Thundersley Common Spitfire crash

Oakley Farm

On Friday 8th November 1940 at 12:40 pm, Battle of Britain veteran Spitfire MK1a, N3164 ZD-H of RAF 222 (Natal) Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch, Essex and piloted by RAF Sgt. Reginald Arthur Breeze (516456) was scrambled to patrol the Maidstone to Canterbury line at 30,000 feet to intercept incoming German aircraft.

Following aerial combat with the Luftwaffe, his aircraft suffered damage and landed at RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. After minor repairs to the Spitfire, Sgt. Breeze took off to return to RAF Hornchurch. At around 3pm the repairs failed mid flight and Breeze looked for an open area to land. Aiming for Thundersley Common the Spitfire crash landed short onto Oakley Farm.

  Ernest Nutt the poultry farmer, rushed to assist the pilot from the cockpit. Uninjured, Sgt. Breeze asked the way to the nearest phone box (this was outside Thundersley Primary School) where he phoned RAF Hornchurch to arrange his return to base.

Schoolboy Dick (Richard) Hills, formally of Common Approach, with  his elder brother, spotted Breeze in the phone box outside Thundersley Primary School. After school, they made their way down to the Common to see the crashed Spitfire. When they arrived they saw a chicken shed on fire with Spitfire N3164 crashed behind it. They were soon sent away for their own safety (source: Richard Hills). The Spitfire was later recovered from the crash site and RAF records suggest it was rebuilt and flew again the following year.

RAF Officer Breeze on his wedding day, he married Irene Jones in Winchester in 1944

Sergeant Breeze was commissioned as a RAF officer in 1944 and married Irene Jones in Winchester in late 1944. The picture here was taken on their wedding day. 

As Flying Officer Breeze (54089) of 151 repair unit (Aircraft) based at Wevelgem, Belgium he was tragically killed days after his 30th birthday, when Spitfire MK LFIX, PL324, which he was delivering, crashed near Guines, France on 28th of January 1945. He lies at rest in Calais Southern Cemetery.

Calais Cemetery

Calais Cemetery, the resting place for Reginald Breeze.

The Spitfire, PL324 was recovered and repaired and following the fatal crash and went on to serve with RCAF 412 squadron.

A print of N3164 was presented by Ian Reid to Castle Point District Council in November 2021, 81 years after the event.

A Mk.1 Spitfire at Duxford, 2012

Also present were relatives and witnesses of the event.

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  • My Grandfather was Ernest Nutt.
    As children we grew up with the story of the day the Spitfire crashed.
    I’m afraid the casualties that day were the hens. After the crash my grandfather turned to growing vegetables for the war effort. The property then became known as Oakley Nurseries.

    By Carol Watt (07/02/2024)
  • Hello
    I really appreciate this article as the Officer in question was my uncle.
    Any more information would be lovely to hear. I know where his grave is in France but if any relatives of Reginald read this it would be great to hear from you too.
    Many thanks.

    By Daphne Sutton (11/11/2023)
  • Great post about our local history; well done !

    By Roger Shinn (15/11/2022)

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