Ribble Valley Borough
|Death: ||Aug. 23, 1944|
A special Thank You to Armantia for the transfer of Sylvia's page!
UPDATE, JUNE 2016: From the U.K. Census site -
District: Amounderness ... County: Lancashire ... Year: 1939 ...
Mother's Maiden Name: Banks ... Quarter: 2 ... Volume: 8e ...
Page: 625 ...
Sylvia Bickerstaff was one of 38 children killed on 23, August 1944 when a U.S. bomber crashed into the small village of Freckleton during a storm. The casualty list would reach 61 individuals, among them the pilot and crew of the crashed airplane, staff and customers in a small cafe in the path of the crash, and civilians.
The Freckleton Disaster occurred when storms came up suddenly on the day of the crash. Two B-24s already in the air were recalled, with weather warnings; however, by the time the order to return to ground had been issued, winds had reached 60 mph, flooding was being reported in Blackpool and other areas, and water spouts were appearing in the Ribble Estuary.
1st Lieutenant John Bloemendahl, the pilot of the second aircraft - the "Classy Chassis II" - reported that he was aborting landing at the last moment and would 'circle round again'. Within minutes, the aircraft struck Freckleton, east of the airfield.
It was determined that the aircraft's wings were nearly vertical when it clipped the treetops and then impacted with the corner of a building; one of the wings was immediately sheared away and continued along the ground and through hedges. The 25 ton bomber's fuselage demolished three homes and the Sad Sack Cafe, before crossing the road and bursting into flames. The fuselage then struck the infants' wing of Freckleton Holy Trinity School, its' fuel igniting a sea of flames.
The official decision regarding the crash was listed as unknown, but it was questioned whether the American pilot may have been unprepared for the sudden weather changes in English rain - a 'shower' can quickly go to thunderstorm, and worse.
Sylvia Bickerstaffe is listed in some documentation as between the age of 4 and 6 years old; her parents are noted as Edward and Elizabeth Bickerstaffe of Warton.
She is memorialized with the other Freckleton casualties at the official memorial, and it is noted that he was buried in a communal burial.
Lastly, the one good thing that may have come from this horrible tragedy is that, due to the opinions that perhaps the pilot had not been trained for the severity of British weather, all American pilots sent over following the Freckleton Disaster were re-trained regarding weather threats, and pilot adaptation to sudden emergency.
Note: Civilian War Dead
Maintained by: Rhonda C. Poynter/Gannon...
Originally Created by: International Wargraves ...
Record added: Sep 03, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 58136223