Disaster At Darrington!
Saturday the 18th September 1943 was a fateful night for the crew of Halifax Bomber BB245, on a training flight from RAF Riccall to Lands’ End.
Little did those on board know that this would be their last flight and they would not return to the station which they had been training at for the last three weeks. Having reached Lands’ End the six man crew began their return journey. After almost four hours flying and nearing Riccall, there was a loud explosion from one of the engines, followed by the loss of the propeller and reduction gear. With only three engines working the pilot struggled to maintain control of the plane as it flew from the south towards the east side of Darrington.
Meanwhile on Chapel Hill, three sisters, Mabel, Gwyneth and Nona Dean made their way upstairs to bed at 10.30pm, leaving Mabel, their mother and elder sister Ellen downstairs. Their father and brother were at the Darrington Hotel. The sisters heard them come in just after 11pm.
Just before midnight they were awakened by a loud explosion. Sgt Wilson, the pilot had lost his battle and the plane crashed onto their cottage, exploding on impact and a sheet of flames engulfed the four cottages in the row. All six crew members lost their lives.
The three sisters escaped through the flames after battering down a door to reach safety. Sadly, their father, Harry (68) and mother, Mabel (66), together with brother William (33) sister, Ellen (36), who were in a different part of the house all died in the ensuing inferno. Four other people living in the row were also hurt.
Midgley Pease (65) had burns to his hands and face, his wife, Hilda (62) suffered severe shock. Midgley later died in Pontefract Infirmary in November 1943. Although he had recovered from the severe burns, the shock of the crash resulted in a fatal heart attack.
John Wardell and his wife Alice found their home completely devastated. John had a cut to his head and his wife suffered from shock. All the injured were taken to Pontefract Infirmary where they were detained.
Mr and Mrs Harry Pickering who lived in the house next to Mr Wardell owed their escape from injury or possible death to the fact that Mrs Pickering had recently given birth to a baby and since then they had been sleeping at the home of Mrs Pickering’s mother, Mrs Hardcastle in one of the cottages at the top of Chapel Hill. Harry Pickering who was serving in the Royal Navy was home on leave carried his wife into a field for safety. From there they watched their own home destroyed by fire. Sadly baby Valerie suffered smoke inhalation and died later.
Another victim to have a lucky escape was Mrs May McCone whose house was next to the chapel. She had given birth to a baby earlier that day.
The crash left the whole village stunned. The total number of fatalities was twelve.