On 24th January 1954, Meteor 8 WH298 from RAF Wattisham plunged into a field near Sandwich, killing the pilot. The accident happened whilst the aircraft was engaged on a high altitude interception exercise - after being airborne for about thirty minutes, WH298 sighted his 'target' and carried out a dummy attack at 28,000 feet. A further attack was made at 24,000 feet in company with another Meteor. Both aircraft then pulled away in a controlled climb, and WH298 was then lost from the view of the other Meteor. Calls on the R/T failed to make contact.
From witnesses on the ground it would appear that the aircraft dived out of control at high speed into a ploughed field. Upon impact it completely disintegrated, killing the 19 year old pilot at the controls. Examination of the wreckage established that, at the time of the impact, the cockpit hood had been closed, undercarriage retracted and dive brakes and flaps closed. There was no evidence to suggest structural failure of the airframe in the air or engine failure, or fire. It was noted, however, that on two recent occasions the pilot had failed to turn the oxygen on before taking off and on another his mask tube had come adrift from the seat tube. On another occasion he had scrambled with the oxygen system only half full, although it was considered that the amount there was adequate for the flight time. After the crash, the Board of Inquiry considered that anoxia could have caused the pilot to lose consciousness, or that he may have been incapacitated by inhaling Avtag fumes or carbon monoxide introduced into the cockpit via the cabin heating / pressurisation system. Unfortunately fragmentation of the body was so severe that in spite of all efforts it wasn't possible to obtain enough blood to make a satisfactory analysis.
The witness statement from Police Constable Wells, who witnessed it;
"At 1.40 pm on Sunday, 24th January, 1954, I was cycling along St. Barts Road, Sandwich, towards Dover Road, when I heard the sound of a 'plane apparently flying at great speed over the direction of Woodnesborough. I turned round and saw a twin engined jet plane diving out of the sky and then crash in a field opposite Poulders Green. I immediately went to the scene of the crash which was approximately 600 yards distant and found fragments of the plane strewn over a large area of the field, and a crater where the plane had crashed. When I first saw the plane it was approximately 300 feet up and diving vertically at great speed. There was no smoke or flames coming from it."
Apparently the report from this Constable didn't over-impress the RAF - they noted that.. "This P.C. is extremely stupid and unreliable, two days after the crash he was not able to remember if the sun had been shining. His evidence is largely valueless."
Five images from the scene of the crash - although some are marked as WH292, this was an error on the part of the person who processed the negatives (and also didn't get the hang of spelling 'Meteor'). These photographs are definitely confirmed as being of the crash of WH298.