The Reeve’s Tale magazine website


Mosquito KB364 crashes on Bawdeswell's church

It was one of twelve aircraft from 608 Squadron which set out from Bexwell, Norfolk, known then as RAF Downham Market,  to attack Gelsenkirchen in Germany on 6th November 1944.  The attack was a diversionary raid to draw German fighters away from two bigger raids elsewhere. ( 235 Lancaster bombers attacking the canal at Gravenhorst and 129 attacking Koblenz.)
The attack commenced as planned, five minutes ahead of the two other raids at 19.25 hours.  The Mosquitos dropped a mixture of red and green target indicators and high explosive bombs from 25,000ft.  A few searchlights and very light flak were reported by crews over Gelsenkirchen.
Eleven of the Mosquitoes from 608 Squadron carried out successful missions and returned safely to Norfolk.

Cloud and icing conditions were encountered .  KB364 is thought to have become severely iced-up during the return descent through cloud over Norfolk , and it was considered likely at the time that the pilot lost control and was unable to maintain height.  The aircraft hit some electricity cables in the Reepham Road and struck All Saints Church, setting it on fire.  Parts of the aircraft carried on and hit Barwick House and Chaucer House opposite, causing considerable damage to both.  Debris was spread over a wide area.  The crash took place at 20.45hrs.
The Dereham Fire Brigade and firefighters from the American airbase at Attlebridge (Weston Longville) attended and it took four hours to control the blaze.

Stephanie Leitch (nee Bugdale) was 8yrs old at the time, living at Kenway cottage in the Street -

"I remember seeing one of the plane's wheels, on fire, rolling down the street towards us.  Since this was a few moments after the impact - we had time to come out to see the source of the noise - the wheel must have landed on the roof of Barwick House and from there rolled down onto the road.
There was, incidentally, a fire appliance behind Chaucer House, where Mr Lloyd Lewis had a steel workshop.  Unluckily the flaming debris blocked access to it, and they had to wait for help from the USAF  at Weston Longville.  The Bawdeswell fire team consisted of Ambrose Frankland, Sam Muttock, Billy Hagen and Arthur Currie."

Freda Aldous (nee Framingham) -

“Having just read the above about the 1944 Bawdeswell plane crash, it reminded me how lucky our family was to escape. Living in Reepham Road just past the old post office we were in a direct line of the church. I was almost one at the time but my late sister would have been about 6 and Mum always told us that when she told  Anne the church had been hit her first reaction was 'is the Noddy man collection box safe'.  He was, because I remember him from Sunday school at the temporary church near our house. (One of Bawdeswell’s three chapels.)

We had a large sycamore tree in the corner of the garden and the plane took a big piece out of it's top. When clearing my late mother's house we found a piece of it hanging on Mr Whybrow’s shed wall that backed onto our garden. Dad had hung it there to remind us of how lucky we were. 


Incidentally my father Herbert George Framingham ( Dick) was a member of Bawdeswell home guard and often laughed about how they knitted while guarding Mr Elsden's one petrol pump.”



Remarkably, no civilians were injured.



Both crew members died in the crash.
Pilot Officer James McLean (195130) aged 26, who was the son of William and Alison Pringle McLean of Bents, West Lothian, Scotland, and Sergeant Mervyn Lambert Tansley (1604944) aged 21, the son of Frederick Freeman and Alice Maud Tansley of Fulham, London.  Both crewmen were members of the RAF(VR), the volunteer reserve.
McLean is buried in Tranent new Cemetery, East Lothian, section A, grave 409.  Tansley is buried in Fulham old Cemetery, City of London, section 1, grave 14.

This is believed to have been the only Norfolk church to be destroyed in this way.

More details of the aircraft.
KB364 was a Mosquito B Mk.XX (Canadian version of the British B Mk.V) and was built by DeHaviland (Canada) at their Downsview, Toronto plant, under contract No. BsB  2115.  The aircraft was fitted with two Packard Merlin 33 engines. It was flown to Britain via Gander in Newfoundland, and arrived at Prestwick on 20th July 1944. It was delivered to No.13 Maintenance Unit at Henlow for modifications on 23rd July 1944.
On 13th August 1944 she was delivered to  608 Squadron (North Riding Squadron), which reformed on 1st August 1944 at RAF Downham Market, as part of 8 Group's  Light Night Striking Force.  It is recorded as suffering damage and being repaired on site between 29th August and 23rd October.

The above information taken from the notes of Bob Collis, Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, Suffolk, and the eye-witness report sent in by Stephanie Leitch of St Albans.

The Mosquito aircraft was made largely from plywood and had two powerful Merlin engines on the wings and a thick sheet of steel armour behind the crew to protect their backs. It was used as a light bomber and in a reconaisance role. It also made some flights over Norway to collect ball bearings from Sweeden.  RT

More about    Bawdeswell


Downham Market