Village falls silent to mark disaster

Scenes of the Freckleton Air Disaster on August 23, 1944
Scenes of the Freckleton Air Disaster on August 23, 1944
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A village stood still this weekend to mark the 70th anniversary of the darkest day in its history.

A memorial service was held to commemorate the Freckleton Air Disaster, in which 61 people were killed when a plane crashed into Holy Trinity School on August 23 1944.

Crowds listened to the poignant service from outside a marquee in the Holy Trinity churchyard, where there was standing room only as families gathered to pay their respects.

A list of fatalities was read out, some by schoolchildren, and a perfectly-observed two-minutes silence followed the Last Post call.

Hymns rang out across the churchyard, as a procession laid a wreath on the children’s grave.

The service marked 70 years since one of Lancashire’s worst wartime tragedies, which happened when an American Liberator bomber from Warton airbase crashed into the village during a thunderstorm.

The school and a cafe were hit and 61 people lost their lives, including 38 schoolchildren.

Peter Curwen, who was in the school when the disaster happened, said the moving service brought back memories of the tragic day.

He said: “It was the first day back after the holidays, I was 10.

“From the incident first happening, which was like a huge explosion, to getting out of the building, my mind is a blank.

“My brain has blocked everything out.”

Mr Curwen, who lives in Kirkham, said: “It is the first time I’ve been back in 70 years.

“It’s a thing I don’t talk about, it’s only at this time of year that you think ‘How close was I?’

“I don’t dwell on it. It’s just one of those things, it happened and they say life goes on. It has, but you can’t forget about it altogether - at this time of year it comes back.”

Betty Baker, then 16, was on a bus from Lytham on the way to her cousin’s wedding in Bilsborrow, when it was diverted from the main road.

She said: “I must have been sitting near the window and there we could see all the wreckage of the plane. We had no idea what had happened, nobody told us.”

Mrs Baker found out the following day that children had died and she said: “I don’t know what to say, I felt so upset about it. I have been coming to see the grave occasionally to remember that day.”