- Contributed by
- Leeds Libraries
- People in story:
- Walter Townend and Vernon Wood
- Location of story:
- Tingley, near Leeds, West Yorkshire
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 April 2005
Memorial for airmen at Tingley, Leeds
HALIFAX BOMBER CRASH
TINGLEY CROSSROADS,MORLEY near LEEDS, WEST YORKSHIRE,
Circa 17.30, Tuesday,November 14th. 1944
Contributions by Walter Townend and Vernon Wood who, at the time, were 13 years old schoolboys at Morley Grammar School.
After all these years, it is now April 2005, I can visualise part of the huge four engined Halifax bomber laid in the field in Tingley, the next village to mine of East Ardsley.
Whilst on my way home from the first performance at the Empire Theatre in Leeds on a dark, cold, wet, miserable evening, as the bus approached Tingley cross-roads (now Junction 28 M62) I noticed activity in the field over to my left. At the next bus stop some people boarding the bus said that a bomber had crashed in the field. Even back in those days I was a keen aviation enthusiast. That night I couldn’t sleep for thinking of what exciting find there would be for me only about 2 miles away on my way when cycling to school the next morning. Although I set off earlier than usual I was late for school!
My eyes gazed in wonder at the scene. However before seeing the actual plane the evidence was apparent. Roofs of houses damaged by falling debris from the bomber when it exploded over the village. Silver strips of anti jamming “Window” all over the area. Actual parts of the plane littered around. One of the fuel tanks dropped through the roof into a bungalow It ran through my mind first of all, were the crew of 7 alright, had they survived. Was there anyone killed in the village. I heard when enquiring later that, all the crew had died (it was too low to bale out) and all the people in Tingley had survived that terrible event.
At that stage we civilians were kept away from the immediate area. It was apparent though that the nose of the bomber containing the cockpit i.e. forward of the wings had sheared 2 bedrooms off houses in a long row. The pilot unlike the rest of the 7-man crew wasn’t recovered from the cockpit until that morning. The rest of the unfortunate airmen were scattered in close proximity to the houses in Tingley. Had the explosion occurred seconds earlier there could have been serious loss of life. It was recorded later that miraculously one little girl in one of the houses which had the bedroom damaged, had a scratched knee!
Incidentally, had the family dashed out of the back door instead of the front when the nose hit above them, they would definitely have had their lives ended.
In the nearby field lay the wings, after fuselage and tail-plane, all in one piece just as if it had belly-landed. Of course souvenir hunters and curious onlookers were kept at bay by the cordon of guards etc. There were plenty of opportunities for the former elsewhere away from the crash. Bits and pieces were being swapped for months after. Rings were made from salvaged pieces of Perspex. Bracelets from coloured cables. I still have in my possession a small piece of aluminium and Perspex.
In later years whilst conducting my research I have tried various sources for a photograph of the crashed plane, however to no avail. Damage to the houses was shown in the local newspapers. Quite quickly the plane was removed and property repairs carried out. Tingley reverted to the life, admitted not that of a front line village, but one of rationing, black-out and other restrictions.
I couldn’t forget the event. Living nearby until 1955 and in later years passing through most weeks. It was in January 1988 that I decided to make some enquiries for a personal scrapbook. This developed though into an in depth research. In a short period I’d located 4 of the airmen’s families resulting in photographs, actual meetings etc. If only for their sakes I decided that their loved one’s who’d flown together and died together would be remembered there at Tingley for posterity.
This called for a Memorial. I obtained Planning Permission, designed the Stone and commissioned a local Stonemason to carry out the work. Finally on Remembrance Sunday, 12th November 1989 (two days before the actual crash date) and 45 years later, over 250 attendees saw the beautiful, inscribed Memorial unveiled and Blessed. This was an achievement for me, and my wife who had helped me enormously. 51 Squadron R.A.F. (then at Wyton) in wartime Snaith, near Goole was well represented by the C.O and six officers. Halifax LK844 was actually on a night training exercise when it got into difficulties soon after take-off. ‘Bad weather’ was recorded as the reason for its demise and ‘Difficult to handle, some probable icing in these conditions.’
Seven trees set in an arc with daffodils and crocuses around them are a beautiful sight in the Spring. Every year on Remembrance Sunday an informal wreath laying Service is held.
Truly a piece of the Tingley history.
AN ODE TO THE SEVEN
THEIR NAMES CARVED IN STONE, SO THEY WILL LAST,
SEVEN MEN FLEW TOGETHER COMRADES IN ARMS
TO SERVE THEIR COUNTRY THEY’D NO FUTURE PLANNED,
ALL TO RELY ON WAS THEIR YOUTHFUL PAST.
THERE WAS GRIEVING AT HOME WHEN SAD NEWS ARRIVED,
FAMILIES NOT BELIEVING WHEN WORDS WERE READ OUT.
A LOVED ONE NO LONGER TO CONVEY EVENTS,
FROM THAT TERRIBLE CRASH HOW MANY SURVIVED.
A VILLAGE IN WARTIME HAD SUFFERED THAT CRASH,
SCATTERED REMAINS, A HUGE IRON BIRD FALLEN.
ONCE FEMALE, WOMB LIKE AND FULLY CONTAINED,
THEIR SOULS LEFT THE SCENE ON THEIR HEAVENWARD DASH.
EACH YEAR WE REMEMBER WITH TRIBUTES MOST FLORAL,
SEVEN MEN NOW TOGETHER GONE THROUGH THE PORTALS.
THEIR FUTURE CONFIRMED NO LONGER IN DOUBT,
OUR HEROES BEDECKED WITH WREATHS OF TRUE LAUREL.
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