Hazel Jane Raines Spitfire Story

In March 1943 a Spitfire that was being delivered to a squadron had a total loss of power and crashed into Number 57 High Street in the centre of the Village. It was being flown by by the ATA pilot Hazel Jane Raines, who remarkably survived. Little did the Village realize just how remarkable this young lady who had just ‘dropped in’ was.

This page is dedicated to her memory.

Many thanks to Derek Palmer who actually witnessed the crash and whose tenacious research unearthed the pilot’s identity. His letter follows below.

Referring to that day of the spitfire crash in the village of Collingbourne Kingston on 2nd March 1943, I would like to offer all the correct details of that incident so that it can be logged into the Village History of Events for future generations to read.

I have delved into the depths of beyond to get this information in its TRUE form, which is as follows:

On the day in question, the Spitfire was a Mk 1X with a serial number of EN 205 and was on its way from Hamble (near Southampton) to an unknown destination and was being flown by an American ATA pilot. Her name was Hazel Jane Raines, 27 years old and she was from Machon, Georgia, USA. She had been a pilot for about five years and was the first lady pilot to obtain her commercial licence in her state of Georgia. She was also a stunt pilot with quite a brilliant record and a very well-liked person in her State.

Whilst on that journey from Hamble, her Spitfire engine cut out. She made attempts to get it restarted but to no avail and now she realised that she could see this large thatch roof looming up and then BANG!!! She says she didn’t remember much after that but her head was bleeding and the joystick, which was between her knees had dug itself into her. She eventually came round after just a few moments and started to scream for help.

As I have mentioned in the Courier a few weeks ago, my pal Gordon Lee and myself were sitting on the steps of the house next door (Mrs Merrifields) about fifteen feet away from the airplane as it crashed. We both remember it all so clearly.

The pilot remembers two burly men trying to get her out but that was after my mum had tried but didn’t have the strength to lift her so we ran to the farm for help, but they were already on their way to the scene. Just for the record, she had thirteen stitches in her head, just above the eye, but her legs were just really badly blue with bruises. She was taken to Tidworth Military Hospital and was out in ten days. Quite remarkably really, she flew again for a few times but found that the flying helmets that they had to wear rubbed against the scars on her forehead, so instead she flew twin engine aircraft instead as they could be flown without using a helmet. She returned to her home shortly afterwards and went on to much bigger things with the very large American Eastern Air Lines.

She was born with asthma AND a heart condition. She returned to London in 1956, but sadly died of a heart attack, whilst she was here. She could fly over 140 different types of aircraft. She flew more wartime aircraft than any other female ATA pilots and ALL with NO radio contact and NO maps as to where she was going, AND NO guns on board to protect her from enemy aircraft, which were flying in our skies too.

So, People of Collingbourne Kingston, if you feel that you need to know more, then her niece has written Jane’s biography called “Pioneer Lady of Flight” and the Village is mentioned in the book.

I hope this has been of interest to you. Many thanks, Derek Palmer, Warminster, Wiltshire

Other Local Memories of the Spitfire Crash

Tony Bushell:

I found your site on the web and was intrigued by the mention of an American military plane crashing, which I had always thought was a Spitfire (but I was only five at the time!).

As my father was a regular soldier, my mother decided to bring the family back to Wiltshire from Kent at the outbreak of war. My mother, Hephzibah Bushell (nee Bailey), was born at Burbage in 1907 and both her parents and brother were living in Collingbourne Ducis, so we had family close by. We lived at No 53 Collingbourne Kingston, one of the semi detached cottages in the triangle, which I understand have since been converted into a single property called Church Cottage.

I was five years old in 1943 and I was inside our cottage at No 53 Collingbourne Kingston when the plane crashed. We opened the front door and I remember seeing the air full of dust. As far as I recall the plane ended up in the grounds of the big house opposite our cottages on the other side of the triangle after crashing. My mother worked for the lady who owned the house.

I remember my mother telling us that the pilot was a lady and that she was taken to hospital, but that is all I know.

Olive Bishop (nee Broadway):

I remember it [the crash] well, also I didn’t know what type of plane it was but it was generally kicked around that it had an American female pilot ( with a mouthful of chewing gum).

Laurence McGowan:

[Tony Bushell’s] letter led me to being put in touch with Mr Fred Palmer who had not only been an eyewitness to the crash, but it was also his home that the aircraft struck. On the day Fred was working in a field on Inham Down when the aircraft, and yes it was a Spitfire, came over the down from the east and suddenly turned and headed for the village, and obviously in trouble, crashed into the thatched roof of no. 57 in the High Street.It seems that the impact pushed the entire roof off of the walls and this dissipated much of the force of the impact and no doubt saved the pilot’s life.

After scattering the roof remains and the upstairs furniture into the road the aircraft came to rest in the garden of the house opposite. Fred recalls that it was almost intact. The pilot was thought to be American, and was rushed to the Military Hospital in Tidworth and was found to have suffered no serious injury. No 57 was one of a pair of cottages which stood immediately to the north of the Barleycorn Inn . Fred said that cottages’ walls always leaned alarmingly and they were demolished soon afterwards.

Subsequent to the bombing of the Supermarine factory near Southampton Spitfire components were made in various scattered locations in the area (my aunt built their wings in the Wilts and Dorset bus garage in Endless St Salisbury. Fuselages were made in the Castle Road Garage .Editor) and then assembled at Highpost near Boscombe Down.

Other Air Crashes and Memories of Life during the Second World War

Olive Bishop (nee Broadway):

There was also another plane that went down over the hills above the school. It may have been a crash. Anyway, a bunch of us from school dragged up there to see the wreck but were shooed away by the police.

Mr Perry wrote:

I was born and lived at Spicey (N043) until I left home to do an engineering apprenticeship. I was at the school 1939-45.

Starting with the crashed aircraft at the back of the Fairmile/ Tinkerbourne. I think it was a Fairey Battle trainer that got into a flat spin. It certainly had yellow livery when Terance Hedges (No41) and others went in search of ‘aeroplane glass’ (Perspex, which could be used for all manner of things). We had been watching it from the school playground when it went down rather rapidly. I thought there was a column of smoke but there was no sign of fire when we got near. It seemed to be completely intact until we noticed that all the rivets seemed to be loose. We beat a discreet retreat. I think it was this one where my father George and Frank Perry had to play undertakers and take the bodies sheeted down on a flat bed lorry to RAF Upavon. They were offered a meal which would normally have been gladly received during rationing, but somehow Dad could not face it. It was not a problem for Frank who was a First World War veteran.

Regarding the Wards and Gibbons, I remember Walt Ward as big man with the tiniest of dogs that accompanied him to the Cleaver (Kingston Hotel if you don’t mind)! (It’s now The Barleycorn! Ed.)Dick was in the navy and I was at school with Margaret, Olwen and David Gibbons.

Does anyone remember Home guard commander and cycle/radio shop owner catching boys playing football with an unexploded bomb on the football field outside the school after they had dragged it over rough tracks from the training ground on the downs?

How about the glider that came down in the field at the back of our house? I expected them to land a Halifax to tow it away! Mum was duty tea maker to the RAF for weeks while they stripped it down. The photo brings back memories and I remember Kathleen Kent dying and Miss Lewis (from Swansea) explaining to the class that “an angel had come down saying ‘Come along Kathleen, you are very tired’ before taking her in his arms and carrying her off to Heaven”.