|Typhoon ditched in River Blackwater 22 March 1944
On 22 March 1944 Hawker Typhoon R8895, flown by Flt. Sgt. R.W. Pottinger, belonging to No. 3 Squadron based at Bradwell Bay,
came down in the River Blackwater.
The Squadron record states that the engine over-revved on take-off for dark night-flying practice. The pilot could
not make height and was forced to ditch in the Blackwater. This was done successfully, but the pilot had difficulty
in working his dinghy owing to the cold. Boats from Brightlingsea located him, with the assistance of flares
dropped by an Albacore from Manston, and he was taken to the Naval Hospital at Brightlingsea where he stayed the night. He rejoined his Squadron the following day none the worse for his adventure.
Flt Sgt Pottinger was later commissioned and was released from the RAF in 1945 with the Rank of Flying Officer. His personal number was 182715.
Details from Ministry of Defence Sept 1971 - see CDC_TYP_031
Ron Pottinger and Typhoon aircraft at Manston, 1943
This night time dip in a very cold River Blackwater does not seem to have done Ron Pottinger any harm, and he wrote a detailed account of his adventure in his diary at the time. See Ron Pottinger's Diary .
The Typhoon was largely forgotten by most, except local fishermen who kept getting fast on the wreck.
In 2005 Brian Jay wrote the following article for West Mersea Town Regatta Programme.
During early summer of 1971, after losing a complete fishing trawl on an obstruction in our local river, Mike Lungley asked me if I would dive and identify the obstruction and hopefully recover his fishing trawl. The obstruction which had claimed many local fishermen's nets was believed to be a plane. I decided to enlist the help of two buddy divers, Trevor Hamblion from Colchester and the late Captain Bill King from Harwich. The position of the obstruction was on the south side of the Nass and had been marked with a buoy.
The SCEPTRE tows the barge into position
Mike had organised with the boatyard owner, Bert Carter, to use the workboat SCEPTRE and any other equipment needed for the operation. Sunday 1st August was a lovely calm and sunny day and after anchoring over the obstruction, the three of us kitted up and entered the water having no idea what we would find on the seabed thirty feet below. Visibility in the water was approximately ten feet, a high bonus in our local river, and as I descended down the marker line towards the seabed, a buckled blade of a propeller came into sight, quickly followed by the remainder of the propeller and a huge engine lying on the seabed just clear of a fighter plane. After a quick survey of the area we realised the plane had lost the cockpit cover and tailfin, but was otherwise complete. The cockpit was nearly full of mud, but we could see that most of the equipment was still intact. There were two cannons in each wing and the RAF roundel could just be made out in the fuselage - it was British!
After reporting our findings from the dive to Mike, it was decided to return two weeks later on the next spring tide and attempt to recover the plane and engine. On 15th August the barge that was to be used for lifting the wreckage was towed out and moored in position over the site.
Ready to dive
The late Captain King from Harwich, Brian Jay, Trevor Hamblion
It was decided to first lift the huge 24 cylinder engine and after this was successfully carried out, it was secured on the bow of the barge. Lifting strops were then fastened to the wings and fuselage, but owing to the suction of the mud on the wings, the winch was unable to lift the plane. It was decided to secure the strops and wait for the rising tide to lift the barge and, hopefully, the plane. At high water this was found to have been successful and the barge was towed to a position near the Tollesbury shore where the plane would be exposed at low water.
On inspection the next day we found the wings had broken away from the fuselage and the tail end was missing. Boxes of live ammunition were still in the wings and army disposal teams were called upon to remove the four 20mm cannons and four boxes of ammunition before dispersing the remainder with explosives. We later found out from the Defence Ministry that the aircraft was a Hawker Typhoon 1B stationed at Bradwell Airfield, now the site of the Power Station and had been piloted by Flight Sergeant Pottinger who had been rescued after ditching in the river shortly after take off.
A further four dives were needed to locate the tail section, the final dive being on 26th September when it was located and recovered along with the radio, bringing an end to a very interesting and successful project.
The engine is lifted, showing its enormous size
The 20 mm. cannon shells were in an extremely dangerous state and four boxes had to be blown up by bomb disposal.
The above article published in West Mersea Town Regatta Programme, 2005.
Ron Pottinger's Diary 22 March 1944
Typhoon aircraft salvaged from Blackwater Colchester Diving Club
In 2009 Brian Jay talked to Paul Jasper about the Typhoon - you can listen to this online - near the beginning of Paul Jasper Part 2
2021 - there are two heritage projects running that are dedicated to the Hawker Typhoon.
Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group www.hawker-typhoon.com/ in the UK
Typhoon Legacy Co. Ltd. www.typhoonlegacy.com in Canada.