Tickhill: Seventy years since US fighter plane crashed over village

P38 Lockheed Lightning
P38 Lockheed Lightning

Vivid memories of a Second World War fighter plane crashing over Tickhill have come flooding back to a Bassetlaw man, exactly 70 years on.

Norman Jessop was just 10 years old when he and his Bircotes schoolmates saw the American P38 Lockheed Lightning plummet from the sky.

It happened on 10th May 1944 and the startling scene has stuck in Norman’s memory for 70 years.

“In the days before the war, an aeroplane overhead in Bircotes was a rare enough event to cause people to run outdoors,” said Norman, 80, of Ordsall.

“All that changed a few years later when Lancaster and Halifax bombers blackened the skies while assembling before their bombing missions over Germany.”

“We had our own RAF station then, just down the road where the bluebells of Swinnow Wood once grew.”

By 1940 Norman said the air was always full of aircraft. British by day, German by night.

He said: “During the whole war, many bombs fell in the local area and a lot of planes, both German and British crashed and if carrying a load of bombs, very noisily.”

“We eventually became blasé about such things, but in the early days, they created a lot of scared interest.”

By May 1944 the air raids had just about stopped, and the only aircraft to be seen in the skies were either British or American.

“Most were bombers, but a fighter plane which we saw quite a lot of was the twin tailed Lockheed Lightning, and this provided us with just about the best crash we had ever seen,” said Norman.

“We were in the junior school playground one afternoon and the plane came over quite low, trailing smoke from its engine. We had a great view of the pilot bailing out, and watched the aircraft crash somewhere towards Tickhill.”

“At that time there were no houses or even prefabricated classrooms built to spoil the view in that direction, so the spectacle provided us with a great talking point for weeks.”

“It was twin engined, like our Mosquito, and we thought there must have been a crew of two so we ghoulishly thought that someone was still inside the thing when it crashed. In actual fact, we later discovered it was a single seat plane.”

“There were lots of plane crashes and most of the boys had collections of bits and pieces from them. Despite the number of planes going down being alarmingly high, I never actually saw one go down, other than the Tickhill Lightning.”

The name of the American pilot who bailed out of the plane on 10th May 1944 was Lee W Anderson stationed at RAF Goxhill in Lincolnshire.

Norman has written an account of his childhood growing up in the Bircotes area, for future generations of his family to read.

He said: “A younger cousin saw recently my ‘scrawlings’ and told me that his dad, my mother’s brother, had long ago told him of the same crash.”

“He said the plane had landed in marshy ground and had sunk without trace while the locals had tried to strip souvenirs from the wreck. This led me to wonder if the wreck was still there.”