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
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.
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
INCLUDING THREE GENERATIONS OF ONE FAMILY
WERE KILLED. SIX HOUSES WERE WRECKED BY THE CRASH,
OR GUTTED IN THE TERRIFIC FIRE WHICH AT ONCE
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
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
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).
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
I was sitting indoors about 7.15 p.m. when I
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.
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
Oldhurst road, only the pilot sustaining a
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
A plentiful supply of water was obtained from
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
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
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.
Fine work, too, was done by two mobile
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.
a soldier of his old regiment, who used to visit
her when on leave and whom she kept supplied
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
P/O Thomas Edward CASE
aged 20 from Kelvington, Saskatchewan, Canada
P/O Harry William
WELCH from Canada;
Sgt Hugh Alexander
DFM aged 26, from Albury, NSW Australia
Sgt Elias CUTHBERT
aged 30, from Donedin, Otago, New Zealand;
P/O Pierre Yves Camille
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
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.