I readily admit that few if any of my readers will know of the name of Brian Shersby who for one blinding moment once involuntarily entered the environs of HMS Mercury, and rather sadly left it at a slower more dignified pace in a body bag or of Ordinary Telegraphist John Allen, the reported hero of the piece!


Daily Mirror - Saturday 26 July 1958


crashed through the roof of a WRNS living block yesterday—seconds after the Wrens had left to go to the canteen.

The pilot, who was injured, scrambled free just before the wreckage burst into flames. His passenger, Brian Shersby, of Court-road, Ickenham, Middlesex, was killed. He was thought to be approximately 23 years of age [born 1935].

It happened at H.M.S. Mercury, the Royal Navy Signals School at East Meon, Petersfield. Hants.

The plane a Tiger Moth, owned by the Fairey Flying Club, was being piloted by David Wilson, also of Ickenham, from Sandown. I.O.W., to White Waltham, Berks.

Wilson works for Fairey Aviation, the aircraft builders, who run the flying club. This story was used to coin the title of the page and its associated URL. Below you can see that it could, and perhaps should have been different in the light of the broadsheet report.


BUT the  Daily Mirror  was a typical tabloid reporting style


Then I found a respectable broadsheet to see what they said about the incident


What happened here was that a report was typed into a DOCX file format, then for some inexplicable reasons converted into a png picture file and the whole then into a pdf format.  The resultant file cannot be altered and in part is difficult to read so I have retyped it for your decent coherent read for I consider it important so read this here Hampshire Telegraph 1st July 1958.docx

What makes me wonder is that nothing whatsoever was mentioned in the Communicator Magazine or in the Portsmouth News, the Navy News, the Petersfield Post  or common Mercury East Meon/Clanfield folk law, and yet it was a major incident.

Written after the crash in 1958.

G-AFGZ [the plane's registration/callsign] had no civilian existence before being impressed as a military machine as No BB759. It's war record is not known but that it survived is enough for us to know in these circumstances.

 After the war, it was sold as a going concern into civvy street, but the fact that it had been G-AFGZ seems to have been overlooked, when the Midland Aero Club came to register it, and thus it became G-AMHI.

Pictures of the same aircraft are shown below, the first G-AMHI.  It was in that guise, whilst being operated by the Fairey Flying Club on a flight from Denham Aerodrome to the Isle of Wight on 25 July 1958, that it struck a signal mast at HMS Mercury, the Royal Navy Signals School at Leydene House, East Meon near Petersfield, and crashed into the WRNS living quarters there. The Tiger Moth caught fire and whilst the pilot managed to escape the aeroplane, his passenger, Brian Shersby, was killed.

Written some many years later.

The aeroplane is recorded as having been destroyed by fire but - and I doubt that you will be surprised - some thirty plus years later it flew again, re-assuming the war-registration G-AFGZ [now long ago abandoned by them the RAF], and is, I believe, extant today although now sporting a civilian attire instead of its drab wartime colours. See below to the second picture, a tad more gaudy that the first picture also sporting a non-warlike appearance.


Ownership of the crashed aircraft


The picture below is of the lovely Hampshire countryside

Same map as above but close up of virtually all you see of the HMS Mercury footprint with the odd exception of not showing the captains house lower right for example, but showing the ghostly and abandoned outline of Crescent Road and its many building's plus the SCU at the end on the right.  Note its new name "Leydene Park" shown in green.

