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Search for family of RAF war hero

PUBLISHED: 16:11 06 August 2008 | UPDATED: 11:47 12 August 2010

RESEARCHERS are seeking relatives of an RAF navigator killed 51 years ago in a mysterious mid-air collision, writes Kate Nelson.

RESEARCHERS are seeking relatives of an RAF navigator killed 51 years ago in a mysterious mid-air collision, writes Kate Nelson.

Retired Scotland Yard detective and former RAF regular Ron Smith and his research colleague Maurice Coombs, who lives in Canada, are looking for the family of RAF navigator Ernest Edward Stevens, 33, who was killed in the crash.

They know his parents lived on the Downham Estate, Bromley, for many years and understand Mr Stevens had several brothers, one of whom lived until 1999 at Highfield Road, Chislehurst.

The pair have spent two years researching the incident, which happened on Friday, December 13, 1957, when two RAF Canberra bombers collided 5,000 feet above the jungle of Johore, Southern Malaya.

Both aircraft were totally destroyed and four of the six aircrew were killed. Mr Smith said: "The investigation into the crash was a complete whitewash. This was a totally unnecessary crash. It instantly created three widows, and we are still researching how many children were left without a father.

"My colleague and I feel that our research may be of considerable interest to the next of kin and we would hope to learn something of the tragic event from the prospective family members. Ernest Stevens was another of the forgotten wartime heroes. We have been searching for answers to questions for a long time and have now collected about 170 pages of documentation which includes references to the Board of Inquiry Report."

There was considerable press coverage at the time of the accident which centred on the fact that one of the two survivors and pilot of one of the aircraft was Squadron Leader Christopher Blount MVO, a friend and former escort of Princess Margaret. He had been an equerry to the Queen for three years prior to being appointed Squadron Commander.

A month before the fatal flight he married Susan Cobbold, daughter of Lord Cameron Cobbold, who was Governor of the Bank of England and also Lord Chamberlain.

Mr Smith and Mr Coombs have collected documents and reports about the crash from dozens of sources, including the British Library.

Mr Smith said: "Anyone who sees the file we have created will not be able to put it down and we are really keen for the family of Flight Sergeant Stevens to read it."

* Are you a relative of or did you know Mr Stevens? Contact Kate Nelson at the Bromley Times news desk on 0208 269 7013 or e-mail katherine.nelson@archant.co.uk

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