Kindred Spirits remembers the day a jet aircraft crash landed on an Ipswich home
Ipswich was left with many scars as a result of the Second World and here a reader reveals more about a second, post-war tragedy that struck the street on which she grew up.
Betty Wells, who now lives in Canada, wrote in an earlier Kindred Spirits about her grandmother’s home, where she lived in Myrtle Road, Ipswich, being hit by a bomb in June 1943. This week Betty tells us more about her life in Ipswich during the Second World War.
Betty also recalls another terrible day in Myrtle Road when a jet aircraft crashed into a house killing the pilot and badly injuring a young girl, who later died from her terrible burn injuries. Amazingly it was 72 years before Betty heard of the second tragedy.
Eighty-nine-year-old Betty, who is enjoying keeping in touch from Canada via her iPad, sent this letter.
“I sent a letter to Kindred Spirits about the bomb which devastated Myrtle Road, Ipswich and I was delighted to read a reply on my newly acquired iPad from Mrs Eileen Leggett, of Wigmore Road, Ipswich, who recognised her family name of Raven.
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I was born at 39 Myrtle Road in 1925 and almost died at the same house almost 18 years later. On that early June morning my father, home on leave from the RAF, just managed to help my mother, young brother and me into the safety of our indoor Morrison Shelter before the bomb demolished our house and many others. I do not remember a siren and many of our friends and neighbours died that day.
We struggled out of the ruins, all piled on top of us. The shelter was buckled, but still standing. We were shocked, dirty and saw the full horror of the carnage in our quiet street. Within minutes dear Mrs Raven took us in, gave us tea and managed to calm down my mum who was distraught and crying. She thought in the choking darkness that we were on fire. Mrs Raven also assured us the nearby fiery gas holder would not explode and blow us all away!
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I remember her girls Joan and Maisie, pretty dark haired girls who cheered us up. My parents were so very grateful. Sorry to say I was shut away in my own little world of complete denial. I even assured our vicar, Rev Walter Grey, that it was just a dream when he took me to Trinity Vicarage on Bishops Hill to borrow his daughter’s clothes ‘he must not worry it was only a figment of my dreams’.
We were still in our nightclothes and my father’s RAF uniform was somewhere in the rubble.
No one paid much attention to us. It was all put down to shock.
After being taken to Holywells Mansion, the first aid centre, we were billeted briefly with a volunteer family at Whitton. We were with the Cuckoo family (I think) an unusual name.
I never saw my old friends at Myrtle Road again – Helen, Nolan, Doris, Burgess, Sylvian Ranscombe, the Dennis sister and our special air raid warden, Ernie Abbott, who lived on Bishops Hill. I believe he had three pretty blonde daughters. I think he was a barber. Others I recall include our family butcher Mr Unglass whose daughter Joan was my sister Eileen’s best friend. Our name was O’Toole, but we were known mostly as Mrs Wilby’s grandchildren.
They never rebuilt my gran’s house, but she rented a council house in Browning Road. In the autumn of that year we experienced another drama. I worked in the education offices in Tower Street. John Hill was the secretary and we all went to the Tower Ramparts night school. One night we were forced to stay in the school’s shelters as the Germans bombed the Norwich Road area. It was quite a long, scary raid and by 10pm the all clear siren was so welcome, but all traffic was banned so we had to walk home. The police were directing pedestrians at Norwich Road rail bridge to make a detour to the fields, behind the still burning houses, but as fate would have it a much complicated problem had arisen. The same night the Germans had decided to introduce quite a new horror, the Butterfly Bomb, a deadly little object and an awful parody of that beautiful insect. Its real name was “anti personnel bombs” primed to explode maim or kill at the slightest touch. The hard working wardens formed us into lines guiding us behind the dimmed light of their torches. We had to watch every step we took. I always swore I saw the gleam of the little monsters everywhere. I cannot remember if I really did or if I have imagined it all these years.
I held the hand of a young sailor all the way home. He was on leave from HMS Ganges. He was shaking as badly as I was. On my other hand was an elderly lady who started singing hymns, regretfully she was hushed as no one was sure what would trigger off these new perils. Thank God for those brave wardens.
My family left Ipswich that year, but it was not until last year, more than 72 years later, that I learned of another incident involving Myrtle Road. In 1949, two RAF aircraft collided over Ipswich, crashing very close to the same spot hit years earlier by the bomb, killing the pilot and a young girl who lived at number 41.
Looking at current photo of Myrtle Road I think how small and vulnerable it appears for all this deadly drama! Years ago as a child I remember boasting of by gran’s ‘big’ house near the dock and the ‘large’ ship that took us to Harwich. No doubt it was a paddle steamer!’
Betty Wells, North York, Toronto, Canada.
The air raid Betty Wells refers to, which involved the Norwich Road area of Ipswich, was early in the evening of November 3, 1943. Aircraft circled the town dropping bombs on the Dales area, cutting the railway line, four bombs landed in Norwich Road, two on Brookfield Road, one each in Kitchener Road, Bramford Road All Saints Road and Yarmouth Road. The aircraft circled and bombs hit Spenser Road, Reaburn Road, Hogarth Road, Rushmere Road, Hill Farm Westerfield, Dale Hall Farm, Castle Hill, Bramford Lane Allotments, Brockley Crescent, Ashcroft Road and Western Senior School. Three people were killed in the raid.
If this story brings back memories for you, send them to David Kindred and he will feature them in the coming weeks. Email Kindred Spirits