Last changed 26 June 2016



Got el Afraq
Armstrong Whitworth Argosy C-1 (XR133)
Crashed 7th May 1968

Do you know anybody mentioned on this page or of the events depicted?

Dear Don,

You can use my submission by all means, reading your web-page brought those memoried flooding back.

My memories of the crash are still vivid; I was a Senior Aircraftsman with 50 Tactical Signals Unit based at RAF Tangmere and we were on exercise having spent a few days in Malta before flying in at night on an Argosy, (I don't know which one) and setting up a communications centre.

I was stood outside the telephone exchange tent, (on duty!) watching as it did a low pass down the line of the sand runway. I saw the starboard wingtip clip the tower with the 45 gallon drum on top, it couldn't have been more than 12 to 15 foot high altogether, (it was part of the airfield fire section).

The aircraft pitched nose down and then cartwheeled, exploded and disintegrated... I can still see the remains of the nosewheel section bouncing along the sand for about 400 yards. There was very little or no post crash fire but the fireball as it cartwheel was considerable. I was operating the exchange at the time, I remember my boss in the Comcen telling me to put him through to the air movements section and saying to them "have you got a list of those on board".

The exercise had finished and we were using a small field telephone expecting to wrap everything up in the next day or two, our communications aerials had also been taken down and we had to quickly erect a temporary mast in order to contact El Adem for medical assistance. A Wessex helicopter arrived some time later.

A day or two later we packed our comms equipment and were transported back to El Adem by a 10 tonner, the journey was long and very uncomfortable but in the circumstances we didn't complain.

One other point, I remember we had stopped the 10 tonner for a break by the side of the road some distance from El Adem when three or four large, black mercs came speeding by, someone said they thought it may have been King Idris but I can't confirm that. A very sad end to an exercise.


Barry Finch

Dear Don,
In May 1968 an Argosy crashed at a desert Air Strip called Gott el Affraq. There were 5 aircrew and 6 paras on board and all were killed instantly. It was near the end of a large exercise and the paras were returning to El Adem for onward passage back to the Uk. The wing tip of the aircraft hit a low water pipe and cartwheeled down the runway.

I can vouch for the truth of this as I was Flight Sergeant in charge of the El Adem Medical Centre at the time and my staff and I had to deal with it. The bodies were flown back to Lyneham by Hercules the next day.
Best wishes
Don Jones

I was in the 1st Bn Loyal Regt Intelligence Section at a makeshift desert camp named "Camp Barbara", alongside the airstrip where the Argosy crashed on 7th May 1968, killing all 11 on board including members of the Parachute Regt.

We flew in just after the crash; in fact our flight was delayed because of it. The devastation along the airstrip was horrific and we were told that it was the custom of the RAF pilots to fly low over the airstrip and apparently this plane's wing hit a water tower in doing so.

Our exercise was to be marred by accidents and incidents after that, and a small convoy of us drove hundreds of miles to Bomba Bay for some much needed R&R.

Chris Kelly

Hi Don.
Unfortunately the Service Police confiscated my camera immediately after the crash. I got the camera back with pictures I had taken less ones of the aircraft approaching the crash site. I do remember seeing a distraught Army SNCO who kept repeating 'I have killed them' because he talked the captain of the aircraft into giving a lift back to El Adem to some of his soldiers.

I have seen a photograph of the aircraft approaching the site and you can see me standing behind the pole with the 45 gallon drum on it. Although the ground was hard and stony an unopened undamaged bottle of whisky was found about 100 yards in front to the aircraft, I still cannot work out how it survived.
[Ian Horner]

I attended the official enquiry regarding the above crash as I was one of the nearest, if not the nearest person to the accident. I was standing about 15 feet behind a post which had a 45 gallon drum mounted on top of it (possibly a shower).
I understand the pilot had been requested to make a low pass for a Squadron records photograph. The aircraft took off and did a wide circuit, approaching the runway to my right at a very low height, contouring the terrain.
Opposite where I was standing on the other side of the runway was a Coles Crane, the aircraft appeared to attempt to lift its Port wing over the crane at the last second and in doing so the stbd wing hit the 45 gallon drum, the stbd wing hit the ground losing 10-15 feet of its outer portion, the aircraft then proceeded to roll over into the ground.
Ian (Jack) Horner

I have just read a report on the crash which said the aircraft burnt on impact, it did not burn.
Ian

Donald
I would be grateful if you would publish the information I supplied. I have looked on the internet a few times in the past and today is the first time I have found the correct keywords to type in. My several stints in Cyrenaica were an eye opening experience, and I recall the first time I flew in an Argosy and some old hand told me the aircraft wings were so flexible, they flapped like a bird in flight. Some of our guys were tasked with the job of recovering parts of the wreckage, presumably to keep the airstrip in operation.
All the best
Chris

Hi,
I was at Benson when the Argosy crashed at Got el afraq on 7/5/68. The Argosy was on detachment from Benson. I attended the funeral of the flight engineer at the church at RAF Benson. Shortly after there was a series of photos of the crash in Air Clues or the RAF News or similar. It was a long time ago but as I remember, the Argosy wing hit an oil drum mounted on two telegraph poles that was being used as a make-shift shower. The Argosy then cart-wheeled down the airstrip. I hope this is some help.

