Newspaper report a number of days after the crash ..
When a German mine-laying plane crashed at Clacton on May 1, the explosion caused great damage for half a mile. Thanks to the admirable, working of the local A.R.P services, fires were got under control and the wounded received expeditious treatment. Here are some stories of the scene by eye-witnesses in the neighbourhood.
Mrs E. F Thomas saw the plane crash. She said:
"The, plane was on fire. Several Very lights were thrown out of it, and, the pilot was apparently trying to find some place to land. Fifty yards up Victoria Road the plane hit the road, bounced through the side of a house, and then went clean through two other houses, smashing them to pieces. A few minutes later there was an explosion. By now I had run out into the road; and I suddenly heard a man saying, "Stay ,where you are," and I realised that I was lying on the ground, unhurt but shaken by the explosion."
Miss Joyce Redding, of Russell Road, said: "I saw the plane come over the pier, bank round the back of a nursing home, just missing it, and then bounce off the roof of a house. When we heard it crash and saw the flames my father and I rushed out to see if we could help. We were within twenty yards when the explosion came it knocked us flat and deafened us, but although houses all round us cracked and tilted and roofs fell in and slid off, we were not hurt. We then ran back home and found my mother badly cut by glass on the face and arms. One extraordinary thing was that, although every window was shattered and black-out materials were torn down, the electricity was not cut off and the district was a blaze of light. When half an hour afterwards an unknown plane flew overhead wardens hurried round shouting lights out."
A practical example of what would happen if the Germans deliberately bombed our towns was given when the mine carrying twin Diesel engined Junkers JU 86K plane crashed at Clacton on May 1. Here soldiers are examining wreckage in what were once the gardens of the devastated houses.
Mr Ernest J Harper, of Connaught Gardens West, a friend of Mr and Mrs. Gill, who were killed, said that Mr Gill was a retired wool merchant and a native of Yorkshire. Mrs Gill was an Australian.
"Their son William, who is nineteen," said Mr. Harper,
"is in hospital with a gash across the back of his head. He does not yet know that his parents are dead."
Mr Harper's 17 year-old son Kenneth, a friend of William Gill, said:
"I saw the plane, which had been careering round the district for about half an hour, hit a house. One wing of it was left in the garden of that house, and it went over to the Gills house, knocking down a tree and coming to a standstill. I ran up to within about thirty-five yards of it when I heard a terrific explosion. The next thing I knew was debris flying all about me, and i put my arms around my head and ran. I had a very narrow escape. Bricks were flying all around. Bill Gill apparently got his father into the garden and went back for his mother, but the house had collapsed before he could get her out. I suppose he found his mother was trapped and he ran to get other help. Then, while he was out, the house collapsed entirely. When he reached us, young Gill was without shoes, and his shirt was just about blown off him."
For some time after the disaster at Clacton A.R.P workers were kept busy pulling down unsafe walls and partly demolished houses. This house was so obviously, on the verge of collapse that demolition had to be carried out with the utmost caution.
One house within a few yards of where the bomber crashed had miraculously escaped the fate of the houses on the other side of the bomber.
Its roof had been torn, windows and doors blown out, the furniture wrecked but the occupants were unhurt. Mr Powis, who is staying in the house, with his son and daughter-in-law, said:
"We saw flames from the bomber, which actually burned windows at the side of the house, and we ran out into the street. Just as I got to the garden gate, there was one terrific explosion. The house on the other side of where the bomber crashed collapsed like a pack of cards, but the outhouse, to my amazement, still stood. For nearly a minute wreckage of all sorts flew through the air, and I was struck by bricks and slates, but luckily not hurt. Within a few minutes those who were not seriously hurt had run out to do what they could to help."
Women and children placed flowers on the graves of the four German airmen who died in the Clacton disaster, when they were buried with full military honours.
Brig-Gen. W. M Fordham, deputy chief A.R.P warden of Clacton, who lives in the road in which the bomber crashed, said he and his neighbours rushed to the rescue. "There was no panic," he said. "The injured people were quickly attended to and hurried to hospital. The A.R.P personnel showed that they have been well trained. They were quick, and yet as cool and efficient as if they were on one of our usual exercises." Gen. Fordham added that the fire brigade and A.F.S also did remarkably well. "This terrible crash," he said, "has provided the biggest test to which any town's A.R.P service could expect to be put. I am proud of the way our fellows stood up to it."