- Contributed by
- BBC Open Centre, Lancashire
- People in story:
- George Fisher
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 01 September 2004
In recent months, there has been mention of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, June 1994.
D-Day 1944 I remember well. On that day I was a youg RAF aircrew navigator at home, on leave in Reading, having recently completed my training in Canada. Looking up at the air armada of aircraft and gliders flying overhead, I said to myself: "George, you have missed the war!" Thankfully, I was not called upon to drop a bomb or fire a bullet in anger in WW2. A year later on 6 June 1945, I was posted to a radar counter measures squadron in Bomber Command.
But things could have been so different.
On the 23 August 1944, I was part of No 7 ARC on attachment to No 22 Aircrew Holding Unit, RAF Kirkham. I was billeted in the domestic site (now long demolished) on the opposite side of the road to the main camp (now an open prison).
It was a Wednesday and what promised to be a bright sunny morning suddenly vanished as the sky went grey and a very ferocious thunrderstorm struck. The rain was so heavy that it was impossible to see across the road.
Anyone who was stationed at RAF Kirkham at the time will no doubt recall that the food served up was not particularly special. A sergeant pilot in what was to be his last letter home, wrote: "There is a little cafe near here which sells lovely breakfasts. I often stay in bed and miss breakfast then get up and scrounge off after parade and go there."
Not only breakfasts, but from experience, one could get a nice cup of tea too. Rather than go to the NAAFI hut on camp for our morning tea break, several of us would hasten down to Mr and Mrs Withers "Sad Sack" cafe in Freckleton Village for our cuppa.
On the morning of 23 August 1944, because I detested getting wet, I did not join four of my comrades at the cafe, but stayed on camp. I cam recall that as I made my way to the NAAFI in the gathering storm, there was a break in the clouds. In that brief moment, I saw a B-24 Liberator aircraft before it disappeared into the clouds. At that time, I was not aware that in fact there were two B-24s flying overhead in the storm, not having long before taken off from nearby Base Air Depot 2 to undertake air tests.
Not long after the sighting, one of the pilots, whilst approaching the base after a recall message, got into difficulties and as a result the aircraft crashed into the middle of the village with devastating results.
The Sad Sack Cafe was one of the buildings which caught the full impact. The owners, Mr and Mrs Withers, daughter and four civilians were killed, seven USAAF personnel were killed. Two RAF sergeants aircrew, one a pilot, were killed. Five RAF aircrew died of injuries and five RAF personnel were rescued with very serious injuries.
That night in my hut on the domestic site at RAF Kirkham, two empty beds in the corner.
I attended the memorial service held at BAD2, volunteered to accompany the deceased on their journey home.
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