Accident Airspeed Oxford Mk II V3540, Sunday 5 January 1941
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Date:Sunday 5 January 1941
Type:Airspeed Oxford Mk II
Owner/operator:Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA)
Registration: V3540
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:1
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Thames Estuary, near Herne Bay, Kent, England -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Squires Gate, Blackpool
Destination airport:RAF Kidlington, Oxfordshire
On the 4th of January, 1941 the celebrated pilot Amy Johnson took off from Prestwick to deliver an Oxford to Kidlington in Oxfordshire. Bad weather prevented her completing the flight that day and she spent the night in Blackpool.

Next day with the weather still poor, she continued her journey to Kidlington, a flight that should have taken about 90 minutes.

Four and a half hours later, lost above a solid cloud layer and probably out of fuel, she baled out over the Thames Estuary. Her parachute and falling aircraft were sighted by the ships in a convoy and a gallant attempt was made to save her by the captain of a Royal Navy escort ship who dived into the freezing water to rescue her. He died later from exposure. Tragically, this effort was to no avail and Amy was drowned. Her body was never recovered.

A memorial service was held for Johnson in the church of St. Martin in the Fields on 14 January 1941. Lt Walter Fletcher, who went to her rescue, was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal in May 1941.

As a member of ATA with no known grave, she is (under the name Amy V. Johnson) commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede

It has been more recently hinted her death was due to friendly fire. In 1999 it was reported that Tom Mitchell, from Crowborough, Sussex, claimed to have shot Johnson's aircraft down when she twice failed to give the correct identification code during the flight. Mitchell explained how the aircraft was sighted and contacted by radio.* A request was made for the signal. She gave the wrong one twice. "Sixteen 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. The officers told us never to tell anyone what happened."

The fact that all files relating to the accident are closed until January 1, 2040, has provided grounds for "conspiracy theories" that there is more to this accident that has been so far revealed - both at the time (due to wartime censorship) and since then.

* Highly unlikely. As ATA pilots were not trained in the security aspects of air-to-ground radio transmissions, it was policy to disable any radio equipment in aircraft they were flying.


1. El Orden 6 January 1941, page 1
2. went to her rescue,don-uk-1-killed/


Revision history:

27-Nov-2008 23:16 angels one five Added
12-Sep-2010 19:24 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
18-Feb-2011 17:04 angels one five Updated [Registration, Narrative]
02-Feb-2012 09:41 Nepa Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Operator, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
06-Nov-2012 22:40 angels one five Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Narrative]
17-Apr-2013 16:07 Nepa Updated [Aircraft type, Operator]
26-Aug-2013 20:50 angels one five Updated [Operator, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport]
04-Mar-2014 21:50 Nepa Updated [Operator]
27-Jul-2014 19:55 angels one five Updated [Operator, Narrative]
17-Jul-2016 20:02 TB Updated [Time, Source, Narrative]
09-Aug-2017 18:31 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
05-Dec-2019 08:57 angels one five Updated [Narrative]
21-Feb-2021 15:40 Anon. Updated [Operator, Location, Operator]

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