Disaster we'll never forget

A BALL of fire and flying debris from an aircraft crash just a few feet from where he was standing are memories from Terrence Paskall, of Sunningdale Avenue, Ipswich.

David Kindred

A BALL of fire and flying debris from an aircraft crash just a few feet from where he was standing are memories from Terrence Paskall, of Sunningdale Avenue, Ipswich. These were a few fateful moments he will never forget.

I recalled the day of June 29, 1949, when an RAF Vampire jet crashed into a house in Myrtle Road, Ipswich, killing the pilot Sqd Ldr Anthony Ruscoe Towne Beddow and 13-year-old Pamela Cooke, who died of her injuries a few days later. Readers have told me of their memories of that dreadful day almost sixty years ago.

Mr Paskall tells us how he had a remarkable escape as the aircraft crashed a few yards from where he was standing.

He said: “I was 11 years old at the time and living at 18 Unity Street, close to the crash scene, and I still have vivid memories of that day. I, along with a friend, was standing at the entrance to Holywells Park in Myrtle Road.

“I remember a whistling noise, a glint of the sunlight on the metal of the Vampire's alloy body, followed by a tremendous bang. “Bricks seemed to fly everywhere, hitting us, and then the heat of the fire. I think we both felt singeing of the hair and arms. We panicked and I ran home down the hill in Unity Street.

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“The noise had brought out the residents and when my mum Alice saw me I was bundled into the house.

“I stood in the dining room as the front room was only used at Christmas, until mum bought in Pamela Cooke the poor girl caught up in the tragedy. She had a coat or blanket around her shoulders and was sat in a chair. I remember how badly injured she looked. “She sat very still and spoke, after Mum got her a drink, to ask if she could go to school in the morning. Mum comforted her until the ambulance men arrived and took her away. I then got to the front door and watched all the activity.”

“When I look back on that tragic day things stay in the memory. How unlucky Pamela was, and how lucky I was, not to be nearer the crash.

“The smell of aviation fuel still reminds me of that day whenever I am at an airport. The houses all had a visit from a policeman who asked anyone who had collected bits of the aeroplane as a souvenir to put them out for collection as the whole area was completely open and boys were roaming around the site collecting souvenirs.

“Pamela Cooke was, I think, taken afterwards to a military hospital where she passed away. In these days when I hear of counselling for people involved in tragedies I am aware of how little was done for the people in that area.

“Despite the shock, I was sent to school the following day. Mum cleaned up and carried on with day-to-day routines.

“I think this was the aftermath of the Second World War and all the deprivations of the late 1940s in a period when people had to put on a brave face and carry on the best they could.”

John Bennett of Beverley Road, Ipswich, was then 16 years old and pushing his cycle up Bishops Hill towards his home in Sidegate Lane, Ipswich, after a day's work at Cubitt's the builders.

John said: “I saw the crash and cycled back to Myrtle Road where I picked up a piece of plastic from the shattered cockpit canopy, which I still have today.” John was one of several lads who gathered parts of the wreckage.

Mr A Francis, of Foxhall Road, Ipswich, was one of the firefighters who rushed to the scene. He said: “At the time I was in the fire service stationed at the fire station in Wherstead Road.

“This was originally an Auxiliary Fire Service Station during the Second World War. We had been watching the planes flying over the docks when the Vampire jet crashed.

“The officer in charge, station officer Hurrell, turned out our appliance without orders from the Bond Street fire headquarters; in those days we had no radio.

“Our appliance arrived first on the scene quickly followed by Bond Street appliances. One of your photos shows our crew sheeting up the house with station officer Hurrell at the top of the ladder.

“This was one of several plane crashes in and around Ipswich over the next few years we attended. I was always on 'Red Watch' and one of my mates was Wally Martin whose parents were killed in Myrtle Road in the 1943 air raid. I spent over 30 years in the Fire Service.”

Patricia Bryanton, of Medway Road, Ipswich, was playing on Holywells Park when the crash occurred. She said: “I was only six years old at the time and I was playing with my cousins; my sister was asleep when it happened.

“There was a lot of noise. I saw the plane coming down, but didn't see it crash. We were so frightened we just ran out of the park and up the hill. I can remember crying because I had lost a ribbon out of my hair!”

Ivan Mortimer, of Rushmere, was also in Holywells Park at the time. Ivan added: “I was in the park with my mother and baby sister in a pram.

“We were watching the planes in the sky and then my friend came along with a new puppy which we stopped to see which delayed us; otherwise we may have easily been in the path of the accident. All of a sudden the plane hit the houses and then went on to hit the trees in the park with a tremendous explosion and finished up behind a pavilion.

“The next thing we knew we saw the engine as a ball of fire rolling across the park into a ditch. This stopped us getting out of the park and we had to turn round and go out of the Nacton Road gate, where my father had come to meet us worried in case we had been involved in the crash.

“I was six years old and this made an impact on my life, and whenever I saw a plane in the sky for years afterwards I wanted to run.”

Terence Wilmot, of Exeter Road, Felixstowe, saw the crash from the garden of his home. He said: “I was a 14-year-old schoolboy at the time of the crash and was in the back garden of my home in St Helens Street, Ipswich. It was a fine summer's day and I had just spent a pleasant afternoon at Broomhill Pool.

“There were more than two planes taking part. There were up to six fighters involved in the mock air battle over the town and although I was aware of what was happening I took no interest in the proceedings as it was then a common occurrence to have jet warplanes screaming over the rooftops. It puts today's complaints about Stansted and Luton airports in the shade!”

“There was then a loud explosion and a large black cloud appeared from the direction of Myrtle Road.

“There then followed a sight I will never forget. The remaining aircraft involved in the exercise then continuously circled at a low altitude over the area over the crashed aircraft, dangerous manoeuvres I would have thought.”

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