Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I K9888, 41 Squadron, RAF Catterick
crashed Great Dun Fell, Pennines on 18th July 1939
On Tuesday, 18th July 1939 Sgt Mitchell left Catterick aerodrome at 10.56hrs on a cross country navigation exercise. He was instructed to take a direct route over the Pennines, almost certainly following the road or railway line which heads east to west across the fells, this route was known as the Barnard Castle Gap. The final destination of the flight is stated as Dumfries, just across the border in Scotland
On leaving Catterick Sgt Mitchell crossed the Pennines and passed Bowes, he then began a turn north along the western side of the Pennines. The aircraft was flying over the Appleby area when it encountered a bank of very thick fog. Mitchell had been briefed to return to base if he came into cloud and it was thought that he had cleared the hills but decided to turn back towards Catterick. Whilst he was making the turn to return, the aircraft flew back towards the hills and struck the ground on Great Dun Fell.
Workers at nearby Silver Band Mine were the first on the scene having heard the aircraft fly overhead followed by the sound of a crash higher up the hill. They set out from the mine to try and locate the site, which in the thick fog took some time. Sadly when the site was found nothing could be done for Sgt Mitchell as he had been killed on impact.
The flight commander at Catterick was later blamed for this accident as he had not ensured the weather was suitable before authorizing the flight, although it was also stated that the pilot probably left it too late in turning back towards Catterick in poor weather.
The Crash Site
Some small pieces of the Spitfire can still be found at the crash site, which is located south of the Silver Band Mine and on a direct line from the mine to RAF Catterick.