The crash of X3811 into the village of Somersham

Memorial erected by Somersham Village

On the 5th of October 1942,  the target was Aachen. 257 aircraft - 101 Wellingtons, 74 Lancasters, 59 Halifaxes, 23 Stirlings were involved. 10 - aircraft  - 5 Halifaxes, 2 Stirlings, 2 Wellingtons, 1 Lancaster lost - 3.9 per cent of the force.

 6 aircraft from 156 Squadron took off  from Warboys.

Two  were subsequently lost on return. These losses were due to extreme icing conditions.

 

In Autumn 1942 a bomber returning from a raid over Germany crashed in the village  whilst returning to Warboys airbase. The plane ploughed into a number of houses at the site where Carpenters Court on the High Street stands now and a plaque has been placed on the wall to mark the event and remember the dead.

 


 

Huntingdonshire Post                            8th October 1942

PLANE CRASHES IN VILLAGE STREET

10 KILLED AT SOMERSHAM:


5 WIDOWS AND A BABY

VICTIMS TRAPPED IN BLAZING COTTAGES

WHEN A BRITISH AIRCRAFT, FROM WHICH THE CREW HAD BALED OUT A FEW MINUTES BEFORE, CRASHED INTO THE MAIN STREET OF SOMERSHAM ON MONDAY NIGHT,   TEN PEOPLE  INCLUDING THREE GENERATIONS OF ONE FAMILY WERE KILLED. SIX HOUSES WERE WRECKED BY THE CRASH, OR GUTTED IN THE TERRIFIC FIRE WHICH AT ONCE BROKE OUT.

   Heroic work was done by firemen, Home Guards, Civil Defence workers, soldiers, and airmen, but it was not until after daylight on Tuesday that six of the bodies  burned beyond recognition were recovered from under the masses of smouldering debris. Two of the seriously injured died later in Huntingdon County Hospital, and the other bodies were not located until 2.45 p.m.

   The victims of the disaster, which turned the peaceful village street into a scene of devastation reminiscent of the worst blitzes, were:

Mrs. Violet Moule  63,

Mrs. Vera Cattenack 23,  her daughter, and

Pauline Cattenack, 1 year, her grand-daughter;

Frank Lamb 44, labourer and

Mrs. Alice Lamb, 70 his mother;

Mrs. Elsie May Taylor, 49 and her mother,

Mrs. Annie Holdich 74,

Mrs. Elizabeth Richardson  67, an evacuee from Norwich,

Mrs. Eliza Nightingale  68,  and

Ena Stroud 15.

   The two last named died in Huntingdon County Hospital. The bodies of the remainder were dug out of the wreckage, those of Mrs. Cattenack and Mrs. Richardson not being recovered until 2.45 p.m. on Tuesdav. Mrs. Lamb, Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Holdich, Mrs. Richardson, Mrs Moule were all widows.

   Mr. and Mrs. John Nightingale, their married daughter, Mrs. Eliza Davies, and the latters baby, Juliana, were all taken to hospital, where Mrs. Nightingale later succumbed. Mrs. Davies and her daughter have serious burns; Mr. Nightingales are not severe.

   Others rather badly hurt include Mr. S. Turner, who lodged with Mrs. Moule, and Mr. Robert Brown (burned), and Miss Johnson, of Chapel Field (head injury).

FATHER'S  ESCAPE.

    Miss Stroud, who recently left school, lived with her parents, who were away moving furniture to a new house when the plane crashed.

 What happened, in those few minutes which brought death and destruction to the village, is best told in the words of Special Sgt. E. C. Norman, who said to the Post: I was sitting indoors about 7.15 p.m. when I heard a plane revving overhead in a rather peculiar way.

   I went outside and saw two planes flying around, with a sort of halo round them. I took them to be on fire.

  Shortly afterwards I saw a plane flying at a great speed in a southerly direction, in. a fairly shallow power dive. It came lower and lower and crashed into the houses in West End, which at once went up in a mass of flames.