Harry Crick.

I was standing on a hill at the end of the runway when the aircraft crashed.
The wings appeared to split on impact as the Argosy cartwheeled on the runway resulting in a huge fireball.
The Parachute Brigade personnel who were killed came from 7 RHA and 216 Para Signals Squadron. I was serving with 3 PARA at the time and almost been on the flight myself as I was rushing to get back to UK in order to attend the birth of my daughter.
Luckily for me I did not manage to get a seat on the flight though I did get home in time for the arrival of my daughter.

We understood the low pass was made as the pilot was keen to get an action photograph. We were required to cordon off the crash site until such time as the RAF could conduct the necessary examination of what remained of the aircraft. A sad day for all.

Nick Galbraith

Dear Don,
I have just discovered your web page on the Libya air crash and wondered if we might link our website to your page.
You may know that we lost one of our guys there, Taff Hughes of 216 Para Signals Squadron.
We have a little on our website about the crash, including the last picture of Taff just before the end of the exercise. I also witnessed the crash as I was with a Signals unit from 216 providing comms for the Advance Base Unit (ABU).
The ABU provided logistics for all the units doing desert training that year and we spent 6 months there either at El Adem or the ABU, a very sad end to the exercise season.
It would be very interesting to know the results of the official enquiry, do you happened to know what they were.
Best Regards
Keith Weller    (webmaster 216 Para Sigs Sqn)

http://www.216parasigs.org.uk/

Good to hear from you Don and thanks very much for agreeing for us to link to your site, much appreciated.
Yes, no problem in linking to ours. Noted the comments of the enquiry, not very informative, I just hope the relatives of the guys on board got some compensation.
Yes OK to use the email.
I had an email from the son of the AQ on the flight some years ago, he was saying that it had been difficult for him and his mother to get any info from the RAF.
It was years ago now, I was a young 20 year old and by the time I had got back to Aldershot it was all done and dusted.

I do have an email from one of our officers who witness the event from take-off doing the circuit and the actual crash very graphic; I will need to get his permission to pass it on if you are interested.
Best Wishes Again
Keith

Hi Don,
I have just come across Argosy XR133 on your web site, I was present at the time of the crash.
I have attached some info, a couple of pages from Air Clues and 1 photo from myself. I had one shot left, this was taken on 8th May, and shows the main wreckage, as you can see there was not much left.
Best Regards
Ray (Doran)

Courtesy... Ray Doran

Courtesy... RAF Flight Safety Magazine-Air Clues

Hello
I was in Libya in 1968, not long after the argosy crash in Libya.
We were on attachment from 24 missile regt. R.A. and were doing the survey for the infantry along the 'wadis' that formed the battle runs.
The reason I took interest in this crash was because at the time I was told that one of the soldiers killed was an ex-boy RSM from JLRRA called Tunnicliffe, if this was true we had served together in boys service from 1963 to 1965.
I could never verify this fact.
Yours sincerely
Peter Titmarsh
JLRRA
24 Missile Regt.R.A.
94 Loc Rent. R.A.

Yes thanks very much for getting back to me, would appreciate you posting my email, and it would be mind settling to know of my mates fate, if any.

Good Day,
With reference to the above [Argosy crash].
I was in Lybia with 'X'Survey Troop shortly after the crash along with Peter Titmarsh and wondered if you would be interested in this pic.

Did any one confirm, if indeed, ex boy RSM Tunnicliffe was on board?
Regards
Charlie Liddle

Note: Peter and Charlie have been put in touch with each other.

Courtesy Charlie Liddle

Hi Don
I came across your web site by chance and l recall spending 9 months at the ABU base in 1968-69.
I was in the army, RAOC and was responsible for shutting down the base and returning all the stores to RAF El Adem for shipment back to the UK.
I spent 2 weeks at the RAF base before flying back to the UK via Malta, unscheduled stop due to a hydraulics leaks detected just after take off. Spent a night at St George's barracks Malta before resuming our flight back to the UK with a scheduled stop in France somewhere for refuelling.
With regards to an air crash at the ABU base, there was still debris there from the crash when l got there. I don't know any other details about it but there definitely had been a crash. I have good memories of going on the "milk" run from the ABU to the RAF base for supplies, stopping en route to do some business with the locals. That was some journey across the desert, only guided by some oil drums, to the main road at a place called Tinimi [Timimi], l believe or something like that.
Happy days
Mike Johnson

