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by Wymondham Learning Centre

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Archive List > United Kingdom > Norfolk

Contributed by 
Wymondham Learning Centre
People in story: 
Alec James
Location of story: 
Bunwell, Norfolk
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 May 2005

(Left)Alec James, presenting cartridges from the crashed plane to Colonel Harry Everett Thomas Jnr in 1995

This story was submitted to the BBC People’s War site by Wymondham Learning Centre on behalf of the author who fully understand the site's terms and conditions.

I can remember very clearly a misty day in February 1944. There was not a breath of wind and I was helping my dad cut the hedge. Wood from this job was going to be used for winter fuel. It was eerily quiet and one could only see a very short distance. Suddenly we could hear an aeroplane. This was not unusual since planes regularly returned to the airfields at this time. However, this plane seemed very low and suddenly we were aware of a B24 Liberator plane skimming an adjoining hedgerow and crashing.

My father insisted we did not go near the aeroplane since he was concerned there could be fuel aboard and this could result in an explosion. We later heard that the plane should have been returning to its base at Wendling, Dereham, but had run out of fuel and was making for Tibbenham Air Field.

The farmer who lived nearest to the crash, Harry Rush, rushed out and realised airmen were still trapped in the plane. As there was no fuel there was no fire. Harry Rush got a tractor and pulled sections of the damaged plane away and cut the plane by using an axe. This allowed the trapped airmen to escape. One of these airmen was the navigator, Col. Harry Everett Thomas Jr. Fortunately all the men survived the crash but three were injured.

A sentry was positioned to guard the plane, I think he must have got very bored standing there because after school I used to go and play on it and take many of my friends from Bunwell School with me and the sentry always seemed very pleased to see me. We took many cartridges away from the plane.

The navigator on this plane, Col. Harry Everett Thomas Jr. returned from the USA in 1995 to visit the crash scene. I was lucky enough to be asked to meet him and I gave him cartridges from the crashed plane, he was also presented with the axe that Harry Rush had used to cut him free. He told us he was taken prisoner five months after the crash when he parachuted out of his aircraft near the Polish border. Someone went for him with a pitchfork and he told them to go easy as the war was over.

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