memorial to afp fane
The 18th July marks the anniversary of Flt.Lt. AFP Fane losing his life near Stapleford, Cambridgeshire in bad weather returning from his 25th Photographic Reconnaissance mission. The Spitfire AA810 Project is looking to unveil a memorial near the crash location on the 11th November, AFP Fane's birthday.
After negotiations with the land owners Corpus Christi College, we were able to agree an arrangement in early summer 2022. We would like to thank the College and their legal team, Mills & Reeve LLP - our representatives, and the local Parish Council for their support on this important memorial. In addition, this memorial would not be going ahead if it wasn't for the great assistance of Mr Andrew Wood, and Mr Keith Dixon.
We are proud to be supported by the following companies on this project:
the extraordinary life of afp fane
Flt.Lt. Alfred Fane Peers Agabeg (otherwise known as AFP Fane), born: 11.11.1911, died: 18.07.1942
AFP Fane was born in Sijua, India, the son of mining engineer Alfred Agabeg and his wife Mabel, a couple of Armenian descent. Returning to England, he lived with his mother at ‘The Hall’, Pinner in Middlesex, attending Harrow School and Clare College in Cambridge. His social activities and intention to ‘live life to the full’ meant his academic studies suffered as a result. A dynamic young man, he excelled as one of the leading lights of the combined Oxford and Cambridge University ski team, which beat McGill University in Quebec in 1931.
After leaving University, Fane began a motor racing career when he entered the March Mountain Speed Handicap at Brooklands, coming second. His next outing at Brooklands saw him win. He truly had the racing bug and this win ensured his entry into the British Racing Drivers Club. He attracted the attention of H.J. Aldington, owner of Frazer Nash, who immediately saw the opportunity this young man presented. Shortly after, Fane ordered a Frazer Nash chassis and designed his own racing body for it. Naming it Nurburg, he collected his new car from the Falcon works and raced it that same year at the German Grand Prix.
Marrying Evelyn Mary Marriott in 1932 in an elegant affair of a wedding, the couple, and Fane in particular, were seen as trendsetters of the time and Fane himself had a passion for outlandish hats which he acquired from all parts of Europe. Some of these garments outdid the most startling of feminine fashions, even though they originated as men’s wear in Bavaria or the Italian Alps. He also had a penchant for loud checked sports jackets and the very latest in shoes, but always to good standards of taste.
Frazer Nash needed funds to guarantee trade with BMW for new touring cars built under license and the owners raised this money by persuading Fane to invest in the company in return for a 20% shareholding. Now a demonstration driver for Frazer and BMW, Fane continued to race at Brooklands taking his cars almost to the point of pulling the tyres off the rims to secure a good ranking. He took part in the French GP Sports car race at Montlhèry, he raced at Le Mans and at Shelsey, and obtained eight race wins at Donington. In 1936, he won the Bucharest Grand Prix in a BMW 328 and in 1937 he won the Tourist Trophy team prize in Belfast. In 1937, as well as setting a number of speed records, he took on the German 328s in the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring, beating them, as well as racing the BMW 328 Mille Miglia ‘Büegelfalte’ at Le Mans. In 1938, he again raced a 328 in the Mille Miglia winning the 2.0 Litre class, setting the fastest time on the Grossglockner hill climb and winning at Crystal Palace. In the late 1930s, Frazer Nash were deeply involved with all things German, with Aldington and Fane taking on the UK dealership for the Messerschmitt 108 distribution as an additional business venture. The Frazer Nash factory signed a contract for the completion of BMWs arriving from Germany, and Fane – by then a member of the BMW 328 works team – was awaiting a try-out for the Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix team.
Fane flies aa810
Fane joined the RAF a week after war was declared – initially considered too old for front line fighter service he first worked in Photo Interpretation at Bomber Command HQ in High Wycombe before becoming an instructor on Tiger Moths at RAF Booker. Frustrated by his non-operational service he obtained a transfer to the unarmed Photographic Reconnaissance Unit arriving at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire in December 1941. Fane flew the project’s aircraft Spitfire AA810 twice, both in difficult situations:
“Trip 4, Spitfire AA810: Mezieres and marshalling yards in that area (unsuccessful) – 15th January 1942.
Took off and climbed through cloud as usual. Set course for Beachy Head, trails at 26,000ft. Saw nothing of England so continued on ETA. Saw French coast through small gap in clouds, carried on but all of France under 10/10 cloud so returned. Saw Le Touquet through a hole in cloud so took photos. Descended over Channel – still in cloud – when I should have been on coast – so turned onto reciprocal to make sure of coming down over the sea. Turned back again on course at 1,500ft and came out over the sea at 500ft. Visibility really was bloody. Saw land ahead and nearly fell out of the aircraft when I realised it was Eastbourne – too good to be true. Crept over land at 50 ft but went on in hope of weather clearing. It didn’t but just managed to creep over hills at Guildford and got home to find that Nebly and self were only ones to get back to base – all the others had landed all over the country. Good old satellite. Even the CO congratulated us... reported dud weather.”
“Trip 12, Spitfire AA810: Trondheim and Naval units – 4th March 1942.
Refuelled at Sumburgh as winds were supposed to be fairly strong, but mainly because of possibility of dud weather on return leg. Set course for Stadlandet and found visibility was terrific. Saw Norwegian coast 150 miles away, wind turned out to be 60 mph at 60 degrees not the 45 mph at 230 degrees given at briefing. Took 2 hours 15 minutes to get there instead of 1 hour 45 minutes. Took photos of Trondheim but saw I had forgotten the wind strength and was drifted right off. So carried on with Vaernes airfield, the Tirpitz, Scheer and Eugen and as they started firing and I was worried about the drift took obliques of them and of Trondheim. Also Orkundal and Halsa Fjords, Orlandet airfield, Kristiansund and Aalesund, plus a convoy. Returned in fairly good weather to Wick making landfall at the Orkneys for a total duration of 4 hours 50 minutes.”
The loss of AFP Fane - 18th July 1942
After leaving Wick in April 1942 Fane would carry on from Oxfordshire, flying another six missions across France, Holland, Germany and Denmark. Sadly his luck ran out on 18th July 1942.
On this day, his 25th mission, he had been tasked to fly a low-level sortie to photograph the U-boat yards at Flensburg. Taking off from Benson at 12:55 it is not certain if he completed his mission, but bad weather forced him to land at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk. He then decided to fly back to Benson, even though the cloud base was extremely low.
Reports at the time show that at around 15:55 Fane was following the railway line South from Cambridge, and with worsening weather, he appeared to try and locate RAF Duxford, which he would have known to be close by. With cloud virtually down to the ground, he lowered the landing gear and prepared to land in a field, should RAF Duxford not miraculously appear outside. In making a slight turn, Fane’s wingtip caught a hedge in a field next to the railway line, cartwheeling his Spitfire into the ground south of Stapleford. Fane was thrown clear, but was killed instantly.
A year following his death, a memoriam notice in The Times newspaper described Fane as “happy, carefree, fearless”. With hindsight, whilst his fearlessness not only led to his success, both in motorsport and in his flying career, it may well have also contributed to his death.
How to support Fane's memorial:
Whilst we are receiving considerable support from various companies to produce the monument itself, there are some considerable legal fees required to complete the agreed contracts with the land owners and their agents. This is an ongoing process and we are looking to raise £4500 to cover as much of these expenses as possible.
The memorial fundraising project for AFP Fane is part of the larger project to establish a permanent National Memorial to the RAF unarmed Photographic Reconnaissance Units. Click here for more details.