Nine men on board all killed. If he had crashed anywhere short of that storage yard he would’ve hit houses, and I hate to think how many people would’ve died.
Airmen, ground crew and civilians alike were constantly faced with the treacherous reality of the air war. The challenges caused by working with heavy equipment, aircraft and explosives in poor weather conditions and within close proximity to populated areas proved deadly for many servicemen and put local civilian populations at high risk.
Ground crews too fought constant exhaustion and bitter cold working tirelessly to keep thousands of bombers and fighters airborne until the end of the war in 1945. Witnesses tell of constant crashes, exploding bombs, and a multitude of other dangers present on both active airfields, and in the skies above East Anglia.
There were many dangers across East Anglia for the American fliers and the local civilians. Mike Bailey recounts the tragic crash of the B-24 Liberator Lady Jane after it collided with the tower of St. Philips church in Norwich:
“…It was a very dark, murky day, low cloud, drizzle. In any Bomb Group there’ll be certain crews far less experienced than the others and, of course, the same applied to Horsham St Faith. There was quite a few crews that didn’t have much instrument time, in that they weren’t used to flying on instruments. The operation officers of the squadrons they decided, as there’s no mission we’ll get some of less experienced crews up on a bit of formation flying. The weather clamped down worse than they expected it to, then they recalled most of the aircraft and it was a bit of a job landing them. But one particular aircraft, Lt. Dooley’s aircraft, landed too far down the runway and couldn’t stop, so he opened the engines up to go round again.
I’d just come home from school and I could hear aircraft engines, you lived with it all the time, but you always knew when a plane was in trouble. I could hear these engines over-revving, they were making one heck of a din. I remember running outside into the back garden and I was just in time to see this Liberator diving behind the buildings. Next thing, I remember feeling the ground shake and then the explosion, a great ball of flame going into the sky.
He’d tried to get into the airfield again and he’d circled around the city, he’d passed over Mill Hill Road in a turn, was levelling off from this turn over Heigham Road when his right wing tip hit the church tower. He had no control over the aeroplane whatsoever, carried on about a third of a mile I guess, over the Old Place Road area, over the Heigham Street, over Barker Street, and crashed into the Norwich Co-operation storage depot and, of course, exploded. Nine men on board all killed. If he’d had crashed anywhere short of that storage yard he would’ve hit houses, and I hate to think how many people would’ve died….
…I remember running down the road, there was lots of school lads running down the road with me, we ran up Barker Street and I remember there was a big wooden gate across which led into the storage yard. All these flames were billowing up, and I remember pulling myself up to look and I just got my face above the wall but I could only stand it for about half a second because a wall of heat hit me. It was only about 30 yards the other side of the wall, a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Lots of people in this area still remember it and it’s still talked about to this day. There was crashes all the time (but) it was the only one within the actual city, others were on the outskirts nearer the airfield.”