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SOME were lost fighting for their country, others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But they all died in air crashes in Northumberland.

Now the untold stories of 29 crashes, the lives they claimed and the miracles of life, are recounted in a book by a team of aviation investigators.

They include the night horror fell from the skies over Ashington in 1940.

At 1.30am on June 6 a Bristol Beaufort bomber returning from a mission to Belgium, plunged into a colliery row, killing three members of a family called Cox and the aircraft's wireless operator and air gunner.

Two other members of the crew, one of them the pilot, bailed out and survived.

Other pilots were not so lucky. Some of the county's crash sites are well known and now have memorial plaques to the memory of those who died.

But other aircraft lay hidden until the Northumberland Air Crash Investigation and Archaeology Group unearthed them.

The result of years of research by Russell Gray, Jim Corbett, Jonathan Shipley and Neil Anderson is their book Air Crash Northumberland.

Each of the 29 crashes, between 1930 and 1983, is listed with details of the aircraft make and type.

The story behind the crash and the people involved is told.

The description ends with information on the crash site, its location and what was found.

Most of the crashes happened in wartime, but seven more happened in peacetime.

They include one when a De Havilland Dragon Rapide went down at Simonburn Common in 1954.

It had taken off from Newcastle Airport with seven boxing hopefuls from Durham University on their way to Dublin. The pilot and passengers survived.

By pinpointing and investigating the crashes the team has been able to give news to families about lost fathers, uncles, brothers or sons.

"Some families had no idea what happened to their loved ones," said 27-year-old Jonathan Shipley, of Newbiggin- by-the-Sea.

He digs up aircraft history as a hobby. But he also has a family interest in the subject. His grandfather was a rear gunner and, after air gunnery training in Morpeth led a unit from which a Stirling crashed in the Cheviots in 1944.

The research has also helped to bring closure to a quest for information by relatives of Aircraftman First Class Denis Sharpe killed when his Handley Page Hampden crashed near St Mary's Lighthouse in 1940.

The book published by Countryside Books at pounds 12.99.

Details on


RESEARCH: From left, Neil Anderson, Jim Corbett, Jonathan Shipley, Russell Gray; FLASHBACK: a Hawker Typhoon and inset left, Jim Corbett with part of a Wellington bomber's wing and the book, Air Crash Northumberland, above right
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 24, 2008
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