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Oxford War Memorials: Crew of the Whitley V aircraft (Wolfson College)

Wolfson plaque

This brushed metal plaque outside the Leonard Wolfson Auditorium of Wolfson College (the site of the crash) reads:

of the crew of the Whitley V aircraft which crashed here
on a training flight from RAF Abingdon, on 4 May 1941

Pilot Officer Charles Nairn Small, pilot, aged 23
Pilot Officer William Alexander Munro Halley, observer, aged 19
Sergeant John Alfred Mochan, wireless operator, aged 20

and of
Frances Emma Hitchcox, local resident

The above names are linked to their brief entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

After flying over New Marston on its training flight from RAF Abingdon on 4 May 1941, the Whitley two-engined bomber plane got into difficulties and first hit the western bank of the River Cherwell, and then slid up Linton Road.

At that time a house called “Cherwell” occupied by Mrs Haldane (widow of J. B. S. Haldane) was on the site of Wolfson College, and there was an adjoining farm cottage just north of the house where Joseph Hitchcox, the farmer and bailiff of Cherwell Farm, lived with his wife Frances. The plane hit that cottage, and finally came to rest after hitting the present 31 Linton Road. Frances Hitchcox (62) was injured in the crash and died at the Radcliffe Infirmary the next day. Her son Kenneth (19) was pulled from the wreckage by two policemen and a sergeant in the Home Guard: he survived, but was badly injured.

The likely cause of the crash was engine failure, and reports say that the pilots took off from Abingdon not realizing that the aircraft had not been refuelled after its previous flight.

This plaque was unveiled by Hermione Lee, President of Wolfson College, on 4 May 2014, and the audience included the nephew and niece of Sergeant John Mochan and three surviving eyewitnesses.

The Haldane family

“Cherwell” at the end of Linton Road was built for the physiologist John Scott Haldane in 1907 and he moved here from 4 St Margaret's Road. At the time of the 1911 census he was aged 50 and living at “Cherwell” with his widowed mother-in-law and seven servants.

John Scott Haldane (who has a blue plaque on his former home at 11 Crick Road) died in 1936.

His wife Louisa Kathleen Haldane (also known by her maiden name of Trotter) continued to live here until her death at the age of 91 on 10 December 1961.

“Cherwell” was then occupied by J. Godfrey until 1967, when Wolfson College took over the site.



© Stephanie Jenkins

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