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15 October 2014
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Heinkel III crashes in Smethwick

by WMCSVActionDesk

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Frederick John Cross
Location of story: 
18 Blackthorne Road, Smethwick
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Deena Campbell from WM CSV Actiondesk on behalf of Frederick John Cross and has been added to the site with his permission Frederick John Cross fully understands the sites terms and conditions.

On the night of April the 10th 1941 an air-raid had been in progress for a few hours. My mother and I had been sheltering in the Anderson shelter at the top of the back garden.

We lived in Blackthorne Road, Smethwick, but the air-raid that night appeared to be centred on Birmingham, apart from a few incendiary bombs locally, the noise of enemy aircraft and explosions was quite faint and distant. Then we heard the sound of aircraft engines gradually getting louder and nearer until it became obvious that it was flying very low. As well as the deep note of the bomber we were able to distinguish another engine sound, faster than the bomber; and then machine gun fire. The very next moment there was a tremendous explosion.

I was a ten year old boy, very excited and eager to get out of the shelter to see what was happening. The scene before me was unbelievable. The blackness of the night had been transformed by a brilliant golden-red light. I could not understand why the houses in front of me looked so unusual. Instead of the drab brick work and bottle-green painted doors and window frames, the houses were now illuminated by the brilliant golden light. The brickwork now shimmered a deep golden orange and the doors and windows were brown.

The houses were thankfully still standing, but as I turned to look behind me across the back gardens of the surrounding houses to the houses in Hales Lane, I saw the most amazing sight of giant flames leaping skywards, silhouetting the houses immediately across the gardens.

I couldn’t contain myself, I wanted to go to find out what had happened but my mother held me firmly and would not let go. I was dragged, protesting back into the shelter.

About half an hour later the door of my shelter was suddenly pulled open and my father, who was on duty as a fireman, looked into the shelter and asked if I was alright. He told us that their fire crew were returning for a nearby house fire when they saw an aircraft crash. He told me that it was a German bomber. He had asked special permission from his fire chief and had climbed over the garden fences to see if my mother and I were safe.

The next morning I left early for school to call for my two school mates who lived in Hales lane, and to look at the crashed German bomber. Because of my interest in aircraft recognition, I identified the crashed plane by its tall rudder with the Nazi Swastika as a Heinkel III. Most of the crew had bailed had bailed out except for the pilot who died at the controls.

Although war is terrible to a ten year old, it was also tremendously exciting. The crash was the main topic of conversation at school for weeks.

It was sixty two years later when reading an article in a Black Country magazine that I discovered that it was a Boulton and Paul Defiant piloted by Flt Lt E.C Deansley with New Zealand air-gunner, Sgt W.S Scott that was responsible for shooting down the Heinkel bomber.

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