IT is hard to realise how dangerous flying was for servicemen in the peacetime years immediately after the war. The North-East Aviation Research website lists 158 air crashes in the region north of the Tees in the 25 years after 1945 – more than six a year.

In 1950 in the North-East, there were 10 crashes, 1951 16 crashes and 1952 14 crashes. About 90 per cent of crashes involved Gloster Meteors, the first British jet-fighter which went into combat at the end of the war. However, at the start of the jet age, technology improved rapidly and by the start of the 1950s, the Meteor was becoming obsolete and was switched to training purposes.

The Northern Echo: Echo memories - Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington - Gloster Meteor, Britain's only Second World War jet fighter, which fought off V1 anf V2 rocketsEcho memories - Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington - Gloster Meteor, Britain's only Second World War jet fighter, which fought off V1 anf V2 rockets

RAF Middleton St George, the home of bombers during the war, became the home of training Meteors in peacetime, and so fields from Barnard Castle to Seaham were peppered with their crash sites.

Memories 456 included Geoff Craggs’ request for information about a post-war crash in farmland opposite the Old Farmhouse Inn at Morton Palms on the eastern fringes of Darlington.

Philip Smith, founder member of the 55 Aircraft Accidents Research Group, says there were two crashes in two months in 1952 at Morton Palms Farm involving Meteors from No 205 Advanced Flying School based at Middleton St George.

The Northern Echo: When a Meteor jet crashed on Morton Palms, Darlington, on April 24, 1952When a Meteor jet crashed on Morton Palms, Darlington, on April 24, 1952

On March 28, VZ632 made a forced landing at the farm and both airmen survived, but on April 24, WA665 crashed shortly after take-off, with both airmen killed – this must be the one Geoff saw as he remembers finding human remains in the wreckage.

“An instructor and his pupil were killed when their Meteor disintegrated in mid-air over Morton Palms shortly after taking off from Middleton St George,” said The Northern Echo the following day. It only gave seven paragraphs to the accident, although its evening sister page, the Northern Despatch, gave the story a little more impact.

A piece of the wreckage hit Cllr Angus Robson, the farmer, on the shoulder and knocked him over. “Cllr Robson is leaving the district soon,” said the Echo. “Yesterday was the day of the sale of his farm stock, and one field was lined with implements. Lying among these were pieces of wreckage from the crashed jet.”

The pilot was Flying Officer Hugh Williams and he was instructing Fl-Lt Arthur Lockyear.

The most remarkable of all these peacetime accidents surely occurred on September 17, 1949, during the airfield’s “RAF At Home” open day. That year, 82 RAF stations were “at home” and visited by 764,000 members of the public, who came for a nosey and to pay their respects to “the few” who had fought in the Battle of Britain.

Star aircraft would fly from station to station during the day to give the public at each venue the best possible display.

At MSG, the dramatic finale was a mock air-land exercise with tanks apparently attacking the control tower. Wellington bombers flew over and dropped dummy paratroopers to repel them.

Tragically, one of the chutes got wrapped around the tail of NC430 causing the Wellington to nosedive into the ground where it exploded. All six crewmen were killed instantly. One of their wives was in the crowd, enjoying the display.

Two of the men came from Redcar, one of Seaham Harbour and the address of a fourth, Flt-Off John Macpherson, 24, was given as The Caravan, Officers’ Married Quarters Site, Middleton St George.

The Stockton coroner said: “It is a melancholy fact that what should have been, and was hoped to be, an occasion of public rejoicing in recollection of the victory of the Battle of Britain should have ended in this unhappy accident. It is a very great loss of six young lives.”