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HISTORY TALE: A family member’s tale of the Ruislip Express Dairies plane crash

 Published on: 5th July 2022   |   By: Bryn Holmes   |   Category: Uncategorized

In the February edition of Northwood&RuislipNews, we wrote about a historical photo of an RAF plane crashing into the roof of the Express Dairies factory in Ruislip, on June 1, 1960.

Linsey Johnstone, from the village of Taynuilt in Scotland, recently discovered our article and wrote a comment to us, explaining her father was the pilot of the plane. We responded, asking if she wishes to relate her family’s experiences of the incident, which can be found below.

“My dad was the pilot, Flight Lieutenant William Albert Gray, and this took place about eight weeks before I born on the 27th of July. He joined the RAF in 1943, at the age of 17 and began his service as an apprentice engine fitter.

“He was of the rank of Flying Officer at the time of the incident, retiring from the service in 1969 having reached the rank of flight lieutenant.

“From what my mum has told me, my dad was flying Mr William Baglin, a BBC cameraman and Mr James Taylor, BBC sound recordist to RAF Mareham, Norfolk to record the arrival of the first non-stop flight of an AV Bomber (Vulcan Victor) from Singapore, carrying orchids picked that morning on the “island city”. The plane was refuelled twice in mid-air.

“After leaving RAF Northolt, engine failure caused my dad to attempt a landing which he did – on the egg factory roof! Fortunately, no-one was seriously injured, few bumps and bruises. The first my mum knew about it was watching the 6pm news, because of the passengers it got full coverage. 

“My dad phoned and assured mum he was OK and would be home shortly. He was driven home by one of his squadron mates. He had cuts on his forehead and face but alright apart from that.

“I have a memory of a brown cardboard box full of letters in our house in the late 70’s written by children at a local primary school all about the crash. Sadly, with no appreciation of the significance of the contents, I binned it. My dad was no longer living with us by that time or may we would still have them. Maybe by publishing the story, some of the children in the school at that time may come forward.”

Picture credit Warhurst, ANL, Shutterstock

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