Spitfire IX EN114

Spitfire IX

Crashed 29 December 1942,  Rearsby, Leicestershire

Stuart Hollick

Pilot of the Spitfire Stuart Hollick

Flying Officer Stuart T Hollick (killed)
Crashed due to oxygen failure.

At midday on 29th December 1942 Rolls-Royce test pilot Stuart Hollick left Hucknall airfield to test a new fuel injection system for Merlin engines. After 25 minutes the Spitfire plunged into a field near Rearsby in Leicestershire – taking it’s pilot to his death.

An investigation revealed that the pilot had passed out due to oxygen failure at close to 25,000 feet, after which the Spitfire went out of control and was seen performing high ‘G’ manoeuvres until its port will broke off under the forces.

Among the items from the Spitfire discovered during the excavation was a cigarette lighter bearing the initials STH – Stuart Trevor Hollick. Under the strict notes of guidance governing aircraft excavations in the UK, the lighter is a personal item and should be passed to the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC). This was done immediately after the discovery and efforts were made the JCCC to contact relatives of Stuart Hollick; unfortunately none were traced.

Undaunted, excavation team leader Gareth Jones brought in the services of family historian Mick Phelps to create a family tree – and a remarkable story unfolded. Stuart Hollick left behind a widow, Violet, who re-married after the war. She changed her surname and had a son, John, but the key to locating him came from a reference on Violet’s death certificate. The death was registered by Violet’s granddaughter – and her address was given. Although many years old, this address allowed Gareth to locate Violet’s son – the closest living relative to the Spitfire’s pilot – the lighter has now been presented to him.

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