ONE of the most endearing and enduring mysteries of Worcester’s part in the Second World War looks to have been cleared up at last.

It concerns the was it/wasn’t it appearance of silver screen idol Clark Gable among the crew of an American aircraft that landed at Perdiswell airfield in September 1942.

It wasn’t a very smooth landing either because the plane crashed and ended up with its nose in the corporation rubbish tip.

Hardly the stuff of Hollywood epics.

Local legend had it that, having come to rest, Gable climbed out of the cockpit and legged it across the grass to the relative safety of the terminal building.

The problem has always been that, although several folk claimed to have seen him, no one actually spoke to him.

And there were plenty of young Americans who wanted to look like Clark Gable back then.

But on the basis of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill grinding on all these years.

However, we now have the definitive detail because Worcestershire aviation historian Mike Mullins has been on the job and the result features in his new book RAF Worcester which is all about the wartime exploits at the airfield off Droitwich Road.

Mike said: “The crash of the USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) Dakota at Perdiswell has always been something of a mystery, not for the crash itself but more for who was on board.

“Several historical accounts stated that film star Clark Gable, who was then a captain in the USAAF, and General Spaatz, also of the USAAF, may have been on the plane.

“However, after 80 years the National Archives at Kew have just released a report of the crashed DC3/C47 Dakota at Perdiswell in 1942 which sheds new light on the incident.

“Notable by their absence from the list of the crew are Clark Gable and General (Carl) Spaatz.

“This report also differs from historical accounts which claim the aircraft left Pershore with Clark Gable on board to make a gunnery training film.

“They ran into engine trouble so diverted to Perdiswell.

“However, it does say that on September 2, 1942, at 10am (the day and time of the alleged Clark Gable crash) aircraft DC3 17766 from the USAF 60th Troop Carrier Group, en-route from Aldermaston to Prestwick, landed at Perdiswell, Worcester, due to adverse weather and overshot the runway.

“The crew is listed as Pilot L/T Colne (USA), 2nd Pilot L/T Seals (USA), Navigator F/T Granger (USA), Crew Chief Corporal Miller (USA) and Radio Operator Sgt O’Neil (USA) — slight injury, cut right knee and shock.

“On the passenger list are Capt Frantz (USA), Capt WS Reynolds (USA) — slight injury to left ankle and shock — F/T LP Klaus (USA), MES Goldstein (USA) and Mr H Roberts (USA) — slight injury, strained back and shock.

“In articles about the incident both (writers) Robin Brooks and Glyn Warren refer to General Spaatz as supposably being on board.

“However, they could have confused Captain Frantz (who was on board) with General Spaatz.

“Glyn Warren was correct when he stated there were five crew and five passengers which is confirmed in the report.”

As a final clincher Mike added: “Records show Clark Gable wasn’t even in the country when the crash happened.

“So perhaps we can put the Clark Gable and General Spaatz story to bed and now use this newly-released report as fact.”

But what was the fate of the Dakota C-47 41-7766?

Apparently it was dismantled and taken away on a Queen Mary Trailer three days later.

The aircraft had been originally assigned to the 313th Troop Carrier group in March 1942 at Daniel Field, Georgia, and then reassigned to the 60th Troop Carrier Group when the 60th was posted to the UK.

Mike concluded: “The DC3/C-47 Dakota (no 17766) in the crash was nicknamed Idiot’s Delight, a film Clark Gable made in 1939, so there must be some connection with him.

“Maybe it was used for some of his training film flights.

“USAAF Captain Clark Gable did make five or six combat missions as a gunner on B-17s so he certainly did his wartime bit.”

But not, apparently, in Worcester.