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.
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:
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.
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.
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??