A REPORT OF A CRASH IN UPPER BODDINGTON
Another accident which involved civilians occured on the evening of 25 November 1944, at Upper Boddington. As Wellington LN242 of 12 OTU took off from Chipping Warden, the retaining studs on No. 5 cylinder of the port engine failed. At only 300 feet the pilot was unable to keep control of the aircraft, and it swung, lost height, struck a tree, and then crashed into the Manor House in Upper Boddington. The large house was occupied by two families, the owners Mr. and Mrs. Brooks and their daughter. and the family of an RAF ground crewman at Chipping Warden. Mrs. Tester and her two children. The Wellington hit the section of the house occupied by the Tester family. and exploded. One of the engines crashed through the floor. into the cellar. taking the occupants of the room with it. The Brooks family had just returned to their home and Miss Hilary Brooks related her horrifying experience to a Banbury Guardian reporter: I with father and mother. had just taken our coats off and were halfway up the stairs when the top of the house in a minute was ablaze. and when we turned and looked down flames were there as well. the whole place was filled with cascades of flaming petrol. We rushed down the stairs and father got to the outside door which was a mass of flames. He got the door open and when we saw that the lawn orchard and field was one sheet of blazing petrol we considered where to put down our feet. The whole house which had been sprayed with petrol was an inferno. The other wing where Mrs. Tester and her children were was one mass of flames and the cellar flap had been blown in and from below in the cellar the flames rose up like from a huge furnace. The heat was terrific.
An RAF man living in the village* entered the blazing house to search the bedrooms. to no avail. In addition to the three members of the Tester family all seven on board the Wellington were killed.
*Dianne’s Dad, Monty was the RAF man living in the village. He was on his way to hospital in BBM69 to see Phyllis, his wife who had recently had a baby boy, Peter.
The following report is from the Bury Free Press dated February 2nd 1945
The courage of Sergt. Jack Montague Smith. R.A.F., only son of Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Smith, The White Horse, Badwell Ash, has been noted recently in a Midlands newspaper. A bomber came to grief in the grounds of a fine old a twenty-roomed l6th century manor house, four stories high. Cascades of blazing petrol soon caused the house and surroundings to be an inferno, the heat being terrific. At the risk of his own life, Sgt. Smith rushed into a blazing Wing and penetrated into the bedrooms in a vain effort to save a mother and her two children (3 and 2 years) who occupied that part of the house. As he jumped to avoid the flames, Sgt. Smith alighted on the branch of a tree which broke, causing him to fall to the ground, though unhurt. He also had to be restrained from trying to rescue a pet dog from the blazing kitchen. “His courage was marvellous,” said an onlooker. The bereaved husband belonged to Sgt. Smith’s ground staff.
Mr. W.E. Whitton, of Towcester, Coroner for South Northants, held an inquest in the village inn yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. The ruins of the Manor House round the corner was a scene of desolation and what remained of the aeroplane had been moved with other rubble and debris to the grass near by.
The Coroner sat without a jury. There were present Mr. Tester, the bereaved husband and father, Supt.Barker, P.C. Panther, of the Constabulary, Mr. S.H. Brooks, owner of the Manor Farm, Miss Ivy Linette Sturt, a witness, who saw the beginnings of the tragedy, Mr. John F. Croscombe, Divisional A.R.P. Officer, and Dr. Gordon Grant Lindsey, medical officer in connection with the R.A.F.
The Coroner said it was difficult to get evidence of identification of the three victims because the body of the mother, Mrs. Evelyn Margaret Tester had not been rcovered, but it was known that she was in the Manor House on Saturday night with her two children. The accident to the plane had nothing to do with him as Coroner, He was only concerned with the cause of death of Mrs. Tester and her two children.
Evidence of the Bereaved Husband and Father
L.A.C. Charles William B. Tester said he was living with his wife and two children in Mr. Brooks’ house. He last saw his wife and children at 4 p.m. on Saturday when he left to go on duty. They lived on the south side of the house. He was not present when the bodies were recovered. He identified the pieces of metal produced as part of his wife’s bangle.
Mr. S. Brooks, of the Manor House Farm, Upper Boddington, said that on Saturday night he was at home with his wife and daughter. Mrs. Tester and her children lived in the house. When the house was struck he got his wife and daughter out safely. The plane crashed into the room where Mrs. Tester was. He did not see anything of the Testers then. He had seen them an hour before. They slept in one room. The whole house was set on fire and was soon gutted. The plane went right down into the cellar and it was a scene of a burning furnace.
Miss Iris Linette Sturt said that on Saturday night she was standing near the Manor House and heard a plane comming. It appeared to be losing its height and there was a crash. The engines were running all right apparently. The plane was not on fire in the air. She next saw the Manor House in flames.