  The cottages upon which the plane fell adjoined the White Lion public house, and several of them were thatched.

  The aircraft,  in crashing,  took the roof off a house in  Rectory Lane occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Len Ruff (who were downstairs at the time and escaped injury), went clean through the cottages on the White Lion side of the street, and ended up among the cottages on the opposite side of the road.

  A remarkable escape was that of Miss Wakelin, who is about 80 years of age and with whom Mrs. Richardson (whose home at Norwich had been bombed) resided. Miss Wakelin was rescued almost unhurt from her blazing house.

CREW  UNHURT.

   Nothing but a few pieces of twisted metal remained of the air­craft on Tuesday morning. The crew had baled out and landed safely on the Bluntisham Oldhurst road, only the pilot sustaining a twisted ankle.

  The blaze, which was visible for miles, was fought by N.F.S. formations from Somersham (under Capt. Brown), St. Ives and Huntingdon, who were later relieved by crews from other parts of  E  Division. A plentiful supply of water was obtained from the hydrants.

   Column Officer Williams of Ely, told our reporter that the local firemen made a splendid job of it and deserved high praise.

   Members of the Somersham platoon of the Home Guard set to work, soon after the crash, in lending whatever assistance was needed, and they, together with other soldiers and airmen, did heroic work throughout the night and next day.

   Lieut.Col. E. W. Wilson, D.S.O. (Commanding the 2nd Hunts. Battn. of the Home Guard) stated: I am very gratified to know that my men did such fine work.

  The St. Ives Rescue Party (under Mr. G. G. Yeandle, Borough Surveyor), was first on the scene, and later they had the aid of the county heavy rescue party (under Mr. Christie). On Tuesday morning these were relieved by the Ramsey party (under Mr. V. J. Bateman)  and the  Huntingdon party  (Mr. E. J. Saunders). All the rescue workers toiled valiantly and there was universal praise for their efforts.

HOT  DRINKS.

   Fine work, too, was done by two mobile canteens one from Huntingdon and one from Chatteris. They served hot drinks, soup and sandwiches throughout the night.

   Mrs. Taylor, one of the victims, lost her husband (who was an officer) in the last war. She had adopted a soldier of his old regiment, who used to visit her when on leave and whom she kept supplied with comforts.

   Among those who visited the scene of the disaster were Dr. S. J. Peters, M.P., the County Surveyor (Mr. T. H. Longstaff) and Mr. D. J. Tansley (Clerk to St. Ives R.D.C).

 

The crew of Wellington X3811:

P/O Thomas Edward CASE aged 20 from Kelvington, Saskatchewan, Canada
P/O Harry William WELCH from Canada;
Sgt Hugh Alexander McLENNAN DFM aged 26, from Albury, NSW Australia
Sgt Elias CUTHBERT aged 30, from Donedin, Otago, New Zealand;
P/O Pierre Yves Camille TREMBLAY aged 29, from Canada?      * Until recently recorded as A Y C on Runnymede Memorial. Since corrected at my request by CWGC.
 

This entire crew, plus two new members necessary for the Lancaster type, were lost on their next mission to Wilhelmshaven on the 19/2/1943. 

This was their first mission in a Lancaster aircraft, serial  ED485.

The time between the Somersham crash (5/10/42) and the Wilhelmshaven loss (19/2/43) was obviously spent on leave and /or cross training to the Lancaster aircraft.

F/Sgt Case was promoted to F/O some four months after his death, but was never awarded any decoration, even though he had completed  40 Pathfinder Missions over some of the most dangerous targets in Germany.  Somewhat unusual I think.

 

 

The inspiration for  this article,  and the photographs, were supplied by Trevor Sherwood., from Somersham.

The Newspaper report was shamelessly stolen from  http://www.somersham.info/items/show/171  I hope they forgive me?