Auction revives memory of jockey's death in County Durham plane crash

An auction sale in London has realled how tragedy struck the King's jockey in the North East

Graham Budd Auctioneers A press cutting relating to the King's Jockey John Crouch, who died when the plane he was in crashed in County Durham in 1939
A press cutting relating to the King's Jockey John Crouch, who died when the plane he was in crashed in County Durham in 1939

The day tragedy struck the King’s jockey as he headed for a North East race course was recalled yesterday at an auction sale.

A silver trophy which belonged to jockey Jack Crouch was sold by Graham Budd Auctions in London.

Along with the trophy were accounts of the death of Crouch in County Durham while he was on his way to ride at Gosforth Park racecourse in Newcastle on June 20, 1939.

Crouch, 24, had been due to marry his fiancee Barbara Hives, 19, on July 1.

The day before Crouch was due to fly to Newcastle, the couple had posted the wedding invitations.

The next morning Crouch made his way to Heston Aerodrome in Middlesex to board a de Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide.

The aircraft took off at 10.19am and reported its position by radio when passing York at midday.

Graham Budd Auctioneers Memorabilia relating to the King's Jockey John Crouch, who died when the plane he was in crashed in County Durham in 1939
Memorabilia relating to the King's Jockey John Crouch, who died when the plane he was in crashed in County Durham in 1939
 

But it never arrived in Newcastle, where Crouch was due to ride the King’s horse.

The BBC broadcast appeals for news of the missing aeroplane, and the following day the Royal Air Force conducted a search.

But it was not until 5pm that Robert Redfearn, a postman, and his friend spotted the burned-out wreckage of the aircraft near the summit of Dora’s Seat on Ettersgill Fell in County Durham, miles from the nearest habitation. The bodies of Crouch, Glaswegian pilot FS Appi and wireless operator J Elmslie, from Amble in Northumberland, were found close to the wreckage.

A cable message was sent to the king informing him of Crouch’s death.

As a teenager, Jack Crouch was apprenticed to Australian trainer Stanley Wootton at Epsom.

In 1933, his name started to appear in the lists of runners and riders in the newspapers.

In 1936, he rode 31 winners and, in October, it was announced that, at the age of 21, he was to be the king’s jockey.

He was to receive a retainer so that he would always be available to ride the king’s horses in preference to other owners.

That winter he went to India to race in Madras.

His funeral took place at Epsom Parish Church and he is buried in Epsom cemetery.

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