My daughter was born at my sister’s house in November 1944. I returned home with her when she was three weeks old. I had photos taken at a studio soon after we arrived home. These were to be the only photos of my daughter before the accident. I hadn’t collected them from the photographers at the time of the plane crash so they survived.
The plane crash was on the morning of Saturday 17th February 1945.
I had put my daughter outside the front door in her pram; I then went into the bedroom to tidy myself and to put my coat on. I was looking in the mirror when I saw this huge plane coming into the garden, it was silent, no engine. I thought that my baby would be all right as the plane was coming toward the back of the bungalow, so remembering what we had been told to do during raids etc. I lay on the floor. The last thing that I remembered was debris falling on me, which must have knocked me out for a few seconds. I came to and my wardrobe was holding up the ceiling where I was lying. I scrambled up thinking that I must get to my baby, I walked through the bedroom to the lounge, there wasn’t a wall there any more and no glass in the windows. I fell out of the window and my friend was there and she helped me out.
I rushed round to where the pram was shouting “MY BABY!” by that time the bungalow was alight and burning rubble had fallen onto the pram. I was pulled away, still screaming for my baby but I was held back. A man who was visiting his brother’s family across the road ran over and with his bare hands got my daughter out of the pram. When I saw how badly she was burnt I wished that God had taken her, as her little face was burned also her arm and hand. The man who lived opposite was about to take a bride to her wedding, but no more ado he came and took us to the hospital, ribbons flying.
I don’t think that I have ever spent a more unhappy night, my baby was crying and I couldn’t pick her up as my hands were bandaged, so I continually called the nurse. Eventually the Matron came and said, “ What are you making all the fuss for?”
The next day a Doctor came from East Grinstead hospital and we were taken there and we stayed for three months. Fortunately my baby was still able to breast feed. Which helped to save her life. She had saline bathes everyday and was the youngest patient they had ever had.
My husband was serving in India at the time of the crash and didn’t even know that he had a daughter until she was about four months old. He didn’t know about the accident because his mother had written to him and just said that I couldn’t write as I had hurt my hands. (I used to write several times a week).
The first thing that he knew about it was when one of the fellows that was with him had the Local newspaper sent to him and this news was on the front page. You can imagine the shock; He put in for leave but wasn’t allowed to come home. Our daughter was nearly two before he came home and saw her, he walked through the door and she was in her high chair, my husband kissed me and she said, “Oh Mama!”.
We spent years going to and fro to East Grinstead for her to have skin grafts; she had the last one when she was sixteen.
There were five people killed that day including both pilots, we were the only two saved.
The Memorial to those that died
(My Grandmother wrote this account in about 1995, the baby of course, is my mum)