Those Valiant Men

by John Young

On 11 May 1956 an RAF Valiant jet bomber crashed on the railway line at Southwick narrowly missing a nearby boys junior school, houses and the busy Shoreham Harbour.  Three of the crew were killed but miraculously no local people were seriously injured. It was lunch time and people were settling down to their midday meal.  10 year old John Young had just walked home to Croft Avenue from his nearby school, Manor Hall Road Junior Boys School.  Unknown to the people of Southwick a Valiant bomber in trouble was flying toward them.  Earlier that morning it had taken off from Farnborough on a test flight with experimental equipment on board when problems developed.  While flying along the coast to burn off fuel before returning to base an electrical fault caused the pilot to lose control of the aircraft.  Miraculously he managed to bring the stricken plane on the railway narrowly missing the school and the nearby houses in Croft Avenue and Whiterock Place.  Nevertheless burning wreckage was spread over a wide area, especially in Croft Avenue where John Young was having lunch.

The crash left a lasting impression on John, he spent years researching it and has now written a book, “Those Valiant Men” telling the story of that day 66 years ago.  This new book is largely based on eye witness accounts, personal recollections, newspaper reports, RAF documents and correspondence with the surviving co-pilot. 

Those Valiant Men is published by the Southwick (Sussex) Society and will be available from 28 May.  It costs £7.00 plus postage and can be ordered from the Society (email or purchased at the Manor Cottage Heritage Centre in Southwick Street.