The Freckleton Air Disaster
At 10.30am on the morning of Wednesday August 23rd, 1944 a USAF B-24 Liberator was cleared for take-off from Warton’s Base Air Depot 2 (BAD 2).
Less than five minutes after the B-24 left Warton a telephone call reached the base from BAD 1, Burtonwood, warning of a violent storm approaching the Preston area and immediately an order was issued recalling the aircraft to Warton.
By the time the B-24 arrived back over Warton, the violent storm was at its height. The sky turned an ominous black, and the whole district was plunged into darkness even though it was a midsummer’s day.
As the plane reached Freckleton it was hit by a bolt of lightning and the B-24’s fate was sealed; already flying low to the ground with it’s wings now near vertical, the 25-ton bomber partly demolished three houses and the “The Sad Sack” Snack Bar. Part of the plane destroyed the infants wing of Freckleton Holy Trinity School and the whole area erupted into a sea of flames as the fuel from the ruptured tanks ignited. Fires fed by the plane’s fuel burned long after the crash.
The majority of the child victims along with Miss Jenny Hall, a teacher who had arrived at the Freckleton School only the day before the accident, as well as a number of civilians killed in “The Sad Sack” Snack Bar, were buried in a communal grave in the village’s Holy Trinity Churchyard.
The three U.S. aircrew killed in the B-24 were buried in a U.S. Cemetery in the South of England. 38 children and 2 adults from Holy Trinity School lost their lives in the tragedy that day. Reproduced with permission from the “Freckleton Disaster” by Russell Brown, Lancashire Aircraft Investigation Team.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the disaster, a reunion of BAD 2 personnel from the USA was held at Warton. A service was held at the grave at Holy Trinity Church.
Click here to view BBC Inside Out about the Freckleton Air Disaster