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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 210172
Last updated: 17 January 2022
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Type:Silhouette image of generic bttl model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Fairey Battle Mk I
Owner/operator:264 Squadron Royal Air Force (264 Sqn RAF)
Registration: N2159
MSN: F.3185
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Vauxhall Farm, Great Wenham, Babergh, Suffolk -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Little Rissington, Gloucestershire
Destination airport:RAF Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, Suffolk
Harold Graham Tipple was born on 5th August 1920 in St Leonards, grew up in Bishop's Stortford and attended Bishop's Stortford College in Hertfordshire from 1929-1936 where he is remembered as an excellent swimmer. Harold and his mother, who owned a cafe, later moved to Bagshot. Harold was a pupil pilot at Hamble Flying School in Hampshire and on 29th April 1939 he was commissioned as an Acting Pilot Officer. Following the outbreak of war, he gained his wings and became a Pilot Officer in September 1939. He joined Squadron 264 in Suffolk on 5 November 1939.

On the 13th December 1939, Pilot Officer Harold Graham Tipple and Flight Lieutenant Nicholas Gresham Cooke of 264 Squadron based at RAF Martlesham Heath, were instructed to collect two planes from RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire and fly them back to Suffolk. Pilot Officer Tipple was a new recruit and had no experience of flying a Fairey Battle aircraft. However, after two days of waiting in Gloucestershire due to bad weather, they eventually took off on the morning of the 16th December with Flt Lt Cook leading the way and P/O Tipple following directly behind in his Fairey Battle Mk.1 (N2159). A witness in Little Rissington noted black smoke emerging from the rear of Tipple's aircraft following take off. The weather was fine with visibility around 8 miles.

According to witnesses labouring in the Suffolk fields, the planes approached Hintlesham at around 1000 feet between 11:30 and 11:45, and P/O Tipple's plane seemed in difficulties with smoke pouring from its tail and losing height. The pilot tried to bale out, but failed to clear the aircraft before it hit a tree at Vauxhall Farm in the parish of Great Wenham which adjoins the parish of Hintlesham. A local farmer, Lionel Fenning from Vauxhall Farm, was one of the first on the scene followed by Police Constable W H Shaw. The constable inspected the wreckage and removed P/O Tipple's dog tags and later handed them to the crash investigators.

Flt Lt Cooke landed safely at Martlesham Heath at which point he realised P/O Tipple was missing.

The pilot's body was taken to a mortuary at RAF Wattisham and he was buried in the Hintlesham churchyard.

A Court of Inquiry was held on the 18th December [1939] at Martlesham at which the cause of the accident was given:
"In the opinion of the Court the cause of the accident was an attempted abandoning of the aircraft by the pilot immediately after a probable seizure of the engine, due to the pilot flying from the time of the take off to the time of the crash, in fine pitch, whilst in formation with another aircraft."

The records of the incident are held at the National Archives in Kew. Despite the files being classified "closed" until the year 2030, this website made a request under the Freedom of Information Act for them to be opened. The records were duly examined and their status changed to "open" in September 2019.

Pilot Officer H G Tipple (Service Number 42031) was just 19 years old when he was killed in the accident. He was the younger son of Mr & Mrs H A Tipple who lived at Queen Ann House, Bagshot.

Harold's mother was next of kin and declined a military gravestone and instead bought a headstone for his grave in Hintlesham. The inscription also commemorates his brother Robert. Harold's elder brother, Gunner Robert Victor Tipple (1451771), died while serving with the Army Catering Corps/Royal Army Ordnance Corps on 15 February 1943, aged 27. He is buried at La Reunion Cemetery in Algeria. Robert also attended Bishop's Stortford College and their names appear next to each other on the Roll of Honour in the College's Memorial Hall.

In 1947 the authorities made a final attempt to contact Harold's mother to give her his outstanding pay. Their letter was addressed to the family home at The Queen Anne House in Bagshot, but was returned "Unknown at this address".

The grave is below the branches of a large lime tree in the churchyard behind St Nicholas church. Sadly, some of the lettering is missing and the inscription needs repainting. Although listed as a Commonwealth War Grave, it is a private plot and headstone and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are unable to maintain it.

Harold G Tipple's name and that of his brother appear on the Memorial Hall at Bishop's Stortford College. His name was added to the Hintlesham War Memorial in July 2020 following the agreement of the Parish Council earlier in the year. The addition was meant to be part of a service to mark the centenary of the memorial in June 2020. However, the Covid 19 pandemic cancelled the event. Ray, the stonemason, quietly and without pomp or fuss, added Harold's name on 31st July 2020.


1. Royal Air Force Aircraft N1000-N9999 (James J. Halley, Air Britain, 1977 p 11)
2. The Battle File (Sidney Shail, Air Britain, 1997 p 162)
3. ITV Anglia TV - stated that he is now on the war memorial 18:25 on 26th August 2020
4. National Archives (PRO Kew) File AIR 81/1738:
11. East Anglian Daily Times 24 August 2020:



National Archives, Key, London.

Revision history:

29-Apr-2018 23:54 Dr. John Smith Added
10-Nov-2018 22:20 Nepa Updated [Operator, Departure airport, Operator]
26-Jun-2019 21:06 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
22-Oct-2019 14:36 GeraldMain Updated [Time, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Photo]
22-Oct-2019 15:17 harro Updated [Narrative]
23-Oct-2019 10:30 Gerald Main Updated [Narrative]
26-Apr-2020 15:00 Nepa Updated [Narrative, Operator]
26-Aug-2020 19:09 Anon. Updated [Source, Narrative]
24-Oct-2020 19:40 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
24-Oct-2020 19:45 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source]

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