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According to the files, Reynolds had a sudden ‘memory recall’ right at the end of being cross examined in the Court.

His words:  “I just remembered that just prior to turning P/O Barstow transmitted that his windscreen was covered with oil and he could not see out of it ahead. This message was also heard by the other aircraft in the formation. The fact that he did not answer me after he broke away from the form formation makes it seem possible that he could transmit but not receive.”

You’ll note the differing accounts of the turn to the left in the cloud given by Reynolds and Reeves on page 12 in this article: Reynolds claimed Barstow skidded out halfway around the turn, whereas according to Reeves they came out of the cloud halfway around the the turn! It needs to be kept in mind that Reynolds was facing a Court Martial for his actions whereas Reeves was not. I believe Reynolds was ‘stretching’ the truth here to absolve himself of any perceived blame... and who could blame him for doing this? I think the majority of people if in the same circumstance would do the same. I think Reynolds carried a huge burden of guilt to his grave over this, and this would explain the couple of comments I’ve heard from people who spoke to him in his latter years saying that they felt he was holding something back. It’s strange that he should have a “memory lapse” on something that could have been so important, and even stranger that the other two pilots never mentioned it also... even though (according to Reynolds) they all heard it?

Scenario No.1

What I think at this stage happened, was Barstow was somehow distracted momentarily by something such as the claimed “oil on the windscreen” transmission just before they turned, and he was simply left behind in the turn!

An aeroplane on the outside of the turn needs to accelerate to stay in position as it has a longer ‘arc’ to travel. When Reynolds claimed it was Barstow that skidded away from them, it probably was actually them skidding away from Barstow! I think Barstow having never flown a Corsair alone in cloud on instruments, simply lost control. Whether he had an AH, or not, from there he would have had his hands full trying to recover... too full to even think of using the radio. This is the only possible scenario I can think of that would explain him not calling in this instance, if his radio was working. To make a radio call in those days was not just a simple case of pushing a button on the joystick to transmit. There was a microphone on a cord down on the right hand side of the cabin that had to be picked up and held in front of your mouth with a button on the side of it to transmit with. If you were in a spin or the like, it would be near on impossible to do this. The other possibility was that maybe Barstow did give a call but it conflicted with one of the other pilots transmitting at the same time?... We will never know! As per the account on page 12 of this article: “This has since been confirmed by S/Leader Webster who advised C.F.C.C. that the radio on the missing aircraft failed on the way down from Ardmore, round about Wellington”,... How could Squadron Leader Webster possibly confirm that? If Barstow’s radio really wasn’t working, then he may well have had an illusion of his instruments going ‘hay-wire’ when faced with an unexpected turn in the cloud and may then have lost confidence in them thinking that they had toppled, and to have all of them topple at the same time would have been real confusing.

 

On the basis of a climb rate of 2000’/min, Reynolds claimed they were “about 9000’ when they turned, which would make the time that they turned somewhere about two mins after Sheppard’s motor started to run rough = 10.56. Reynolds said they turned at “about 10.55”, so his estimation was pretty much right... according to my calculation that is!

Two mins @ 2000’/min of course brings us to the 9000’estimated by Reynolds and that is a further 4.8 miles. In the calculated track shown below, I have not taken into account wind drift as there is no mention in the report of wind speed and direction, apart from the observation of cloud building up from the SW. If there was a 20 mph SW wind, they would only have been 0.7 of a mile off track for the distance that they had flown, which is not enough to justify recalibration.

Green Line : 2 x Minutes @ 2000’/min = 9000 ft, 4.8 miles

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