RUBY'S STORY: “I lived at Green Farm Cottages in Redlingfield. With me lived my husband and my daughter Ann, aged two-and-a-half in November 1943. My husband Victor worked the horses on Green Farm and was a member of the Home Guard. I was expecting a second child near Christmas and was getting near my time. Our house was in the flight path taken by the bombers at the nearby airfield at Horham. We watched as planes took off laden with a full cargo of fuel and bombs.
“On that particular morning - November 19th 1943 - at 8.30am the planes took off as usual. Victor had a feeling that morning that something would happen but he went off to work as usual. As the planes roared overhead all took off until the last one. It was found out later that it banked too sharply. I remember that it was a frosty morning and very, very cold.
“The plane came down not very far from our house, I was thrown across the room by the explosion and the ceiling came down on top of us. As luck would have it the beams in the cottage held. Windows and doors fell in as parts of the burning plane fell. I picked up Ann and prayed to God to help us. I went to put her in a pram but it was filled with broken glass so I grabbed a blanket and wrapped her up as best as I could. I pulled down a door curtain to help keep us warm and metal fell like rain. A neighbour told us to get behind a muck heap and, as I could not stoop due to me being pregnant, I had to have help.
“American airmen were on the scene now and were able to help me. Everywhere was very icy and slippery and I was shielded from the burning fragments flying around. I felt as if I was in the front line. I was taken by ambulance to my parents' home. Poor Victor witnessed all of this and thought we must surely have perished. He was very glad to find us alive. The whole crew perished in the crash unfortunately - all ten of them. We stayed with my parents until our son was born, which was December 18th 1943. Our home was destroyed but our lives saved.”
Ruby Gooderham died on July 18, 2009 in Ipswich at the age of 92. Her daughter, Ann Stebbings, lives in Saxmundham. Ruby's husband Victor died in January 2001 at the age of 86. The pictures above are are official photos of the crash site.
EDDIE'S STORY: Youngster Eddie Coe was taking milk up to his cousin at Green farm when he “saw it [the bomber] fall out of the sky. My father [blacksmith and Special Constable Alfred Coe - pictured right] was about the first on the scene. He biked up and a bomb blew him off his bicycle.” Eddie was told that “there was a bottle of water standing on a saw bench there when the plane crashed and it was still standing untouched after”. His father received a commendation - see press cutting above - for his actions on that day. The Tydeman's who lived in another part of the farmhouse had only moved in to take over the farm a few weeks before at Michaelmas (September 29th).
Eddie Coe lived in the village with his wife Edith.
SHEILA'S STORY: “I too saw the B-17 crash in the village. I was at the Mayhew farm getting milk. I do not think it was pilot error. When I saw the plane it was banking away from the village I believe there was something wrong with it . . . we had a hoar frost that morning. I was close to the village school house when I saw this.”
Sheila Oniu nee Whatling, daughter of William and Kathleen Whatling of Redlingfield, lives in Texas with her husband George.
JOHN DRUMMOND'S STORY: “I was at Flimworth Hall, Cranley, Eye, where I lived. It was about 7.30am and I was muck-carting with two horses and the Flying Fortresses were taking off from Horham airbase. Having, within the last five weeks, just moved to Flimworth Hall, this was a very interesting sight, so I was counting as they came round from take-off towards Redlingfield. When it got to number 13 the plane appeared to be turning sharply and low so it was unable to gain height and just seemed to slip out of the sky and crashed. There was an explosion and a great plume of smoke went up - then the bombs began to explode. I had great difficulty holding the horses because each time a bomb went off they tried to bolt. There were approximately ten explosions all together . . . it was a horrendous experience and very sad.”
From the official police report by PC HENRY J KIMBER: “On Friday, 19 November 1943, at 8.30 A.M., an American Fortress, aircraft no. 231123, crashed at Green Farm, Redlingfield. On the above date this aircraft was taking off from the Horham Aerodrome on a mission, when it failed to gain sufficient flying speed, and was banking to turn when it stalled, crashing about forty yards from the rear of the farmhouse.”
Redlingfield Village Meeting and the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association have erected a memorial to the crew of B-17G 42-31123. Click here for more about the B-17 memorial.
The pictures of Green Farm are from the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association.
Many thanks to Edith and Eddie Coe and the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association/Red Feather Club. Extracts also from WW2 People's War, an online archive of wartime memories contributed by the public and gathered by the BBC at www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar