Freckleton Air Disaster

Tragedy struck at Freckleton, Lancashire, on August 23, 1944, when an American B-24 bomber on a test flight overshot the runway while trying to land at the American air base at Warton during a violent storm.

It crashed into the centre of the village. An eye witness reported that the plane had been struck by lightning.

The human tragedy on the ground was catastrophic. The plane crashed into the Holy Trinity Church of England School, killing 38 children and six adults. It also partly demolished three houses before ploughing into the Sad Sack Snack Bar that had been opened to cater for American personnel from the nearby air base. Three British civilians and seven Americans were killed in the snack bar. Three American crew members aboard the B-24 and four RAF personnel in the café were also killed in the crash.

On 23 August, 1944, an American United States Army Air Force B-24 Liberator heavy bomber crashed 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-24s, prior to delivery to the 2nd Combat Division, departed USAAF Base Air Depot 2 at Warton Aerodrome on a test flight at 10.30 a.m. Due to an impending 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. Contemporary newspaper reports detailed wind velocities approaching 60 m.p.h., water spouts in the Ribble estuary and flash flooding in Southport and Blackpool.

On approach from the west, towards runway 08, and in formation with the second aircraft, the pilot of B-24H-20-CF Liberator, aircraft serial number 42-50291, named "Classy Chassis II", 1st Lieutenant John Bloemendal, reported to the tower that he was aborting landing at the last moment and would "go around". Shortly afterwards, and out of visibility from the second aircraft, the aircraft hit the village of Freckleton, just east of the airfield.

Already flying very low to the ground and with wings near vertical, the aircraft's right wing tip first hit a tree-top, and then was ripped away as it impacted the corner of a building. The rest of the wing continued, ploughing along the ground and through a hedge. The fuselage of the 25-ton bomber continued, partly demolishing three houses and the Sad Sack Snack Bar, before crossing the Lytham Road and bursting into flames. A part of the aircraft hit the infants' wing of the Freckleton Holy Trinity School. Fuel from the ruptured tanks ignited and produced a sea of flames.

In the school, 38 schoolchildren and six adults were killed. The clock in one classroom stopped at 10.47 a.m. In the Sad Sack Snack Bar, which had been opened to cater for American servicemen from the air-base, 14 were killed: seven Americans, four Royal Air Force airmen and three civilians. The three crew on the B-24 were also killed.

A total of 23 adults and 38 children died in the disaster.

At 10.30am on the morning of Wednesday 23 August, 1944, two American Liberator heavy bomber aircraft left Warton Airfield on a test flight.

But they were soon in trouble as the weather turned, and the aircraft crashed into the village of Freckleton.

The crash destroyed the Holy Trinity Church of England's reception classroom and the Sad Sack Snack Bar.

A total of 61 adults and children died. One of the teachers killed had only arrived at the school the day before.

August 23rd 1944 was the day when 38 infant school children died and 23 civilians and air crew perished in the village of Freckleton, near Preston.

The crash came as Paris was being liberated by the Allies.

Although it was reported locally that 61 people had died, many now believe the story was censored by the Government so that morale would not be affected and the Americans would not be blamed.