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Rushden Echo and Argus, 24th March 1944
Plane Crash at Yelden

Asleep in a bungalow, two children were killed when a bomber crashed on a farm at Yelden, near Rushden, in darkness early on Friday. In the next room their mother and father escaped miraculously from the rubble left by the crash, while fire completed the ruin of their home. The plane burst into flames and blew to pieces, about ten gallant airmen losing their lives.

Eight people who occupied a billet in the village were killed when their building was shattered.

The Rectory
The Rectory House
The children who perished were Keith Phillips aged 14 and his sister Monica, a schoolgirl aged nearly five. Their parents are Mr. & Mrs. Walter Phillips, who tenant Glebe Farm, a small farm of 50 or 60 acres, have lived at Yelden about ten years. From the Rectory nearby the Rev. R. Paddick and his wife and Mrs. L. A. Cole were standing at the front door and saw the tragedy enacted. “The plane” said Mrs. Cole to an Evening Telegraph reporter, “was making a terrible noise and appeared to circle over our house terribly low – we thought we could almost have touched it, though that is an exaggeration of course. It came back and crashed into the farm bungalow. Immediately there were masses of flames everywhere; the plane must have broken up at once. A hayrick was also on fire. I dragged the Rector in and shut the door. We got into the study at the back of the house because we felt there would be an explosion, and then we felt we ought to go into the village. We could not get down our drive so we scrambled through Mr. Hawkey’s drive.

“The Rector is Head Warden of the village and I am leader of the F.A. Point. The services were not brought into action but the people in several cottages were evacuated, some going into other houses, and some into the air raid shelters.

“Mr. and Mrs. Phillips must have had a miraculous escape – we simply cannot imagine how they got out. I have been told that Mr. Phillips had an injury to the leg, but that this was caused by his kicking at the window frame so that he could get his wife out.

“Fireman soon arrived and they got the fires under control in about two hours".

Search for Children

Soon after the crash the N.F.S. crews began to arrive from Rushden, Bedford and other places. The farmer and his wife were taken to Northampton General Hospital but two hours elapsed before two policemen – Constables Gough and Duncan – could remove the bodies of the children.

The little girl was found on the charred frame of the bed and her brother was on the floor nearby. It was found that a chimney stack had fallen right across the children’s bed.

Some officers and men arrived and joined with the firemen in gallant efforts to cope with the fires and search for possible survivors. Another who came to the rescue was an R.A.F. officer from Bedford – Flight Lieut. William Henry Sands, of 24 Manor-road – and he was praised highly for his attempts to deal with the various fires.

Inspector Andrews of Kempston took charge of the Police work and P.C. Vintner and S.C.s from Yelden and other villages all helped.

Two calves were burnt to death on the farm.

N.F.S. Praised

During a tour of the scene on Friday morning our reporter found the villagers full of praise for the authorities, who were doing all in their power to assist them in everyway.

Officers were no less grateful for the work-of the fire services, and a Lt. Col. said: "We are greatly indebted to the N.P.S. for their quick and efficient work. They were tireless in their efforts and won the admiration of all of us at the scene of accident".

One of the villagers, who described Monica Phillips as "a dear child" recalled that she recently appeared as a fairy in a play at the school.

Keith Phillips, known to all as a quiet boy, had left school and was helping his father on the farm. All that remained of the bungalow was two stumps of brickwork, one at either end. Among the litter was a twisted frame of a bed and a tin trunk. A fallen tree lay close by and over a large area was scattered the fragments of the plane and its equipment including the helmets of the gallant crew who had perished.

Church Damaged

All the front windows of the Rectory were damaged and most of the windows in the 13th Century Parish Church where John Bunyan used to preach and where the Rector of those days was compelled to resign his living because he had permitted the tinker from Bedford to speak from his pulpit.

An “Echo and Argus” reporter accompanied the Rector when he made his first inspection of the church interior. He found Bunyan’s pulpit intact; there was no inside damage whatever., though the church was littered with broken glass.

The village school was more seriously damaged; it was in much disorder, though the radio set still worked.  The clock had stopped and uts hands recorded the time of the crash.

Inquest Opened

The Chequers, now replaced after a fire
The Chequers where the inquest was opened
Because the parents were still in hospital the inquest on Keith and Monica Phillips was adjourned after the Beds. Coroner (Mr G J M Whyley) had heard brief evidence at ‘The Chequers’ Yelden on Monday afternoon.

P.C. William Vintner, of Dean gave evidence that while at his station early on Friday morning he heard an explosion and going outside, saw that a large fire had started in the direction of Yelden. He came to the conclusion that a plane had crashed. Going to Yelden, he found that the bungalow at Glebe Farm, occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Phillips and their family, was on fire.

The National Fire Service and other people were doing everything possible to put out the fires. All the people in the cottages nearby had been evacuated – some to the surface shelters.

Mr. and Mrs. Phillips were taken to hospital, but he learned that their two children were missing. With other police officers he inspected the bungalow and found the body of the boy lying on the floor; he thought the bed must have been blown to bits.

They also found the body of the girl who was still lying in her bed with her feet pinned down by the brickwork of the fireplace, which had fallen across them. Both bodies were removed to the ‘Chequers Inn’.

Struck a Tree

Other evidence showed that two explosions were heard almost simultaneously. One may have been due to the plane striking a tree, and the other to the petrol.

Adjourning the inquest until April 24th, when it will be resumed at Sharnbrook Court House, the Coroner said he thought the parents should have an opportunity to attend.

A relative informed the Coroner that an operation had been carried out on Mr. Phillips’s foot.

Mr. Ralph Ward, of Messrs. Burnham, Son and Lewin, Wellingborough, said he was desired on behalf of the parents to express sympathy with the authorities in the loss of their personnel. “It is a tragedy for everybody”, he added.

An officer speaking for the authorities expressed thanks to Mr. Ward and offered sympathy to all who been affected by the occurrence, adding that the authorities were prepared to do anything that would help or expediate matters.

Inspector Andrews, voiced the sympathy of the court with all concerned. The Coroner concurring, observed that the children were only two out of a number who lost their lives.

A Childrens Hymn

A moving reference to the tragedy was made by the Rev. R. Paddick at the Parish Church on Sunday, and in memory of the two child victims, a children’s hymn, ‘God Eternal, Mighty King' was sung.

Repairs to the day school, of which Mrs. Wildman is the headmistress, were in progress on Monday, when a temporary school was opened at the Methodist Chapel.

Taken from the barracks site showing the burnt out barracks & looking across to where the bungalow stood (there is a fireman still working there). In the background (top right) is the old milking parlour which my Dad had converted into a house - we lived there from the age of two until I was ten.
In the centre is the remains of the tailplane of the B17G.
Photos courtesy of Mike Phillips

Cottages opposite the church the back of the school
Cottages, with damaged windows and the rear of the old school with damage to the roof. There is a canister from the plane on the ground.
The cottages & the school were only about 50yds from the bungalow.

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