The Search for the Bodies
P.C. Panther, of Culworth, said at 9.10 p.m. he received information of a plane crash at Upper Boddington, and he found the Manor House in flames. The plane had crashed into the house, into the part of it where the Tester family were living. After searching for three days they had not been able to find the body of Mrs. Tester. Debris had fallen into the cellar. A great deal of debris was moved and they then found the body of Carol Tester and then that of Micheal Tester. They had been looking for Mrs. Tester since and 15 tons of rubble had been removed. They had worked under difficulties. They came across bones of a skull and a few things including the remains of Mrs. Tester’s bangle.
Dr. Gordon Grant Lindsay, Medical Officer, R.A.F. said he examined the remains produced. The bones of a human skull of an adult person and the bodies of the children – that of a female and a male, were both found together. The hair of the girl was dark brown and that of the boy of a lighter colour. The cause of death would be multiple injuries and burns.
The father said his daughter’s hair was very fair, but it might have turned by the heat and smoke.
The Coroner – it is clear there was nobody else in that part of the house. I find a verdict that death in all three cases was due to multiple injuries and burns. I deeply sympathise with Mr. Tester in the sad loss of his wife and children and also with Mr. Brooks on the destruction of his house.
Mr. Tester, Mr. Brooks and Miss Sturt did not wish to take any expenses as witnesses.
The Coroner gave certificates for the burial of the remains.
THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXTRACT FROM AVIATION RESEARCH WEBSITE
Welcome to Aviation Research
During WWII many of the aerodromes around Brackley, South Northamptonshire were buzzing with activity. Aerodromes such as RAF Barford St John, RAF Bicester, RAF Chipping Warden, RAF Croughton, RAF Finmere, RAF Hinton-in-the-Hedges, RAF Silverstone, RAF Turweston and RAF Upper Heyford were Operational Training Units (OTU’s), where the selection and training of crews on aircraft such as the Hampden, Blenheim, Wellington, Mosquito and Boston took place. Astonishingly there were in excess of 400 aircraft losses within a 15-mile radius of Brackley, involving these young crews and usually resulting in tragic loss of life. Stationed in the area were over 10,000 RAF Servicemen and women, either billeted near the Aerodromes or lodging locally.
Date: 25 Nov 1944
Unit: 12 OTU
Type: Wellington X
Serial No.: LN242
Take Off: Chipping Warden
Sgt R M High Killed
F/S A D Springett Killed
Sgt E F Isterling Killed
F/O G Smith Killed
Sgt J Heap Killed
Sgt J R Robinson Killed
Sgt J C Carlyle Killed
ON THE GROUND
Mrs E M Tester Killed
Miss C Tester Killed
Mstr M Tester Killed
Mr S H Brooks Injured
Miss H Brooks
Description: T/o 2055 Chipping Warden for a night cross-country but at 300 feet the port engine cut and seconds later the bomber scythed through the tops of trees along the Welsh Road before dropping into a field, its momentum being hardly slowed as it careered through the garden wall at Manor Farm, Upper Boddington.
Search and Rescue: Owned by Mr S. Brooks, Manor Farm (or Manor House as it is referred to in the Banbury Advertiser’s edition for 29 November 1944) was a sixteenth century building, comprising of two wings. One of the wings was rented by LAC Roy Tester, who had been posted to Chipping Warden and, who, on the night of the accident, was on duty at the airfield. Within seconds of the impact, the wing housing the Tester family was ablaze, and though the flames quickly spread to the remainder of the house, the owner, his wife and daughter, Hilary, escaped almost unscathed, though Mr Brooks sustained very painful burns to his right forearm as he tried to gain entry to that part of the building which had taken the full force of the crash. Within the next few minutes, he (Mr Brooks) was joined by his nephew, Mr F T Brooks, Sgt Montague Smith, an airmen living in the village and members of the National Fire Service crews from both Brackley and Banbury. Their efforts were to no avail and over the next three harrowing days, the remains of the two Tester children, aged three and two respectively, were recovered from the mass of debris carried into the cellar; very sadly, nothing could be found of their mother, who is remembered for her fine singing voice and cheerful willingness to, in the words of the Banbury Guardian report, place her accomplishments at the disposal of any good cause. As recounted, her husband was on duty and the news of this terrible tragedy was conveyed to him by Upper Boddington’s Rector, the Revd W T Gibbings, whose church has been slightly damaged by bits of aircraft that had been thrown through the air. Of its crew, F/S Springett from Worthing was buried in Banbury Cemetery, while the others were taken to their home towns.