World War II plane flown in Oxford’s wreckage off to museum

The 83-year-old segment of the plane’s parachute exit door, which the aviator would have used to leap from, was purchased by the Kent Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge for £3,673.60 at an auction held by Hansons Auctioneers.

Dave Brocklehurst, chairman, curator and volunteer at the museum, said: “We’re delighted to secure this item.

“It will join the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) display at the museum.

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“Amy was one of the original ATA girls. It’s important to commemorate someone who lost her life in Herne Bay, preserve a piece of history and keep it in Kent.”

Ms Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia, lost her life in a plane crash on January 5, 1941.

It happened as Ms Johnson, who was 37 at the time, was piloting an Airspeed Oxford for the ATA from Prestwick to RAF Kidlington, near Oxford.

The aircraft reportedly ran out of fuel, forcing Ms Johnson to bail out before it crashed into the Thames Estuary near Herne Bay.

Ms Johnson’s body was never found.

The incident was initially blamed on poor weather conditions but it was later claimed that the plane was downed by friendly fire.

Mr Crowson said: “I was amazed to receive an email asking, ‘Would I be interested in a piece of Amy Johnson’s aircraft wreckage’.

“The discovery of the plane fragment is significant. No other pieces of the aircraft are thought to exist.

“Some sources say the plane may have been recovered and quickly burnt, perhaps suggesting a cover-up of a friendly-fire incident.

“Amy broke the mould for women and raised expectations about what they could achieve in life.

“In the pre-war years, she worked as a commercial pilot, a journalist, and even a fashion model, creating her own travelling bag. Early in WW2 she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, which transported RAF aircraft round the country.

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“We can never be absolutely certain what happened to her that fateful day in 1941, other than it was a terrible accident.

“In 1999, it was reported her death may have been caused by friendly fire.

“Sussex man Tom Mitchell claimed to have shot her aircraft down when she twice failed to give the correct identification code during the flight.

“He said ‘16 rounds of shells were fired and the plane dived into the Thames Estuary. We all thought it was an enemy plane until the next day when we read the papers and discovered it was Amy.’”

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