Poignant poem about wartime disaster that claimed 61 lives in Lancashire
A poem that originally appeared on Write Out Loud, about a forgotten tragedy that claimed the lives of 38 primary school pupils in Lancashire during the second world war, has been published in full in a book telling the story of the disaster. Dave Carr’s poem, ‘The Freckleton Air Disaster’, tells of the moment in August 1944 when an American B-24 Liberator bomber crashed into the centre of the village of Freckleton, during a storm, demolishing Holy Trinity school, three houses and the Sad Sack snack bar, which catered for US servicemen. The total death toll was 61.
For Dave, the story is personal. In a memoir about his grandmother Agnes he recorded this: “The aircraft came down on the primary school in Freckleton and most of the children, along with two teachers were killed. My grandparents’ younger son, David, was among the dead. He was just six years old.”
His poem is reproduced in full in a newly-published book about the disaster, ‘The Freckleton, England, Air Disaster’, by history professor James R Hedtke, from Pennsylvania. The book, published 70 years on, is described as “a compelling account of sorrow, loss, hope and finally rebirth. The book looks at the history of the village, the establishment of the base at Warton, the crash, the funeral of the 61 victims, the official British inquest and the American investigation into the cause of the crash. The lives of the survivors, the servicemen and the villagers are followed through [to] 2012.”
Dave added: “I was contacted by James a couple of years ago as he had seen my poem on the WOL site. He asked permission to include it in his book about the disaster. The poem tells the story of the air disaster but in particular from my grandparents’ point of view as they lost their son David - the irony being that Jim, my granddad, worked on convoys and was always in danger himself.”
In the memoir he said of his grandmother: “Of course, time healed to a certain degree, and she learned to enjoy life, throwing herself into activities at the church and cherishing her other son’s children, of whom I am one, named for the boy who died in the accident. But a tragedy like that, so unexpected - and of all those in peril, he would have seemed the least at risk - left its scars, and there were times when I saw her eyes fill with tears as the memories returned.”