The Preston Air Disaster 1944
September 27, 2016 4:06pm CST
One of the saddest events in the history of my home city (then officially just a town) was the air disaster at Preston’s Freckleton Air Base when a United States Air Force B-24 Liberator crashed into a school, resulting in sixty-one deaths. Preston had fared well throughout the war, with only a few air raids from the Germans and no civilian fatalities. Its central England position probably left the Luftwaffe feeling too vulnerable to attack from all compass points. After D-Day, with the Nazis clearly in irreversible retreat, Preston probably felt increasingly safe from further danger from the skies, but the gods had other ideas. Two identical bomber planes took off that day, 23rd August, from the air base at Freckleton. It was just a test flight as they had just been refitted and altered. Sadly, the crews and the airbase ground crew were not paying much attention to the British weather. The North West region was being hit by one of the most severe thunder storms recorded. Blackpool was flooded. The River Ribble in Preston itself was seen erupting in water-spouts. The downdraft hit the planes as soon as they took off in close proximity to one another and the pilots were ordered to return to base right away. The first plane succeeded in returning home. The second found the elements were pushing the craft off course so the pilot tried to gain height hoping to circle in on a fresh approach. He never made it. He hit the trees. The wreckage spewed blazing aviation fuel through the village and the plane, as well as its severed wings that kept on going, hit a café, ironically called The Sad Sack Snack Bar, (used by men from the base) and the Holy Trinity Infant school, resulting in 61 fatalities including all three crewmen and over thirty children. It is believed that the pilots grossly underestimated British weather seeing a little rain as hardly comparable to tornados and hurricanes. The Freckleton crash was a wake-up call to not under-estimating our skies again. The Youtube is of a B-24 Liberator, which gives an idea of just what hit the village that awful day in 1944. Arthur Chappell
7 people like this
• Aberdeen, Scotland
A really sad event indeed. Underestimating the weather is obviously not wise as proved that fateful day. So sad that the same up call not to underestimate the skies took the life of 30 children. I will watch the video when I get home.