23.08.1944 BAD2 Consolidated B-24 (Liberator) 42-50291 1st. Lt. Bloemendal Location: Freckleton, Lancashire
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Mission: Test Flight.

Date: 23rd August 1944 (Wednesday)

Unit: Base Air Depot (BAD2).

Type: Consolidated B-24

Serial No: 42-50291

Code: unknown.

Base: BAD (Warton).

Location: Freckleton, Lancashire.

Pilot: 1st Lt. John A. Bloemendal - Killed.

Co-Pilot: T/Sgt James M. Parr - Killed.

Flt/Engr: Sgt Gordon W. Kinney - Killed.

Reason for loss:

The aircraft took off from Warton Airfield on a routine test flight, soon after aircraft was ordered to return to base due to adverse weather conditions approaching the area overshot the runway while trying to land back at base during the violent storm. It crashed into the centre of the village. An eye witness reported that the plane had been struck by lightning.
The human tragedy on the ground was catastrophic.

bad2-consolidated-b-24-0028liberator0029-42-50291-1st.lt.-bloemendal-1st-lt.-john-a.-bloemendal  bad2-consolidated-b-24-0028liberator0029-42-50291-sgt-gordon-w.-kinney zoom
Left: Pilot - 1st Lt. John A. Bloemendal Right: Flt/Engineer - Sgt. Gordon W. Kinney

Left to right; T/Sgt. Jimmie Parr, 1st Lt. John Bloemendal

bad2-consolidated-b-24-0028liberator-42-50291-classy-chassis-with-different-crew zoom
The aircraft "Classy Chassis" (42-50291) pictured with a different crew.

Two newly refurbished B-24s, prior to delivery to the 2nd Combat Division, departed USAAF Base Air Depot 2 at Warton Aerodrome on a test flight at 10.30 a.m. Due to an impending violent storm, both were recalled. By the time they had returned to the vicinity of the aerodrome, however, the wind and rain had significantly reduced visibility.

Contemporary newspaper reports detailed wind velocities approaching 60 m.p.h., water spouts in the Ribble estuary and flash flooding in Southport and Blackpool. On approach from the west, towards runway 08, and in formation with the second aircraft, the pilot of B-24H-20-CF Liberator, aircraft serial number 42-50291, named "Classy Chassis II", lst Lieutenant Bloemendal, reported to the tower that he was aborting landing at the last moment and would "go around". Shortly afterwards, and out of visibility from the second aircraft, the aircraft hit the village of Freckleton, just east of the airfield. Already flying very low to the ground and with wings near vertical, the aircraft's right wing tip first hit a tree-top, and then was ripped away as it impacted the corner of a building. The rest of the wing continued, ploughing along the ground and through a hedge.
The fuselage of the 25-ton bomber continued, partly demolishing three houses and the Sad Sack Snack Bar, before crossing the Lytham Road and bursting into flames.

A part of the aircraft hit the infants' wing of the Freckleton Holy Trinity School. Fuel from the ruptured tanks ignited and produced a sea of flames. In the school, 38 schoolchildren and six adults were killed. The clock in one classroom stopped at 10.47 a.m. In the Sad Sack Snack Bar, which had been opened to cater for American servicemen from the air-base,
14 were killed:
seven Americans, four Royal Air Force airmen and three civilians. The three crew on the B-24 were also killed.
A total of 61 adults and children died in the disaster.
Postcard showing Freckleton village prior to disaster.

bad2-consolidated-b-24-0028liberator0029-42-50291-1st.lt.-bloemendal-freckleton-air-disaster-1 zoom  bad2-consolidated-b-24-0028liberator0029-42-50291-1st.lt.-bloemendal-freckleton-air-disaster-2 zoom
Clearing the wreckage and searching for survivors

bad2-consolidated-b-24-0028liberator0029-42-50291-1st.lt.-bloemendal-freckleton-air-disaster-3 zoom  bad2-consolidated-b-24-0028liberator0029-42-50291-1st.lt.-bloemendal-freckleton-air-disaster-4 zoom
The dead are taken away by stretcher bearers amidst the devastation.

Holy Trinity School - Pupils and teachers

"Sad Sack" Staff, R.A.F. and U.S. Personnel

Freckleton Air Crash Memorial
Burial details:

The three U.S. aircrew killed in the B-24 were buried in a U.S. Cemetery in the South of England; after the war, their remains were returned for reburial in their home states in the USA at the request of their next of kin. Of the other U.S. servicemen killed in the tragedy, Zugel (36043900 Illnois), Glitsis (32633539 New York) and Nelson (39191028 Washington) were buried Cambridge American Cemetery near Madingley the others presumed returned to their home states after the war.

The majority of the child victims along with Miss Jenny Hall, a teacher and local girl, as well as a number of civilians killed in "The Sad Sack" Snack Bar, were buried in a communal grave in the village's Holy Trinity Churchyard.

Sgt.(Pilot) Walter.William Cannell 1623550 R.A.F.V.R. buried Kirk Christ Rushen (Holy Trinity) Churchyard extension
Sgt.(Nav) Robert John Bell 1802049 R.A.F.V.R. Chester (Blacon) Cemetery
Sgt.(Nav/W.op) Eric C.W. Newton 1397179 R.A.F.V.R. Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery
Sgt.(Nav) Douglas Batson 1683298 R.A.F.V.R. Ferryhill Cemetery, Durham

Researched and compiled by Mike Croft for the A.R. Society, June 2012.

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