Saturday, 14 January 2012

Glenn Miller clue found in Reading plane-spotter's log

Glenn Miller clue found in Reading plane-spotter's log

The music of Glenn Miller & his Orchestra was one of my first experiences of vintage; shortly after I started watching Laurel & Hardy and Harold Lloyd films at the age of about 9 or 10 I somehow stumbled across this Big Band sound.  Maybe I first heard it at my nan's WRVS club; if memory serves I seem to recall buying an old LP of The Glenn Miller Story soundtrack from a charity shop - my first record, I think.  As a youngster I lapped up anything to do with the man and his music until I became quite well-versed in it.  Since then my tastes have expanded to include most bands and musicians of the 1920s, '30s & '40s but Glenn Miller will always have a special meaning as my introduction to Big Band and Swing.

The fact that he mysteriously disappeared in 1944 - in an aeroplane no less, another interest of mine - simply added to the legend.  That his "sound" has endured to this day, and has become synonymous with World War Two (despite Miller's success predating the war by a few years) is a testament to the unique, instantly recognisable quality of the songs.  The Glenn Miller Orchestra still records and tours today and books, musicals and documentaries about Miller's career continue to be made.

The mystery of his disappearance over the English Channel on the 15th December 1944, in a flight from Bedford in England to Paris where he was due to join his band for a performance, has continued to puzzle Miller enthusiasts for nearly 70 years.  There have been various crackpot theories that I won't endorse with publication here, but a few years ago the account of an RAF navigator came to light that until now was widely accepted to be most likely - Miller's aircraft had strayed into the South Jettison Area, an agreed-upon place in the Channel where Allied bombers returning from abortive raids could unload their bombs safely, and had been struck by bombs jettisoned by a flight of Lancasters on their way  back from Siegen in Germany.

Glenn Miller death: teenage planespotter's logbook 'scotches conspiracy theory'

A Noorduyn UC-64 Norseman, of the type in which Glenn Miller disappeared
However, with the discovery of this latest information found in a young plane-spotter's book, that hypothesis now looks rather shaky to say the least.  There appears to be no doubt that the aircraft this young lad claimed to have seen that day was the UC-64 Norseman taking Glenn Miller to Paris.  Provided it stayed on course, it would not have gone anywhere near the South Jettison Area and so couldn't have been the aircraft seen to crash by the Lanc navigator. 

The quashing of this previously-favoured theory now means that we are once again no closer to knowing what became of Glenn Miller.  If he was travelling on course and was not struck by RAF bombs, then what did happen to cause him to disappear like that?

The last British government documents relating to such incidents during Second World War won't be declassified until 2025, eighty years after the end of the conflict.  There may be something in them that will shed some light on this enduring mystery but until then this particular enigma looks to remain unanswered.


  1. Wow, thanks so much for sharing. It is frustrating that we are no closer to knowing but I do like the mystery.
    I really like your blog by the way. :) Thanks for finding me so that I could find you.

  2. Thanks for the post. Interesting and among many many many of the stores/mystery surrounding Glenn Miller's fateful flight. Some of my favorite music is from the Big Band era. Surprisingly good and long lasting music; still survives and is played and endures today enjoyed by listeners of all ages.

  3. I have my Dad's collection of Glenn Miller records, love them!Maybe we will find out one day what happened to them all. X

  4. I saw that log book on Antiques Roadshow and thought it was a fascinating find. Its amazing how those records made by a schoolboy have just come to light and can probably conclude how Miller came to his untimely end.


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