Portsmouth plane crash just missed gasworks | Nostalgia

Believe it or not there were no fatalities when this Miles M65 Gemini Mk 1A four-seater aircraft crashed alongside Hilsea gasworks on July 22, 1953.

Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 9:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 11:26 am
This plane crashed at Hilsea gasworks on July 22, 1953, after taking off from Portsmouth City Airport. Picture: Colin Hull collection.
This plane crashed at Hilsea gasworks on July 22, 1953, after taking off from Portsmouth City Airport. Picture: Colin Hull collection.

It crashed short of the railway line just south of Hilsea Halt station.

The aircraft was five years old and belonged to the pilot, Leonard Snook, 50, of Havelock Road, Southsea.

The passengers were P Vine, 32, a Havant butcher of Havant Road, Farlington; Stanley Fairbanks, 31, of London and Donald Hunter, 17, of Feltham, Middlesex.

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The former train shed of Portsmouth Town station when there was a waiting room. Picture: Mick Cooper collection.

All four were taken to the Royal Portsmouth Hospital where they were treated for their injuries.

A Mr Reynolds, also of Feltham, said the group were on holiday at Hayling Island

J Reynolds, 19, of Cranleigh Road, Feltham, another member of the party, told the Evening News: ‘We are on holiday at Hayling Island and were asked if we would like to go up in a plane for a pleasure trip.

‘Nine of us came to Portsmouth but only seven of us went up. We heard that the two who went up first had had a bit of a shake-up, but we did not realise how serious it was at first, and went up ourselves in another plane.’

Part of the herd belonging to what was then called Milton Asylum. Picture: Barry Cox postcard collection.

Among the first on the scene of the accident were engine driver L Drew-Reading, 42, of Alcot Road, Copnor, and his fireman R Johnston, of Felix Road, Gosport. They were waiting in Hilsea siding to take a goods train to Fratton and saw the crash. Mr Drew-Reading told the Evening News: ‘Everything happened so quickly. We saw a large plane take off first, and then a smaller one take off after it.

‘When the smaller one was about 60 or 70 feet off the ground it made a left-hand turn and the wind caught it. It slipped to the ground, and crashed. The plane turned over a couple of times, but it did not catch fire.

‘My fireman and I hurried across and undid the safety belts of the four passengers.

‘We helped one young fellow who was a bit dazed to get out of the plane. He was able to walk.

‘The others we left in the plane because we did not know how serious their injuries were, but if it had caught fire we should have been able to get them out.’

Mr Drew-Reading asked a man with a cycle to go to the nearby signal-box and call the fire brigade and the ambulance service. A police guard was kept on the wrecked aircraft all night.

Imagine if the plane had hit the gas holder…

Colin Hull of Purbrook has loaned me a collection of car and plane crashes that occurred in and around Portsmouth in the early 1950s.