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Fairey Firefly DK455 - 12/02/1946

On the morning of the 12th February 1946 at 09:35 hours, Lieutenant Thomas Wilson Wall of the Royal Canadian Fleet Air Arm No 825 squadron took off from Burscough in Fairey Firefly No DK455 with two other aircraft to practice dummy deck landings. At 250 feet the aircraft were engulfed in cloud. Lieutenant Wall flying solely on instruments circled the airfield to allow the other aircraft to land. Whilst Lieutenant Wall was flying at 4,000 feet his artificial horizon seemed to fail, and by way of using his primary instruments Lieutenant Wall then discovered that the aircraft was spinning and loosing height rapidly, Lieutenant Wall applied the specified recovery actions but was unable to recover the aircraft and remained in it as long as possible. Not realising he was over Bootle which is somewhere that would he not have over flown in bad weather Lieutenant Wall pulled back the hood at 1,000 feet and abandoned the aircraft at 800 feet with nothing only gray cloud underneath him, not being able to see the ground Lieutenant Wall thought he had abandoned the aircraft in open ground between Liverpool and Southport. At around 09:45 hours the aircraft crashed into the middle of St John's Road , Bootle near to No 75 St John's Road smashing windows and making an 8 feet crater  and fracturing the gas main, Lieutenant Wall landed a few hundred yards away uninjured. The aircraft crashed 8 minutes after making a radio homing call. Members of Bootle NFS were quickly on the scene after witnessing the incident from a nearby NFS depot.

Crash site of DK455 - Winter 2002

Crash site of DK455 - Winter 2002

As the aircraft crashed into the street a number of children were playing in the street and were badly burned, especially 5 year old Irene Jacobs of No 71 St John's Road who died of her injuries a few days later in Bootle General hospital. A Postman, Mr John Hudson was blown from his bicycle onto his face and was also burned by the resulting inferno.

Mr William O'Callaghan of No 79 St John's Road was in the front bed room of his house when he heard the rushing of wind and saw a parachute coming down and then rushed downstairs and saw the aircraft appear from behind St. Johns church, its landing wheels appearing to hit the telephone cables causing it to tilt and crash nose first, then bursting into flames. Mr O'Callaghan then saw Mr Hudson the  postman blown off his bicycle against the garden wall and also little Irene Jacobs came out from the fire at the rear of the wreckage. Mr O'Callaghan raised a coat and wrapped it around her whilst trying to put out the flames with his hands. Irene and her two brothers who were also injured were placed on a lorry and taken to hospital.

Mr Hudson recalled in his statement " I was delivering parcels in St John's Road when I heard the faint sound of an aircraft overhead. I looked up but there was a thick mist and I could see nothing. About two seconds later there was a sudden roar and an explosion in the roadway. I was blown on my face in the gutter. There was a terrible fire and I felt as though I was saturated in petrol and a mass of flames."

Residents in the street commented that the aircraft came down like a bomb, a blinding flash and when it hit the ground the houses shook.

The Coroner recorded a verdict of "Death by Misadventure" and commended Mr O'Callighan for his prompt action.

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