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Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 13:07 UK
Memorial stone laid 40 years on
Sue Hendey, BBC Dorset
By Sue Hendey
BBC Dorset

Two pilots who were killed in a jet crash 40 years ago at Hedge End, near Blandford, have been remembered in a private ceremony.

Flight Lieutenant RV Patchett, RAF, and Lieutenant REM Woolley, Royal Navy, were pilots of Gloster Meteor T7 WL350.

The aircraft developed problems during a training flight, when it went into a 'flat spin' and crashed on 13 February 1969.

Now a stone has been laid at the site of the tragedy to commemorate the men.

Mark Woolley (left) and Rob Patchett next to the memorial stone
Mark (left) and Rob are pleased they can lay their fathers' memories to rest.

Mark Woolley and Rob Patchett, the sons of the pilots, came up with the idea of a memorial stone after a chance meeting on an internet forum.

Rob said: "For a few years I had been doing a bit of research on the internet.

"I tried to input everything I knew about the accident, which frankly wasn't that much.

Mark said: "I put an entry on The Aviation Forum for Airworks Services, the company that operated the Meteor that crashed.

"Fortunately, I quoted the serial number which helped Rob in his find. He dropped me a line, I got in touch with him and here we are today."

'Flat spin'

Mark was just three and a half years-old when his father Robert Woolley was killed - Robert and his family were living in Wimborne at the time.

Mark, who now lives in Swanage, said: "My father was a Royal Navy Fighter Pilot. He had just left the Navy and was already a qualified flying instructor in the Hawker Hunter aircraft.

"[On the day of the crash] he was being 'passed out' to be an instructor in the Meteor aircraft and the examiner that day was Robert's father, Flight Lieutenant Patchett, from the RAF.

"They took off from Hurn Airport in Bournemouth, flew up to Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton, to do some manoeuvres, and it was on their way back to Hurn that the aircraft developed problems."

The aircraft went into a 'flat spin' and crashed into farmland at Hedge End Farm near Turnworth, Blandford.

Mark said: "The Meteor could be an unstable aircraft in certain configurations when it was flying.

"There was some suspicion that the elevator had jammed - the elevator affects the aircraft's ability to climb and fall.

"There was a very thorough investigation, but they never came to an ultimate conclusion."

Brave conduct

John Tory at Hedge End Farm
John had to run half a mile from the farmyard to the crash site

Dorset farmer, John Tory, risked his life in an attempt to rescue the two pilots from the crash.

That year he was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct by the Flag Officer Naval Air Command, Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Janvrin, head of the Fleet Air Arm.

John said: "We've lived at Turnworth for four generations and I happened to be in the farmyard when the aircraft came over.

"I saw it in a flat spin. It was descending rather rapidly, so I headed for the site.

"Unfortunately, a few moments later I heard the explosion and it had crashed into the side of the hill.

"It was a good half a mile run, and four or five minutes later I was on the site.

"I was able to pull the two gentlemen away from the plane, but unfortunately they were both dead.

"Shortly after I got to the site, Mr. Browning, who was the landowner of this farm, joined me and it all proceeded from there.

"Communications were quite bad in those days - we didn't have things like mobile phones.

"It took quite a long time for all the emergency services to get to the site.

"The fire brigade were quite quick, but there were all the investigations teams too and they had difficultly getting to the site, because it's quite steep valleys here."

'Last mission'

Rob was a little under seven years-old when his father Robert Patchett was killed in the tragedy.

He said: "At the time my father was based at RAF Little Rissington, in the Cotswolds.

"We had just moved up to Boston in Lincolnshire, because my father was going to be one of the advanced pilots on the Phantom aircraft there.

"This flight [in the Meteor] was actually his last mission as an instructor at Central Flying School."

Happy memories

Hedge End Farm
The site of the jet crash where the memorial now stands

Despite being so young at the time of the air accident, both Rob and Mark have happy memories of their fathers.

Mark said: I have a few fleeting memories of a very happy man, a very friendly man and people who knew him speak of him in that manner as well.

"They say he was a very easy to know chap, who was also a very good pilot.

"I have no memories at all of the tragedy - which is good.

"I remember travelling a lot with my mum afterwards - my mum's from Germany, so we travelled over to see relatives there.

"There was a feeling of uneasiness at the time, but my mum later remarried which was very good and I had a very stable and happy upbringing."

Rob said: "I can remember sitting on a beach in Spain and [my father] counted out a hundred grains of sand into my hand - it was so that I knew what a hundred looked like.

"After the accident my brother and myself were playing football outside and an RAF car pulled up and I knew there was something wrong.

"I went into the house and found my mum crying her eyes out on the sofa.

"The actual day and the aftermath of it becomes a bit of a blank after that."

In 1973 Rob's mum also remarried.

'A fitting memorial'

Twenty five people, including both Rob and Mark's mothers together with colleagues and friends of the two pilots, attended a private ceremony on Saturday 15 September 2009.

A memorial stone was laid at the site of the crash, to commemorate their lives.

Mark said: "Before this was laid here there was absolutely nothing to remind anyone of what happened here.

"This stone will last for generations to come.

"People will wander along here and see it, and think about it, and maybe even find out a bit more about it.

Farmer John Tory added: "This is a rather fitting memorial to finish the whole story."

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