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German Heinkel III bomber Crashes in Clacton

Discussion in 'History of Britain during World War II' started by Jim, Jan 16, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Late in the night of April 30/May 1, 1940, a German Heinkel III bomber was heard circling low over the town of Clacton-on-Sea. It had been crippled by the anti-aircraft fire and was seeking a suitable spot for landing. Apparently one of its engines had failed, and as the machine was carrying a mine the crew must have known the dangers attending a forced landing, After 35 minutes the roar of its engines ceased; and rapidly losing height, the bomber crashed close to Clacton High Street, and only about 200 yards from the sea front. For some time the blazing petrol tanks prevented anyone approaching the aeroplane. One or two people had actually come towards it when, some minutes after the crash, the mine it was carrying exploded. It was the terrific force of this explosion that caused the major disaster and the very severe damage to so many houses in this seaside town. Later the bodies of four Germans were found in and around, the wreckage.

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    An engine of the Heinkel which crashed at Clacton on April 30 came to rest up against a house (circle). Neighbouring houses (above right) also received serious damage.

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    It may seem surprising that a bomber carrying a mine exploding just outside a house (above) should not raze the house to the ground. But three houses were obliterated, and the damage was so widespread that another fifty houses were damaged. The explosion blew a deep crater in the ground several yards in diameter.' Although about 156 people were hurt, fortunately only six, including the four Germans in the plane were killed. The local A.R.P. personnel dealt with the casualties coolly and quickly while the A.F.S. got the fire under control in an hour. Tragic and terrifying as the circumstances were, the calamity demonstrated in a practical way the efficiency of the local A.R.P.

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    Taken from a report on 10th May 1940 in the War Illustrated ..
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Newspaper report a number of days after the crash ..

    When a German mine-laying plane crashed at Clacton on May 1, the explosion caused great damage for half a mile. Thanks to the admirable, working of the local A.R.P services, fires were got under control and the wounded received expeditious treatment. Here are some stories of the scene by eye-witnesses in the neighbourhood.

    Mrs E. F Thomas saw the plane crash. She said:
    "The, plane was on fire. Several Very lights were thrown out of it, and, the pilot was apparently trying to find some place to land. Fifty yards up Victoria Road the plane hit the road, bounced through the side of a house, and then went clean through two other houses, smashing them to pieces. A few minutes later there was an explosion. By now I had run out into the road; and I suddenly heard a man saying, "Stay ,where you are," and I realised that I was lying on the ground, unhurt but shaken by the explosion."

    Miss Joyce Redding, of Russell Road, said: "I saw the plane come over the pier, bank round the back of a nursing home, just missing it, and then bounce off the roof of a house. When we heard it crash and saw the flames my father and I rushed out to see if we could help. We were within twenty yards when the explosion came it knocked us flat and deafened us, but although houses all round us cracked and tilted and roofs fell in and slid off, we were not hurt. We then ran back home and found my mother badly cut by glass on the face and arms. One extraordinary thing was that, although every window was shattered and black-out materials were torn down, the electricity was not cut off and the district was a blaze of light. When half an hour afterwards an unknown plane flew overhead wardens hurried round shouting lights out."

    A practical example of what would happen if the Germans deliberately bombed our towns was given when the mine carrying twin Diesel engined Junkers JU 86K plane crashed at Clacton on May 1. Here soldiers are examining wreckage in what were once the gardens of the devastated houses.

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    Mr Ernest J Harper, of Connaught Gardens West, a friend of Mr and Mrs. Gill, who were killed, said that Mr Gill was a retired wool merchant and a native of Yorkshire. Mrs Gill was an Australian.

    "Their son William, who is nineteen," said Mr. Harper,
    "is in hospital with a gash across the back of his head. He does not yet know that his parents are dead."

    Mr Harper's 17 year-old son Kenneth, a friend of William Gill, said:
    "I saw the plane, which had been careering round the district for about half an hour, hit a house. One wing of it was left in the garden of that house, and it went over to the Gills house, knocking down a tree and coming to a standstill. I ran up to within about thirty-five yards of it when I heard a terrific explosion. The next thing I knew was debris flying all about me, and i put my arms around my head and ran. I had a very narrow escape. Bricks were flying all around. Bill Gill apparently got his father into the garden and went back for his mother, but the house had collapsed before he could get her out. I suppose he found his mother was trapped and he ran to get other help. Then, while he was out, the house collapsed entirely. When he reached us, young Gill was without shoes, and his shirt was just about blown off him."

    For some time after the disaster at Clacton A.R.P workers were kept busy pulling down unsafe walls and partly demolished houses. This house was so obviously, on the verge of collapse that demolition had to be carried out with the utmost caution.

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    One house within a few yards of where the bomber crashed had miraculously escaped the fate of the houses on the other side of the bomber.

    Its roof had been torn, windows and doors blown out, the furniture wrecked but the occupants were unhurt. Mr Powis, who is staying in the house, with his son and daughter-in-law, said:
    "We saw flames from the bomber, which actually burned windows at the side of the house, and we ran out into the street. Just as I got to the garden gate, there was one terrific explosion. The house on the other side of where the bomber crashed collapsed like a pack of cards, but the outhouse, to my amazement, still stood. For nearly a minute wreckage of all sorts flew through the air, and I was struck by bricks and slates, but luckily not hurt. Within a few minutes those who were not seriously hurt had run out to do what they could to help."

    Women and children placed flowers on the graves of the four German airmen who died in the Clacton disaster, when they were buried with full military honours.

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    Brig-Gen. W. M Fordham, deputy chief A.R.P warden of Clacton, who lives in the road in which the bomber crashed, said he and his neighbours rushed to the rescue. "There was no panic," he said. "The injured people were quickly attended to and hurried to hospital. The A.R.P personnel showed that they have been well trained. They were quick, and yet as cool and efficient as if they were on one of our usual exercises." Gen. Fordham added that the fire brigade and A.F.S also did remarkably well. "This terrible crash," he said, "has provided the biggest test to which any town's A.R.P service could expect to be put. I am proud of the way our fellows stood up to it."
     
  3. mtd001

    mtd001 New Member

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    More infomation

    Thanks for posting those photographs, there are one or two I have not seen before. I have arrived and joined here when searching for more information on the Heinkel crash, the reason being because of a family connection.

    At the time of the crash my late mother, her brother and her parents lived around the corner of the crash site in Holland Road - about 400 yards away.

    My grandfather was one of the local ARP wardens, he heard the plane coming in and rushed to the site as it crashed so he was there when one of the mines exploded. This left him totally deaf for a coupld of months, and though he regained his hearing it was never the same again for the rest of his life.

    There is a well know story that one of the unexploded mines was thought by those first on the scene to be the hot water cylinder from the destroyed house. My late uncle (who later joined the RAF and became a pilot but was killed on a training flight) sat astride it, and was soon warned and moved aside!
     
  4. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Hello mtd,

    Thanks for your reply, it is always good to hear more news regarding stories from WWII, especially when it is closely related. :thumb:
     
  5. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    This clip found on youtube shows the devastation caused by the crash.

    [YOUTUBE]Kz34ZrHIWGM[/YOUTUBE]​
     
  6. JulieKaye

    JulieKaye New Member

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    Newspaper reference

    Thank you for posting the article and news information. Do you happen to know the name of the newspaper that Ernest and Kenneth were quoted? I wanted to get a copy for my geneology records, because they are my grandfather and great grandfather that I didn't meet. Thank you.

     
  7. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Hello Julie, the quote was taken for here from "The War Illustrated" a monthly magazine in print thru the war years. Hope this help ...
     

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