On 7th January 1971, in broad daylight, an Avro Vulcan XM610 Bomber soared across the skies of the North-East before crashing into a field near Wingate in Co.Durham. There was no loss of life, but the incident has entered local folklore – being especially vivid in the memories of those children of the local junior school who were staring up at the roaring aircraft as it fell to earth yards from their playground.
It all started as a routine practise sortie across the North Sea and the rural reaches of the Borders, until metal fatigue in one of the engines sent the warplane and its five-man crew into panic stations. As Captain Bob Alcock ordered his crew to eject one by one, he wrestled with the controls with ever-increasing desperation – but all to no avail, the Vulcan giving up the ghost as it careered across Northumberland and East Durham.
Alcock directed the aircraft sea-ward and ejected. Unfortunately, the Vulcan had other ideas and dipped downwards, smashing deep into a farmer’s field between Wingate and Station Town – 100 yards from the aforementioned school. For their attempts to save the plane, and their efforts to steer it clear of settlements, the crew all received awards – Alcock gaining the Air Force Cross.
More detail can be found at www.neam.co.uk/wingate.html, with some interesting comment at www.seaham.org.uk/forum/showthread.php?t=232 . Eye-witness accounts seem to vary slightly, and doubts have been cast upon the pilot’s alleged attempts to steer the plane to a ‘safe’ crash.
An interesting piece of recent history.