Wirestrike Accident de Havilland DH.80 Puss Moth G-ADLP,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 153493
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Date:Saturday 5 September 1936
Type:Silhouette image of generic DH80 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
de Havilland DH.80 Puss Moth
Owner/operator:Air Taxis Ltd
Registration: G-ADLP
MSN: 2111
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Sliders Farm, Ashdown Forest, near Dane Hill, East Grinstead, Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Kenley, Whyteleafe, Surrey
Destination airport:Brighton, East Sussex
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
To DH India with C of A 2825 issued 25.11.30. Active at Karachi as VT-ACI 3.31. Formally registered as VT-ACI [C of R 120] on 24.8.31 to De Havilland Aircraft Co Ltd, Karachi. Registered [C of R 166] 7.2.33 to Pandit Mulchand Sharma, New Delhi. Registration cancelled 8.7.36 following sale to UK.

Registered G-ADLP [C of R 6059] 10.7.36 to Airwork Ltd, Heston. Stored until UK C of A renewed 13.7.36. Sold (but not registered) 8.36 to Air Taxis Ltd.

Destroyed when crashed at Sliders Farm, Ashdown Forest, near Dane Hill, East Grinstead, East Sussex 5.9.36. Per the following extract from official Air Ministry Accident Investigation report:

"A fatal accident occurred at Danehill, Ashdown Forest on Saturday 5th September 1936, when a DH80A Puss Moth G-ADLP (owned by Air Taxis Ltd) nose dived into the ground from 1000 feet. The pilot, Mr. Bartholomew Furze Tonge, aged 28, died instantly and his passenger, Mr. Douglas Arnold Scrase, aged 26, died from his injuries a few hours later.

Mr. Tonge was a member of the Herts and Essex Aero Club Ltd and had qualified for his Private Licence in July 1934. In early 1935 he had applied three times for a 'B' Licence but had failed on each occasion to reach the standard required for cross country flying. After further training he was granted his 'B' on 31st July 1935, and took up a job with Air Taxis Ltd in January 1936. On 13th June 1936, Mr. Tonge was injured whilst flying in bad weather, an injury that required hospitalisation, but he was pronounced fit to fly by a Medical Board exactly a month after the accident.

On the day of the fatal crash, Air Taxis Ltd had not authorised the flight, although in the past they had allowed Mr. Tonge to use the Puss Moth for his own pleasure at weekends if it wasn't required for business. The passenger, Mr. Scrase, was apparently only slightly acquainted with the pilot - which didn't stop them drinking in a pub together through the afternoon.

At 16.30 the pair arrived at the hangar and Scrase was installed in the plane - Tonge then asked the mechanic if he could tell him the compass course to Brighton. They took off, but G-ADLP landed a few minutes later at Kenley where the pilot sought out a friend and, together with his passenger, they retired to a pub for over an hour. It was reported that Mr. Tonge sank two pints in that time, and Mr. Scrase three.

At 17.55 hours the pilot and passenger returned to the machine and took off to continue their journey to Brighton, but before leaving the vicinity of Kenley, the pilot made several steep dives at the aerodrome buildings. The Puss Moth then departed at a height of 1,500 feet. About ten minutes later the aeroplane was seen flying over Ashdown Forest at around 600 feet - it descended and circled around an open space at Wych Cross, then headed south. After two miles G-ADLP was then seen to circle a football field twice, and head south again at 500 feet. A minute later the aircraft descended towards a field which, however, was obstructed by power cables - at a height of 30 feet, the engine was 'opened up' and the Puss Moth climbed away steeply to 1000 feet. It then appeared to commence a turn whilst still climbing, and it immediately fell into a spin which continued until the aircraft plunged into some trees.

The first person to reach the scene found the pilot dead with extensive head injuries. The passenger was laid over the pilot's shoulder and, in a semi conscious condition, he uttered; "1,500 feet. 1,000 feet, we're falling: Can't you do something man! 500 feet Oh God!". There was a very pronounced smell of alcohol in the cabin, and particularly from the passenger's breath.

The Inquiry by the Air Ministry came to three opinions in the case.

a) That the pilot committed an error of judgement in allowing his aircraft to stall and spin - it was also possible that the passenger (whose safety belt wasn't fastened) had interfered with the pilot in such a manner as to prevent Mr. Tonge having full use of the controls.

b) That the pilot, for some reason, had tried to find a place to land but none of the grounds he approached were suitable.

c) That both Mr. Tonge and Mr. Scrace were to a certain extent under the influence of alcohol."

Registration cancelled 2.10.36 as "withdrawn from use".

(Note: This may be the Puss flown to Heston from Delhi by R.N.Chawla 11.7.34-5.8.34. It was intended to be a Round the World trip but nothing else is known).


1. Inquest into deaths of the two persons on board: Sussex Express - Friday 25 September 1936
2. http://afleetingpeace.org/index.php/15-aeroplanes/78-register-gb-g-ad
3. http://www.airhistory.org.uk/gy/reg_G-A7.html
4. https://cwsprduksumbraco.blob.core.windows.net/g-info/HistoricalLedger/G-ADLP.pdf
5. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AVIA 5/18/C354: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C6576822
6. https://www.baaa-acro.com/crash/crash-de-havilland-dh80-puss-moth-sliders-farm-2-killed
7. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1937.htm
8. http://www.ab-ix.co.uk/vt-aaa.pdf
9. http://www.ab-ix.co.uk/dh80.pdf
10. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=892.0

Revision history:

24-Feb-2013 20:32 Dr. John Smith Added
24-Feb-2013 20:35 Dr. John Smith Updated [Departure airport]
11-Jan-2018 12:08 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
28-Mar-2020 23:17 Dr. John Smith Updated [Departure airport, Source]
28-Mar-2020 23:23 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Narrative]

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