- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Charles Oakey and his brother; Bob Williams, Chief Warden Handescombe, Charlie Hobby, Richard Leakey
- Location of story:
- Thornbury/Tytherington, South Gloucestershire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 July 2005
This is the story of a short Stirling aircraft that crashed, I think probably during the winter, in 1944 at Grovesend, near Thornbury, up where the traffic lights on the main A.38 road are now. I was coming out of the Youth Service at the Old Hall in Tytherington. We were walking up the road towards Thornbury, up Stowall Hill, and all of a sudden there was a most unusual noise above us, as though there were a motorbike overhead; then we heard this tremendous crash. The sky towards Thornbury lit up, so we ran towards the crash. We could see where it was, about half a mile away, we could see this blaze on the top of the hill. We realised it had crashed across the main road where it meets the Tytherington Road, and partly onto a bungalow. It was only about 20 yards away from the bungalow, and there was wreckage all round the garden.
When we got there Mr Richard Leakey, (Dick Leakey) Headteacher at Tytherington School was there. He was head of The Specials, a Specials sergeant. He was a big chap, and we had to push him through the hedge to get behind the bungalow. We were worried about the people in there. It was owned by Charlie Hobby, a blind basket-maker. When we got to it we found that they had been able to get out. Mr Hobby and his family had been rescued by a lorry driver who was passing along the A38 at the time, and Mr Handescombe, Manager of Tytherington Quarry, and Chief Warden, had also arrived.
We were in the garden, surrounded by wreckage, and the bullets from the aircraft were going off pop, pop, pop. We thought they were harmless as they were not being aimed, but of course they could have given us a nasty injury. I was worried in case we came across any bodies. I was only 17 years old, and an ARP messenger at the time. Luckily we didn't find any - even the pilot and crew managed to get out of the aircraft with their parachutes. Later on we discovered that one of them fell onto a truck at Tytherington Quarry, and broke his leg.
This stuff was popping all round. It caught fire to the side of the bungalow, on the apex (gable). We managed to find some buckets and I remember a farmer's son, Bob Williams, from Tytherington, he was the first to scramble up the side of the roof, and we were passing him up buckets of water so he could douse the fire, and at one stage I went up on the roof to relieve him and all of a sudden what can only have been one of the flares on board of the aircraft, just blew up in the garden. I dropped my bucket and came sliding down the roof, and I landed up with my feet in the water butt.
A few days later I was coming up from the Grammar School, and Mr Hobby was waiting there and he said, were you one of the boys that got up onto my roof? I remember him thanking me profusely for what we had done for the bungalow. No doubt if we had not been there the whole bungalow would have burned down.
A curious thing also, less than a fortnight after this, my brother, who was working at the Vicarage at Tytherington, saw three Hawker Typhoon aircraft coming across - they were fighter bombers - and suddenly smoke started to pour from one of them and it started to dive and so he left work and went along the same road which we had gone along that night, and the fighter had made a perfect belly landing in the field next to the bungalow, where the wreckage was strewn about from the previous crash! When he got there the pilot had got out and was waving to his two companions to show he was OK. Quite a coincidence for two such accidents to happen in the same place at such a short distance of time!