard anything other than the two explosions so there was no eye-witness among the surviving occupants of the plane, but it is my firm belief that we were victim of an invading aircraft that had shadowed the bomber formations returning from that day’s bombing mission and had spotted an easy target.” The records at Acle, near the crash site, shows that this aircraft, in fact, was shot down. Official records show that they found five 20-mm holes in the plane which had burned after crashing and not much was left for further examination. Arnold Dovey was injured as he departed the airplane hit something as he went out that tore his parachute and his left side. The parachute did not open properly so was again injured when he hit the ground. He spent considerable time in the hospital. The pilot, Musgrave, was the last to leave the stricken ship, but he, too, apparently struck so me part of the airplane that knocked him out so he never pulled his ripcord.
The Civil Defense records state: “Plane crashed at 12:20, Halvergate Marsh. Police, National Fire Service and USAAF informed. Ambulance sent from Acle. Two dead, one injured and two unhurt.