  So where was the wireless pylon the airplane collided with?  Well, pardon my crude analogy but one knows when one has arrived in the centre of Blackpool because of the large tower overwhelming everything, or if you want something a little more sophisticated the Eiffel Tower in the Centre of Paris. On arrival in the centre of H.M.S. Mercury one saw a beautiful clock tower [with working clock] and just beyond that across the garage courtyard, was an enormous 120 foot tall wireless pylon sitting in North Camp East,  its feet vying for space with the ancient Dykes [no relation] earth mounds.     On this picture below  you will see two large wireless masts. This is the static wardroom tank used at one time  as the camp's swimming pool for leisure [both genders] and backward swimmers. Any view from it looking north was automatically up hill climbing all the time up to Droxford Road.  The mast on the right was nearby the ships company Wren quarters built alongside Droxford Road [see https://www.commsmuseum.co.uk/dykes/knicker/knicker.htm]. Onto this building which stretched along the public highway  in an east/west direction and south into the courtyard complex, and accommodated all wrens  not accommodated in the main house, the bungalow or in Soberton Towers five miles distant - Soberton Block was not built at this time. Some of these blocks were demolished to make way to build Dreadnought Block, known as the Sparkers Block. Cast your eye on the right of two wireless masts which brought down the aircraft, and subsequently, with the mast over to the left [some further way down Droxford Road at the very end of the New Entry male division accommodations blocks [also built quite literally on the side of this [could be] busy road, was dismantled after the tragedy.  The left hand mast was replaced with a much shorter mast serving the ICS Wing live transmitters, an integral build,  part of Dreadnought Block. It marked the spot of the steps leading down to the entrance to Mountbatten Block from Droxford Road/North Camp areas.

However, just to cross and dot you know what,  here is a little map focusing only the area involved.

this side of the plan divided
by the road splitting top from bottom which is Droxford Road is NW note Kempenfelt Block in which our hero Telegraphist Allen heard the plane and rushed  out to help where he could [blue] The entrance to North Camp was over to the right as you view the plan. NC[W] is Orange NC[E] is Green and the pylon is Red.
Everything on this side relates to South of the main road. Over on the left in heavy rectangle shapes are the ends of Dreadnought block and beneath it Eagle block. Once inside the very busily appointed for use old courtyard too much to explain, are 3 areas of note all to do with Wrens accommodation. On top  on the road side the Wrens hut onto which the plane crashed and nearly killed 3 Wrens. Continued on the bottom.
Next drop below to alongside the eastern end of Dreadnought Block to see another Wrens mess and further  south still the third Wrens mess this time for Chiefs and PO's. Much else in this busy corner were classrooms 44, 45. 46. and 47 used by sparkers for original ICS training shifted to Dreadnought Block, the clock itself shown in the entrance into the courtyard at the bottom. Back up top are areas used by the Wrens as baggage and layapart stores with not a square inch wasted. Mention was made that the 3 Wrens who had left their quarters just in time walked down stairs to the road below. That was an uncovered walkway between the ends of the middle two of 3 Wrens accommodation areas and those of the Dreadnought and Eagle Blocks . All other ships company Wrens lived in Soberton Towers, with all communication trainee Wrens travelling Monday to Friday between the village of Soberton and Mercury. Note the civilian canteen outside classroom 44. We sparkers were honourable members and their toasted teacakes were much better than the NAAFI burnt offerings!


None of the Mercury personnel naval or civil was injured in the falling disabled aircraft or in the subsequent fire it caused, except for the bravery of young Ordinary Telegraphist  John Allen who was left nursing a wound requiring nine stitches. In isolation and in the absence of any corroborating evidence it is clear that young John Allen is the star and anchor man of the story.

The fire was immediately attended to by the camp's fire fighting and recue crew which were a mixture of ships company and on course male ratings. Restrictions owing to the sensitivity of Mercury's raison d'être were imposed, but as a precaution the civil fire service were called to the scene, as were a mixture of civil police and the Admiralty Constabulary who dealt with the sad death and the injured pilot.  Later the camp's emergency call out was highly commended by the CO Captain Brooke and F.O. Portsmouth our OPCON.

P.S. I don't ever recall Mercury having its own ambulance [Allen and the pilot were taken from the scene of the crash to the sick-bay in one] so it had to be either an NHS appliance or a St John's Ambulance or even a near by pusser establishment fortunate to be so well equipped suggesting  Mercury did have some civilian support other than police who have to attend every unnatural cause of death although our PMO, an ex surgeon commander could have signed a death certificate.

I am still delving so if I find any other info I will add it here.