Date: 27/28th November 1940 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 114 Squadron
Type: Blenheim IV
Base: RAF Oulton, Norfolk
Location: Catton Park, Old Catton, Norwich, Norfolk
Pilot: Sgt. Peter Waigh RAF Injured
Navigator: Sgt. Dicky Rook RAF Injured
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Paddy Murphy RAF Injured
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 17:45 hrs to take part in a 62 aircraft raid on the city of Koln, Germany, however less than half the force reported bombing the target. It is reported that Blenhein IV R3594 came down on return after hitting a tree at Catton Deer park, cause was placed as icing on windscreen.
We are very fortunate that one of the crew, Sgt. Dicky Rook, had been interviewed by a historian of the Old Catton village in Norfolk where the aircraft came down.
The following is a transcript of that interview:
"We were airborne at 17.45 and climbed steadily to around 18,000 ft at which altitude over the target area the outside temperature was minus 42C. The inside temperature would have been only marginally better and one’s breath was forming frost on eyebrows and eyelashes. Having released our bombs we commenced a slow descent and experienced anti-aircraft fire and severe icing conditions.
It must be remembered that in those days the aircraft were not fitted with any de-icing facilities and escape was only possible by either climbing or descending to a non ice forming strata. The conditions caused continuous frosting and misting-over of the flying instruments which had to be kept clear by continually wiping them with gloved hands.”
We made landfall at Happisburgh lighthouse and descended gently until we were in the vicinity of our landing aerodrome at about 21.30 but were unable to make radio contact with base control. It later transpired that this was because we were flying too low. At this time, however, I advised the pilot, Sergeant Peter Waigh that my altimeter was reading almost zero and suggested, with some urgency, that he immediately gain some height.
He replied that his own altimeter was reading 600ft and he saw no reason for increasing this. Very soon after we apparently struck the roof of a house, within a mile or so of the aerodrome, and crashed into a field. I have a very hazy recollection of briefly becoming conscious and being placed in an ambulance and then nothing for several days."
Blenheim IV R3594 (courtesy Old Catton Website)
"After several days in hospital I was sent this photo of the crash scene by the Station Intelligence Officer, one Flight Lieutenant Fletcher.
After several weeks in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital enjoying the company of the nurses, I rejoined my Squadron at Oulton. From this time I remained on Blenheim operational squadrons until September 1941 when I was posted as an instructor to a Blenheim unit at RAF Bicester.
From there I was posted to a Wellington O.T.U. where I was appointed Station Navigation Officer, with the rank of Squadron Leader in 1944, having completed 75 operational sorties in all.”
Left: Sq/Ldr. Dicky Rook aged 89, at retirement home RAF Bicester. (Courtesy Old Catton Website)
Norma Roll, a local girl who witnessed the crash also was interviewed by the historian of the Old Catton village website:
“I was a school child during the war and lived near the airfield at Horsham St Faith. A bomber came down partly in our garden and over the hedge of the back garden into the adjoining field on November 27th 1940. Our address at the time was 53 North Walsham Road, Old Catton. Sadly the house is no longer there.”
“The bomber was on its way home after a mission and our house was in the direct flight path to St Faiths Aerodrome, where they were stationed. The plane hit a pear tree in our garden just outside my bedroom window causing it to bounce over our house into a field a few yards away. One engine actually wedged itself into our back door and my father, Claude Roll, was unable to get out of the house through the kitchen to help. He had to run out through our front door and into the field, now Moore Avenue.
At the time the siren and the alert was on, hence we were not sure whether it was a German plane brought down, but hearing the pilot shouting “Get us out of this *#!? plane”, my dad realised it was British and helped to rescue the crew. Mr Edgar Betts and Mr Arthur Townsend both living in the North Walsham Road, also helped with the crew’s rescue.
As you will see by the Royal Air Force letters, my family loaned items such as blankets that were snatched from our beds to wrap up the injured crew. I can remember the pilot saying the instruments in the plane were frozen as it was such an awful November night, and they thought they were much higher than they really were, hence hitting our pear tree.
We did visit the crew in hospital and I can remember them bringing us some chocolates when they were fully recovered from their injuries. This was a real treat in 1940.”
Norma Roll pictured left aged 16 and right in 2006
The crew recovered from their injuries and returned to active service. Dicky Rook and Paddy Murphy crewed together for another year before being separated by postings to different units.
All the crew survived the war and Peter Waigh lived in Norwich for a time. Both Peter and Paddy were survived by Dicky who, when Graham visited him, was aged 89. He lived in the Old Officer’s Mess at RAF Bicester which has been revitalised as a Nursing Home. The dining room and bar have been retained with RAF Bicester memorabilia. He appeared to be very much at home.
It is with sadness that Dickie Rook died in August 2008 aged 92 after a short illness. His three daughters were with him and he was buried at Edgcott church near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.
Researched by Old Catton Village Society and Aircrew Remembered. With thanks to the following, Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses", Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - "Bomber Command War Diaries". Gordon Stuart, Norma Roll, Arthur Cannings and all involved with the Old Catton Website for their kind help and assistance with information and photographs for this article.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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