Dick’s Story: Lassie Come Home.

You may have read the last blog entry about a tragic accident that happened on the estate towards the end of the Second World War. A Consolidated B-24 Liberator of the USAAF crashed on its final approach to the Horsham St Faith Airbase killing 8 of its 9 crew, two young children and changing the lives of their friends and family forever. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend that you do so first before reading this entry and that blog entry can be found by clicking this link.

After sharing the story on Social Media I was rather taken aback by the positive response it received and it has probably been the most-read (and commented) post of this blog so far.

One of the many people who commented on Social Media was a ‘Dick Kemp’. Dick (Richard) Kemp was the young lad whose garden the plane came down onto and it was his sister and cousin who were killed along with the American Airmen. Shortly after commenting on the post Dick sent me an email asking if I’d forward him the story so that he could share it with his extended family. Of course I obliged and emailed it over. It was another one of those fantastic moments where somebody who I’ve been researching or photographing the history of has appeared to me in person, just like when David Jackson appeared at one of my exhibitions a few years ago. Whilst I had this fine Gentleman’s attention I thought I’d chance my arm and ask him if he’d mind sharing his thoughts and memories on the incident.Aircraft_DiehlWreck_LassieComeHome_FOLD3

Luckily, for me (and you lot out there reading this) Dick was more than happy to tell his side of the story (and a bit more) and it’s a fascinating insight to life on the Estate during the War from the perspective of a Mile Cross child. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did:

A War Baby remembers!
Those of us born during World War Two had no knowledge of what life was like in peacetime, so when it was dusk it was normal to close the blackout blinds or curtains to stop the enemy planes from seeing our lights shining out through the window panes that had been crisscrossed with tape to stop the shattered glass fragments flying into the room when the blast from a nearby bomb hit them.
Few people owned cars and those who did couldn’t use them because petrol was strictly rationed so it was bikes or buses. Of course food was strictly rationed as well and we had never seen a banana ,orange or grapes.
Then there were the air raid alarms, when they wailed and whined we were dragged out of bed, the planes usually came at night in darkness. My Dad and Mum would wrap us in blankets and carry us down the stairs to the shelter. One night my half asleep Dad dropped me and broke my nose. The Anderson shelter was made of corrugated iron and half buried in the garden, with a narrow entrance covered with a blanket. Inside was a narrow bunk for us 4 kids and a bench for our parents. It was cold and damp and lit by a candle.
When the siren stopped we waited
Was it a false alarm or were they coming. Some times they flew over Norwich to bomb Coventry or the Midlands and if they couldn’t find their targets they would dump their bombs on Norwich on their way back home. So we waited for the sound of the planes, some times we would here the boom of bombs in the distance and secretly think that’s good, they can’t drop those ones on us. I think there nearest bombs to fall near Spynke Road where we lived were around Bignold Road because I could see the shattered houses there on my way to the Norman Infant School.
Of course we saw a lot of bomb damage if we took the bus in to the City centre, there were masses of craters with a giant hole were Debenhams now is and all the buildings across from the Bell Hotel had been blasted.
 My Dad would wait until he heard the planes on their way back to Germany, then he would go back to our house to make cocoa while we  called out ” Come back,Dad, come back to the shelter”, scared he would get killed out of the shelter.
So Spynke Rd escaped any damage, although the V2 rocket that landed in Boundary Woods blew out some Windows. We were all sitting listen to the wireless when the was an enormous bang that shook the house and shook the Windows, Dad shouted “Lay on the floor”, we waited for more but that was it. Until the next day when Beryl who was 12 came home dragging a 6 foot length of V2 rocket, it was aluminium so she could!
The hole the rocket made in Boundary Woods was so deep and big we use to go sledging down it when there was snow which was every winter.
We lived in Spynke Road because Dad was offered the house as an inducement to leave his employers in Suffolk, Richard Garrets of Leiston, who had made the steam engine powered dustcarts that Norwich Corporation had purchased, to move to Norwich to maintain them. Dad was appointed foreman of the Dustcart Maintenance Department in Fishergate. Spynke Road was a rather “well to do” area with Councillor Cutbush, who was Lord Mayor twice I think lived at No.4.
Dad was on duty as a Firewatchman at Fishergate on the Sunday it all happened.
It was January 1945, the war was nearly over with Allied troops approaching Germany but for my family the war was just about to start! We went to afternoon Sunday school regularly but we’d been to a friends party on Saturday and Mary, my twin, had been sick in the night so this was a good excuse to miss Sunday school. My cousin Brian Jones, who lived in Marshall road came to play with us. The Jones family had lived in Newmarket but had been bombed out there, his sister losing her arm and his mother peppered with shrapnel so they came back to Norwich.
It was a bright afternoon and my two older sisters, Beryl and Margaret were playing with us in the back garden. We heard a loud engine noise which got louder when suddenly a huge silver wall with small black holes appeared between the gap in the houses between No12 and No14. It looked just like the back wall of the Capitol cinema where I been twice, the black holes reminding me of where the films were projected.
Our older sisters ran back to the house, toward it. Its wing hit the roof and bedrooms of No12 and we ran away from it, to where the plane hit the ground. Mary and Brian were killed along with all but one of the crew.
I was blown clear and woke up several gardens away with a damaged face and leg, still got the scars. If I shut my eyes I can still see the string of machine gun bullets hanging off a fence wire just in front of me. I remember being carried past the wreckage, the engines standing on end on fire, I thought they were dustbins, up to our kitchen door but then to my surprise through the house and out to a khaki camouflaged ambulance.
When I got out of the Jenny Lind Children’s hospital and came home I was sleeping downstairs and for weeks looking out of the Windows could see the oval tail plane of the Liberator with its stripe. Sad to say many people came through the open doors of our house, to help ,to carry out the dead, put out the fires and to steal the few valuable things that my parents kept upstairs.
The G I s at Horsham St Faiths air base, upset that they’d lost their mates and distressed at what had happened to a local family, sort of adopted us and would bring us candy (Non-existent in the UK then) strange fruit, bananas, oranges and clearly, as young guys missing a family contact, became good friends. We kept in touch over many years when they went back home.
Looking back from a distance of 72 years I’m amazed how people coped and just got on with it. I wonder how they would survive now??
And there you have it, what a wonderful and tragic insight into the events that unfolded on that unfortunate January afternoon in Mile Cross, seven decades ago.
Many thanks to Dick for writing all of those memories down for us, it must be a heavy thing to have lived with for all those years and for the younger generations we can only try and imagine how it must have been living under the cloud of war. Hopefully, it’s something that as a Nation we’ll never have to suffer again. Stories like this really help to convey the hardships and the heartache of it all, even if it is only just scratching at the surface. Dick did say to me that he was relieved to unload those memories and he’s glad that he wrote them down for us.
So thanks again to Dick Kemp and thanks to you lot for reading this blog,
Stu

 

5 thoughts on “Dick’s Story: Lassie Come Home.

  1. Wow I lived on Bolingbroke road from the late sixties to the early nineties and I knew of the advents of ww2 but thanks for the blog very interesting

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If anybody is interested I am a member of Newfarm Aviation Heritage Group we have a Museum at no 10 Buxton Road Frettenham we are Aviation Archaeologists we have open Days there are story’s picktures and pieces of aircraft There is othe interesting Aviation pieces We will be Opening in April 8 May13 June10 Craft & model Day July8. Aug 12. Sept9 Oct 14 Nov. 11. Dec9 Open Days are all. FREE Hot Cold Refreshments and Cake etc Large carpark wheel chair acsses

    Liked by 1 person

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