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A Halifax Crash in Bomber County

by Horncastle College, Lincs

Contributed by 
Horncastle College, Lincs
People in story: 
Terry Smith
Location of story: 
Friskney,Lincs
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A3263744
Contributed on: 
12 November 2004

SEVERS FARM - YAWLINGATE - FRISKNEY, Sunday morning 4th March 1945.

In 1945 a series of events took place which resulted in a tragic loss of life and the loss of a dear 15 year old friend.
On the night of 3-4th March 1945 Halifax Mark111 bomber, No.NR250 HD/N from 466 Squadron R.A.A.F, belonging to 4 Group flew from its base at Driffield in Yorkshire to Karmen in Germany to attack oil installations.
Take off time 18.43 hours. The 2000th night of the war.
The crew consisted of :
PILOT - P/O A.E. SCHRANK
FLT/ENG.- SGT. J.W. HODGSON
NAV. - FLT/SGT. J.W. TOBIN
AIR/BOM. -FLT/SGT. J.A. TODD
W/O - FLT/SGT. N.A. HADLINGTON
M/U GUN - SGT. P. STEWART
R/GUNN - SGT. J.W. KERNAGHAN
The raid was successfully carried out but on their return German night fighter Intruders, in operation Gisela, attacked a number of returning aircraft as they were landing at their home bases.
Around 00.40 hours, unaware that there was any danger, the crew of NR250 were concentrating on landing at their Driffield base.
Flight Sargeant Hadlington, the wireless operator, had just received a coded message when the Halifax was attacked. He did not have time to decode the transmission (which would have read, 'Bandits') before tracers were seen flashing past the fuselage. Immediately all the airfield lights were switched off and Pilot Officer Schrank was forced to abandon his landing switching off his lights as he did so .
The rear gunner, Flight Sergeant Kernaghan, had been dazzled by the glare of the tail light and had failed to see either the attacking aircraft or the tracer. As Schrank began to climb, there was time to take stock of the damage which had been inflicted on the Halifax. The rear fuselage had been badly damaged and several holes blown in its floor and sides; the hydraulics had been hit and the undercarriage dropped down, the compass, H2S and radio equipment had all failed.
The only casualty was Sergeant Stewart, the mid-upper gunner, who had been injured in the leg by cannon shell splinters. But most seriously a fire had been started in the rear fuselage. Flight Sergeant Tobin, the navigator, went with the flight engineer to tackle the blaze and found the rear gunner already there, The engine covers, which were carried should the aircraft land away from base , had caught fire and were burning fiercely. All seven fire extinguishers were used but to no great effect and the rear exit door had been buckled by the heat of the fire which prevented it from opening.
Finally Tobin used a fire axe to drag the covers to one of the holes blown into the floor by the cannon shells and pushed them out. The fuselage itself was now well alight however and all the extinguishers were empty. Three minutes after the first attack the fighter approached again but was spotted. Schrank threw his machine into a dive to starboard and escaped once more. By now there was an estimated ten minutes of fuel remaining and with full power, the Halifax was taken up to 6,000 feet where the crew baled out. All seven landed safely north of Waddington Airfield with little incident. Tobin landed in a five feet deep lake and waded ashore, whilst Haddlington landed in a paddock with three bulls but escaped unscathed.
Before Schrank had baled out he put in 'George' the auto pilot and headed the Halifax east to the coast. The aircraft flew on unmanned and eventually crashed at Friskney where it demolished a farm house at Yawlingate, 1/2 mile S.E. of the church.
The report in the local press read as follows:
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER KILLED
Tragedy came to the village of Friskney in the early hours of Sunday, when an aeroplane crashed on a cottage, situated in a field, and reduced it to rubble. The roof was carried several yards away.
The cottage was occupied at the time by George Henry Severs, aged 72, his wife, Mehetabel Severs, aged 50 and their daughter Ruth Mary, aged 15.
They were asleep at the time of the crash and both mother and daughter were discovered to have lost their lives.
The husband however although injured was alive and was conveyed to hospital. A cow and calf in a nearby barn escaped injury but a cat was found dead not many yards away.
Mr. Severs is a smallholder and the young daughter a pupil at Skegness Grammar School, where she was very popular and had made many friends.
INQUEST IN INSTITUTE
The inquest was opened by Mr. W.C. Howard, the district Coroner, at Friskney Women's Institute on Monday afternoon.
John Eric Severs, aged 23, a wheelwright and carpenter, said he lived in another part of the county. He had visited his parents' home in the church end of the village from December 23rd to 27th, and at that time both they and his sister were in good health. He had since received letters from them. On Sunday evening last he was informed by the police of what had occurred and proceeded home. He added; " Upon arrival I found the house had been completely demolished by an aeroplane. I later visited the inn with the police and was shown two bodies which I identified as my mother and sister."
Dr.Thomas Robert Wilson said in consequence of a communication made to him, he visited the inn and examined the bodies of the deceased, whom he knew.
The mother had received severe burns on the face, chest and lower limbs to the third degree and death was due, in his opinion, to those extensive burns. The daughter had burns on the lower part of the body and a fractured right femur. In his opinion the injuries and burns had caused death,
Insp. Milbourn made an application that the inquest should be adjourned sine die for further enquiries to be made. The inquest was adjourned as requested.
Mr & Mrs. Severs were stalwarts of a close knit wartime village community. Mrs. Severs was intensely involved in running the Village Hall and a member of the Womens Institute which in every war weary community was the hub of village life.
Ruth was a popular young girl making her mark at the Grammar School travelling to Skegness on the bus. It is ironic that on the Saturday night she had been asked to stay the night at a friend's house in Skegness instead of catching the last bus home.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - halifax crashes in bomber county by terry smith

Posted on: 04 July 2005 by davguth

I was a Flight Engineer in one of the few planes which landed safely before the intruders attacked and spent nearly 2 hours in a slit trench near our dispersal site and witnessed the attack on this aircraft.
Unfortunately the 7 crew members did not all escape from the plane as stated in this story.
The pilot and wireless/operator were riddled with cannon shells and were still in their seats when the plane crashed. The Flight Engineer sadly jumped out but his parachute did not open as the plane was too low by then and he plummeted to the ground and was dead when they found him.The other 4 crew members survived and I met them when they returned to our squadron as they shared our billet.

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