02.08.1945 No. 309 (P) Sqdn Mustang III FX876 W/O Pietrzac Location: Oaksfield, Gould Farm, Rayne, Essex, England. +
Operation: Squadron formation exercise & dive bombing practice.

Date: 2nd August 1945

Time: 11.15 a.m.

Unit: No. 309 Squadron R.A.F. (Polish).

Type: North American Mustang III

Serial No: FX876

Location: Oaksfield, Goulds Farm, Rayne, Essex, England.

Pilot: Warrant Officer. Aleksander Pietrzac (Poland) P783147 – Killed.
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Alex Pietrzak pictured in a Mustang III while serving with 316 Squadron (Pietrzac)


No. 309(P) Squadron 1945

On the 1st August 1945 P-51 Mustang III with the serial No. FX 876 was sent to workshop to undergo routine minor inspection. The airframe was built North American Aviation Inc. and its total flying time was 307 hours. All modifications affecting airworthiness except No.691 had been embodied. The engine was built by the Packard Motor Car Company, No. V 324217 and its total running time was 664 hours. Both airframe and engine had been properly maintained and serviced and both had been certified fit for flight at 0845 hours on August 2nd.

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Mustang FX876 seen here in flight believed to be piloted by Aleksander Pietrzac, the aircraft in natural aluminium 1945 finish

2nd August 1945

Tragedy at Andrews Field

At 10.15 hours Mustang FX 876 took off on its first flight since the inspection was completed. It should be noted that the aircraft was not test flown. The pilot W/O Pietrzac had been briefed to take part in a Squadron formation exercise which was to be followed by dive bombing practice. FX 876 was one of the first pair in the formation to leave the ground. The other member of this pair was the Squadron Commander.

Almost as soon as the two aircraft were airborne W/O Pietrzac overtook his leader and a few seconds later called him on the R/T (radio transmitter) to state that his rudder control had jammed and that he could not use starboard rudder but he could still apply port rudder.

The Squadron Commander immediately ordered him to return and land and W/O Pietrzac thereupon turned away and disappeared. Some four minutes later, after the rest of the Squadron had formed up with the leader and W/O Pietrzac’s original place in the formation had been filled, FX 876 reappeared and W/O Pietrzac requested permission to rejoin, stating that his aircraft was now serviceable.

This permission was granted. Various squadron formation manoeuvres were then carried out for a period of forty minutes, during which FX 876 appeared to fly normally. Dive bombing practice then began from a height of about 12,000 feet.

The Squadron formed line astern with W/O Pietrzac as number 7. Each aircraft in turn pulled up into a stalled turn to the left and entered its dive, the instructions to each pilot being that recovery should be affected at 5,000 ft. FX 876 entered its dive in exactly the same way as had those aircraft ahead of it but instead of pulling out at 5,000 ft its dive was seen by the pilot of number 8 aircraft which was close behind, to become suddenly steeper until it reached an angle over the vertical. Number 8 realised that something was amiss and endeavoured to follow FX 876 in order to keep it under observation.

The pilot of number 8 stated that when FX 876 started to dive over the vertical he also noticed that it was side-slipping to the left and he declared that he had great difficulty in following it. He stated that he then saw it carry out an aileron turn one and a half times round and the pulled out of its dive inverted at an altitude well under 100 feet. The pilot of number 8 lost sight of it at this point because his own airspeed was over 500 m.p.h. I.A.S. and his height was only around 3,000 ft. He therefore had his attention fully occupied in recovering normal flight, which he did by using his tail trim after unsuccessfully trying to ease back the stick. He then caught sight of FX 876 again. It was still inverted and climbing. Although he himself was still travelling at very high speed FX 876 overtook him and nosed over into a dive which continued to the ground.It subsequently transpired that W/O Pietrzac had fallen out of his aircraft whilst it was inverted and travelling at tremendous speed across

Andrews Field Aerodrome at a height of only about 20 ft. He had undoubtedly been thrown from the cockpit under high negative “g”. The fact that no pieces of the cockpit hood were found away from the main wreckage suggested that the hood was open when the pilot was ejected W/O Pietrzac was killed instantly. The funeral of Aleksander Pietrzac was held at 3.00 p.m on the 7th August at Epping Cemetery.

Examination at the scene of the accident at Gould Farm, Rayne, Essex showed that the aircraft had struck the ground whilst diving vertically at very high speed. The force of the impact and subsequent fire which broke out reduced the wreckage to such a condition that no technical evidence was obtainable from it except that it was possible to state that there had been no structural failure of any major component in flight.

The engine had penetrated the ground to a depth of about 12 ft and had been smashed by the force of impact into three main portions. There were indications that it had been running at high speed when the aircraft hit the ground.

Burial details:

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David King pays his respects at the grave of Aleksander Pietrzac 18th August 2007

Aleksander Pietrzac is buried in Bury Lane Cemetery, Epping, Essex . Row Z. Grave 11

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Aleksander seen here leading a burial party for a fallen Polish airman at Epping Cemetery, tragically in a short space of time this cemetery would also become Aliksander's last resting place.
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Epping Cemetery Commonwealth War Graves Plot. (David King)

Research by David King & Melvin Brownless of the Aircrew Remembrance Society 2007