Crash site London/Gatwick airport, Great Britain
Airline British Airways
Aircraft De Havilland DH.86A – G-ADYF
Route London/Gatwick – Cologne – Hannover – Berlin
Crew 4 – 1 survivor
Passengers 0


The crash

The plane which was registered to British Continental Airways but operated by British Airways (with whom they were in the process of amalgamation) crashed shortly after takeoff from Gatwick airport. It was a fine but slightly misty night when the aircraft took off at 22:09 in the course of a scheduled mail and freight run to Hannover via Cologne. Instead of straightening up onto the correct course, the plane continued turning left while losing height, and it then crashed into a field just outside the airport boundary and burst into flames.
The crash investigation concluded that the wireless operator’s left shoe had become trapped between the left end of the 2nd pilot’s rudder bar and a fire extinguisher. The pilot could not operate the rudder, and the wireless operator couldn’t remove his foot from where it had become wedged.


The mail

From 1934 the mail connection between Great Britain and the Nordic countries was much improved. A night-route operated Helsingfors-Stockholm-Copenhagen-Hannover-Amsterdam with connection in Hannover to the route Berlin-Hannover-Cologne-London. This route operated until the outbreak of World War II.
Mail from this accident is not mentioned by Nierinck, and very little mail is known.
The only items I have seen are one cover addressed to Denmark and 3 covers addressed to Sweden.
In Sweden the mail was forwarded with a special label. The cover from Bolivia shows an interesting British handstamp – see below.


19360915 ASwedish label.
Size textblock:
126 x 70 mm.
Text translation:
This consignment has been damaged in an accident with a mail-carrying airplane.

The size of the labels vary as they were printed on large size paper and later cut from these sheets.



Examples of mail

19360915 010a 19360915 010b

Cover from England postmarked LONDON 15 SEP 1936 addressed to Copenhagen, Denmark. On the back are two postmarks from LONDON F.S. 22 dated 16 SP 36.
This is the only known Danish cover from this crash.
Thiesen Collection.

19360915 001a 19360915 001b

Cover from England postmarked LONDON E.C. 15 SEP 1936 to Gothenburg, Sweden with Swedish crash label type A. On the back is a postmark LONDON F.S. 22 16 SP 36 and an arrival postmark GÖTEBORG 17.9.36.
Thiesen Collection.

19360915 002a 19360915 002b

Cover from England postmarked BIRMINGHAM 1? SE 1936 to Gothenburg, Sweden with Swedish crash label type A. On the back is a postmark LONDON 16 SP 36 and an arrival postmark GÖTEBORG 17.9.36.
Ekenstierna Collection.

19360915 003a  

Cover from Bolivia with unclear postmark addressed to Gothenburg, Sweden with the Swedish crash label type A.
Note the interesting British crash markings: Resealing label and a 2-line handstamp DAMAGED / IN TRANSIT.
Ruud Collection.