Freckleton Air Disaster 70th Anniversary Memorial Service

After a night of heavy rain, the skies cleared and the sun shone through on the village of Freckleton on what was to be a day of remembrance and reflection for the many who were so deeply affected by the Air Disaster exactly 70 years ago. Hundreds of people gathered for the memorial service in a marquee in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, the final resting place for the children lost on that fateful day.

2014-08-23 16.49.42Freckleton Band, having also been affected by the tragedy, provided the music for the service with Principal Cornet Player Ian Walsh sounding the Last Post.

As the congregation were gathering, the band played the famous Adagio by the American composer Samuel Barber followed by the quintessentially English Nimrod by Sir Edward Elgar. The two nations have shared a bond from when the Warton Aerodrome was the base for the US Airforce in WW2 with both countries’ armed services as well as the civilians and children suffering casualties on the 23rd August 1944. The band then played Abide With Me to the tune of Eventide.

At the laying of the wreath on the children’s grave, the congregation sang Thou, Whose Almighty Word  to the tune Moscow.

During the service, the hymns were Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven and Great is Thy Faithfulness.  After the names of all the victims were read out, Ian Walsh sounded  the Last Post followed by two minutes silence. Thine be the Glory  to the tune Handel used in his oratorio Judas Maccabaeus closed the service

 

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It was on the 14th June 1951  that Mr Banks and Mr Hall of the Freckleton Club Day Committee decided that Rimington and Deep Harmony should be played at the Cenotaph after the procession as a tribute to the fallen of the two world wars. In 1977, it was changed to Crimond and Deep Harmony by the then Club Day Committee. So, as the congregation left, with many paying their respects at the children’s grave, the band played Crimond, Deep Harmony and Rimington.

The band would like to thank everyone who had kind words for both Ian’s performance of the Last Post and the band’s contribution to the service, it is very much appreciated.

As part of the media coverage leading up to the 70th anniversary, the BBC aired a Witness documentary programme recalling survivor Ruby Currell’s story which also includes the late Harry Latham, also a survivor who was a huge supporter and Vice Chairman of the band for many years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freckleton Air Disaster – 23rd August 1944

The Freckleton Air Disaster occurred on 23 August 1944, when a Consolidated B-24 Liberator of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) came down in bad weather into the centre of the village of Freckleton, Lancashire, England. The aircraft crashed into the Holy Trinity Church of England School, demolishing three houses and the Sad Sack Snack Bar. The death toll was 61, including 38 children.

Two newly refurbished B-24 heavy bombers, being made ready for delivery to the 2nd Combat Division, departed USAAF Base Air Depot 2 at Warton Aerodrome on a test flight at 10.30 am. Due to an approaching violent storm, both were recalled. By the time they had returned to the vicinity of the aerodrome, however, the wind and rain had significantly reduced visibility.

On approach from the west, towards runway 08, and in formation with the second aircraft, the pilot of Consolidated B-24H Liberator named “Classy Chassis II” reported to the control tower that he was aborting landing at the last moment and would perform a go-around. Shortly afterwards, and out of sight of the second aircraft, the aircraft hit the village of Freckleton, just east of the airfield.

In the school, 38 school children and six adults were killed. The clock in one classroom stopped at 10.47 am. In the Sad Sack Snack Bar, which catered specifically for American servicemen from the airbase, 14 were killed: seven Americans, four Royal Air Force airmen and three civilians. The three crew on the B-24 were also killed.

Practically every family and organisation in the village were affected by the tragedy in one way or another, with members of the band being no exception. The links to the fateful day are still with us today with retired players having lost siblings in the school.

Harry Latham, an evacuee to Freckleton as a four year old boy was a survivor of the accident and over subsequent years played a tremendous part as a supporter, fundraiser and as Vice Chairman of Freckleton Band. It will be the second anniversary of his death on the 30th August this year, and is sadly missed by us all.

Our current Chairman and longest-serving current member of the band, Mark Rossall’s sister-in-law Nelly was a survivor, however, her five year old sister Dorothy died on her first day at school.

The village will be holding a memorial service at 10:30 on 23rd August 2014 exactly 70 years after the disaster in the Church of England churchyard. Freckleton Band will be playing before and throughout the service.

The band playing Crimond and Deep Harmony for the fallen of the two World Wars at Club Day in 2007

At the War Memorial 2007

For further historical information, see the Lancashire Air Investigation Team webpage or follow  on Twitter or BombleBeeWarton on Facebook. #Freck70