Disasters where the death toll includes significant numbers of children are all the more poignant – think of Aberfan , or the Paisley Cinema horror. On the morning of August 23 1944 the village of Freckleton, between Preston and Southport , added its name to that terrible list.
Two American Liberator bombers were on test-flights from Warton Aerodrome near the village that morning when a thunderstorm struck. One of the planes made for safety northwards, the other attempted to return to Warton. It has been suggested American pilots arrived here thinking British storms were of the teacup variety. The winds that day, however, suddenly picked up to 60mph; and downpours brought flash floods.
Lt John Bloemendal made his approach then found the rain reduced visibility to almost nothing. At the last minute he banked his aircraft away but had left it too late. A wing clipped a tree-top and broke off. The Liberator disintegrated, flattening two cottages and a cafe, but most appallingly part of it hit the reception classroom at Holy Trinity School. Thirty-eight children and six adults died in the inferno. Another 14 were killed in the cafe, and all three crewmen perished.
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