Hi Don
I don't know if you are still adding to your site but if you are I was also there on detachment from 38GP TCW RAF Tangmere. My memories are similar to others but different in that some of us heard that pilots had been specifically forbidden by the CO to buzz the airfield but it was rumoured that this particular Argosy pilot in the mess the night before had said that he was going to do so regardless. So the next day, by the Commcen a couple of us were watching out to see if he would do what the rumour suggested.
He took off and disappeared over the ridge and we thought that was that but a short while later on the radio we heard him request permission from air traffic control (a tent with a plastic window near the water tower) to make a run past the tower as he suspected he may have a problem with his undercarriage and he wanted them to do a visual.
We thought they would suspect his motives but permission was granted and we saw someone standing outside the tower tent with a pair of binoculars, which were totally unnecessary as when he came over the ridge shortly afterwards he came in quite fast and low over the tent so low that he looked like he might actually hit it but instead his wing clipped the nearby water tower and was damaged.
The plane faltered but looked like it was going to recover until a wing dropped, hitting the ground, resulting in a cartwheel followed by a somersault and finally crashing and breaking open. It did not catch fire immediately but after a short delay of deadly silence. The fire engine raced out to it and the hoses were run out but it seemed like forever before they operated and I remember the firemen looking back at the fire engine wondering why nothing was happening.

I remember paper from classified documents (mainly restricted from flight manuals) flying around in the air which we had to collect and the nose wheel narrowly missed demolishing a few tents as it rolled off into the desert. It was recovered by landrover a mile or so away from the crash site.

If my recollection is right my mate Ian Cubby also from TCW was due to fly out on that plane but was offloaded along with others for whatever reason thereby saving their lives and ultimately sealing the fate of the higher priority passengers.

In recent years I by coincidence met a retired officer who said he had been the chairman of the Board of Inquiry which took place in Cyprus and told him what I remembered of which he know nothing and he told me that the pilot was exonerated and it was put down to his lack of experience on the Argosy and the weight of cargo the plane was carrying causing it to react slowly and sluggishly or words to that effect. I haven't read the report so I don't know if that is what it says.

After the crash one remaining plane was allowed to take off but no more flying and instead of flying out we went back to El Adem with our equipment by Convoy. I had never had a problem with flying but as a result of this crash, initial clear up process and a very moving sunset open air memorial service, I realised I was suffering effects of shock. Not helped by the fact, when taking off from El Adem in a C130 days after the crash it was aborted due to a hydraulic leak, which sprayed guys on the opposite side to me with hot fluid making them shout loudly release their seat belts and jump around. After a very short time still sitting on the runway it was decided that particular hydraulic system was non-essential and would be repaired on return to the UK.
My nerves were shot by that time and I feared the worst but fortunately we then took off and landed without incident.
I soon recovered and went on to be parachute trained, jumping from Barrage Balloon, Argosy, C130, Andover and Helicopter.
I also came extremely close to another crash in 1971 missing a planned jump in Sardinia from a C130 taking off from Pisa Italy which crashed into the Sea shortly after take-off from Pisa killing all on board, English and Italian. Once again an exercise I was on was aborted due to disaster https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_RAF_Hercules_crash but that is another story.

All the accounts differ in some respects as one would expect but the basic facts are there in all and it was interesting to read others recollections.
I did know Ray Doran and Barry Finch who have contributed to your page and I am sure they will remember me.
Regards
Dave Tebay

Dear Don,
Like others, I have been searching for details of the Argosy crash mentioned. I was there on the exercise at Got el Afrag. I was Sgt in charge of a line detachment from 244 Signals Squadron (Air Formation) based at RAF Tangmere, providing line links between the RAF ComCen and the Aerial field, as well as local telephone communications.
Our senior NCO on that exercise was S/Sgt Ron Block. Taff Evans worked with us during the exercise, and we could easily have been on that flight home as we had finished wrapping up and were ready to go. I was watching the flight take off before going in for lunch and saw it going in right opposite where i was standing.
I was one of the party that went into the wreck to recover the casualties, and still have flash-backs of that awful day.
Derek Drew ( Sgt Royal Signals)

Hi,
I was at the airfield on the day this happened. I was with C Company the 1st Bn The Loyal Regiment and we had just arrived for an exercise and were queueing up for food at a makeshift cookhouse alongside the runway (as I recall?).
The Argosy did a "cartwheel" (so it seemed) from wing tip to wing tip and then broke apart. I remember it well because orders were barked by someone to "mind your own business" and "get on with what you’re doing" It was our first deployment from our base in Malta and a lot of us were only just turned 18 straight out of Junior Soldiers. Shook us all up.
Kevin Dickinson


top