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Harleston to commemorate 80th anniversary of World War Two crashes



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Harleston Royal British Legion is to commemorate the 80th anniversary of two fatal aircraft crashes that happened close to the town on the same day.

On March 9, 1942, an RAF Wellington bomber crashed near Briar Farm, killing all six crew members. An RAF Hawker Hurricane also went down near Starston, killing the pilot.

Branch secretary Terry Pegg, who has collected information and eye witness accounts of the crashes, said: “I am not aware that their loss of life has been commemorated before anywhere in Harleston.

Terry Pegg next to the town's war memorial in 2020. Picture by Mark Bullimore.
Terry Pegg next to the town's war memorial in 2020. Picture by Mark Bullimore.

“The 80th anniversary of this fateful day in Harleston’s aviation history is an appropriate date to remember these brave servicemen.”

The Wellington bomber was returning to RAF Honington from a raid above Essen in Germany when it experienced engine trouble and a fire broke out.

The aircraft crashed vertically into a boggy meadow, near to what was Green Lane, at 9.22pm, killing all six crew on board.

The site of the bomber was excavated in 1984/5 and here is a picture of a crane lifting a piece of wreckage from the crash site. Pictures by Bob Collis (55287481)
The site of the bomber was excavated in 1984/5 and here is a picture of a crane lifting a piece of wreckage from the crash site. Pictures by Bob Collis (55287481)

One witness described to Mr Pegg how the aircraft circled Harleston twice, on the first occasion with the engines “coughing and spluttering” and on the second, in flames.

They then heard the noise of the engines rise to a “high-pitch scream” as it dived into the ground and exploded, lighting up the area.

On the same day, the Hawker Hurricane crashed between Starston and Redenhall, killing pilot Sergeant Horace Dolman, of the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Hawker Hurricane was from the Operational Training Unit at RAF Sutton Bridge in Lincolnshire, a unit used to train fighter pilots for RAF Fighter Command.

Linda Holmes and Bob Collis at the crash site. Pictures by Bob Collis. (55287483)
Linda Holmes and Bob Collis at the crash site. Pictures by Bob Collis. (55287483)

Sergeant Dolman, who was 27 on the day of his death, is buried in the Earlham Road cemetery, in Norwich.

The ceremony will be taking place at Harleston war memorial in Broad Street on Wednesday at 11am. Family members of the men who died in the bomber crash will attend.

Harleston War Memorial. Picture by Mecha Morton.
Harleston War Memorial. Picture by Mecha Morton.


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