At 5:15pm on 17th May 1945 an RAF Avro Lancaster RF124 bomber from the 630 Squadron crashed on Lichfield Road in Wednesfield. All 7 crew members on board were killed instantly.
Back Row L/R; F/sgt Gordon Rabbetts (W.Op.Air), F/Sgt Vincent Southworth (Air Gnr), F/Sgt John Sills (Air Gnr). Front Row L/R; F/Sgt Reggie Smith (Nav), F/O Bernard Hall (Pilot), F/O Victor Meade (Air Bomber).
The crippled aircraft had been on a routine training flight from Kirkby in Lincolnshire when it began losing altitude and hit overhead power lines, causing it to explode in mid air. The crash impact left a 5ft crater in the road. Pieces of the bomber were scattered over an area of two miles and there was not a single piece of the plane left larger than a table top - even though the aircraft had a wingspan of 102 feet and was 70 feet long. Eye witnesses also reported that human remains were scattered across the crash site.
Remains of the cockpit and engines were buried in the crater and traffic between Wednesfield & Bloxwich was diverted for several days until the wreckage was removed and road was repaired. Today there are no visible signs of the crash site.
The chimney of Moat House Farm was knocked off by the plane and four bricklayers who were working on the road were thrown to the ground by the blast and had to be treated for shock. After losing control of the plane and with the centre of Wednesfield only seconds away (by air), the crew searched for a field to crash land in but fell just short, crashing onto the Lichfield Road itself. The flight crew were later praised for their efforts in making sure the aircraft did not hit nearby houses as it went down. It is thought they avoided landing on several nearby fields as lots of children were out playing.
Memorial Service in 2005 <ul><li>On May 15th 2005 (60 years after the crash) a memorial service was held at St Thomas’ Church in Wednesfield. Local resident Ivan Carpenter spent years researching the crash and was able to contact many relatives of the crew who died. Over 200 people in the Church heard the story of the crash which included readings from the time and eye witness accounts. </li></ul><ul><li>The crew’s relatives lit candles in memory of their lost loved ones and also visited the spot where the bomber crashed. </li></ul>
The exact cause of the crash was never found because the damage to the aircraft was so bad. It is thought that the bomber lost power to one or more of it’s engines, leaving it unable to fly. Whilst trying to crash land in the field it hit the power lines which caused the fatal explosion.
Presentation by Jordan Curtis Information & crew photos courtesy of Ivan Carpenter