Lancaster bomber PB304 crash site at Salford

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Lancaster PB304, Salford

All 7 crewmen and 2 people on the ground were killed when the damaged and bomb laden Lancaster PB304 of 106 Squadron based at RAF Metheringham, Lincolnshire crashed into the opposite bank of the River Irwell here at Pendlebury, Salford on Sunday 30 July 1944. The pilot was attempting to crash land the Lancaster in the playing fields just beyond.

EDIT JULY 2015. More photos added showing the bomb damage to Regatta Street and a newspaper appeal.

Crash site on Google maps

Below; Looking south east towards Manchester.
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Below; detail from the Salford City Reporter of Friday 5 August 1944.

“PLANE CRASHES ON RIVER BANK
Many People Injured and Much Property Damaged
EXPLOSION HEARD ALL OVER THE CITY
About eighty people were injured, one of whom subsequently died, and considerable damage was caused to property when a British aeroplane crashed and blew up on the bank of the Irwell, near Langley-road, Pendlebury, about a hundred yards from the Salford boundary, and fronting on the Littleton-road Playing Fields on Sunday. The crew of the plane were killed.”

Below; image on display at Yorkshire Air Museum showing the crew positions. The BBC tried to do something similar but chose to use a silhouette of a Halifax bomber taken from an RAF recruitment poster.
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Below; Crew of PB304.
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Crew photo from here

The brand new Lancaster had been on a bombing raid on German positions at Cahagnes in Normandy in support of British troops on the ground. The attacking force comprised 462 Lancasters, 200 Halifax bombers and 30 Mosquitos but due to cloud covering the target area many were not ordered down through the cloud to bomb at low level and returned to base still carrying their bombs. Moreover, the returning crews could not ditch their bombs in the English Channel due to all the Allied shipping supplying the invading forces.

Below; A Lancaster bomber, this is NX611 “Just Jane” at East Kirby
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Possibly hit by flak as it circled above the clouds over Normandy, Lancaster PB304 was in trouble as it came in over Manchester on a route back to base at RAF Metheringham in Lincolnshire.

The many witness accounts told of the Lancaster flying low with port engine trouble and attempting to land at the Littleton Road playing fields. The first attempt was aborted and Flight Lieutenant Lines brought the aircraft back round for another attempt. He very nearly made it but a wing clipped the roof tops of houses in Regatta Street and the Lancaster crashed into the far bank of the River Irwell. There was apparently a pause of 30 seconds before the bombs on board exploded.

Below; Two photos of Regatta Street after the crash and the bombs exploded, kindly provided by Bob and Beryl.
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Below; Regatta Street now.
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Visiting the scene last week, I spoke with a Regatta Street resident called Beryl. She was just a small child at the time but was able to recall it. She had been playing out but had just returned to her home when the Lancaster crashed followed by the explosion which demolished a couple of houses in the street. She told me one memory of that was a seat being ripped clean off her bike. Beryl also showed me a framed photo of her home after the incident – all the windows smashed, the walls damaged and part of the roof was missing.

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The photo above and the poem by J Belshaw of Pendleton, courtesy of Bob and Beryl.

Two people on the ground (not one as initially reported) died of injuries caused by the blast; a 45 year old ARP warden, Mr George Morris and 72 years old Mrs Lucy Bamford, both of Pendleton.

The Salford City Reporter of August 18 1944 reported on the coroner’s inquiry. Mrs Caroline Morris said her husband had been working in the allotment. Mr Morris had asked his wife to fetch some scissors from the house to cut some roses. As she returned she saw the Lancaster low overhead and thought it was doing stunts. He shouted, “Run for it Carrie!” I ran behind an air raid shelter. There was a loud explosion. I ran home to see whether the children were safe and then ran back to the allotment where I found him lying on the ground. He said his left leg had gone.

Mr Morris seemed to be recovering well in hospital but died a few hours later, the cause of death was a pulmonary embolism brought on by the fracture to his leg.

The other fatality on the ground was Mrs Lucy Bamford who was at home in Langley Road. She too appeared to recover well and was discharged from hospital but died at her son’s home on August 11. The grandson of Mrs Lucy Bamford has written a book on the subject called the Salford Lancaster. Surprisingly neither Salford nor Eccles library had a copy (and neither had I) and so have had to find other sources for the details presented here.

CREW

The pilot was Flight Lieutenant Peter Lines from Purley in Surrey and although early into his tour of operations he was considered an exceptionally good pilot.

The Wireless Operator was Sergeant Arthur Young from Cardiff. Of Afro-Caribbean descent he was one of the few black airmen at that time.

Sergeant Mohand Singh was the Lancaster’s rear gunner and was from the Punjab; he was completing his 22nd operation but in civilian life was a medical student.

Sergeant Raymond Barnes (Flight Engineer) was local to the area in which PB304 crashed, his home was less than a mile and a half up the road. It is possible he guided Flight Lieutenant Lines to the playing fields.

Mid upper gunner Sergeant John Bruce Thornley Davenport was from near Market Drayton in Shropshire. Aged 30 he had been an RAF cook who applied for crew duties and completed a gunnery course.

The Bomb Aimer was Flying Officer John Steele, of Bradford. He had reportedly told his family of a premonition he would not survive the month.

Flying Officer Harry Reid was the navigator and was from Toronto. His parents were from the Orkneys and before the war Harry Reid had been studying maths and physics at the University of Toronto.

Below; Two of the crew. F/O Reid on the left, Sgt Young on the right
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Harry Reid photo
Arthur Young photo

Picture below of Sergeant Mohand Singh courtesy of his nephew Anil Sood and used with kind permission.

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At the nearby Agecroft cemetery there is this memorial.
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The stone for the monument was donated by a quarry owner from Halifax called Tommy Topham who apparently donated the stone for many war memorials in the UK.

Below; Memorial at RAF Metheringham, photo taken during a brief visit to the airfield.
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Below; Bombing up a 106 Squadron Lancaster at RAF Metheringham. Photo from wikipedia.
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96 comments on “Lancaster bomber PB304 crash site at Salford
  1. Al says:

    Nicely done mate, great that you met the lady with the story. Wonder what he was doing over Manchester on his way to Lincs though?

    • Ian D B says:

      Yeah, curious route from Normandy. Came in from Blackpool which just confuses me more. Must’ve been a good reason for it.

    • katherine taylor says:

      This is a brilliant story for my ww2 topic. Really brings it home to the kids
      Would you be interested In talking to them about it

      • Joe Bamford says:

        I’d be very happy to give a talk about PB304 and the incident in Salford. I’ve only recently made contact with the pilot’s younger brother and discovered that he was best friends with the last surviving ‘Dam Buster’ Johnny Johnson.J

  2. Paul says:

    Thats an epic tale Ian . Nicely linking quite a few experiences together too .
    Keep meaning to buy the book ….it occasionally comes up for sale on fleabay . Seen pictures before of Regatta street , but facing toward the water ….one shot carried the claim that the plane came down near a ‘nowadays metal fence surrounding a nowadays garage….dont know how accurate a claim that is of course !

    • Ian D B says:

      That’s about right, there is a garage on Regatta St if I recall. But the Lanc crossed the river I believe and crashed on the opposite bank. Mind if I had the book it might tell me something completely different, but that was my understanding. It is better remembered than the Halifax which crashed in nearby Blackley a few months later.

  3. Paul says:

    maybe the Blackley one is one to chase up the details on ?

    • Ian D B says:

      Someone got in touch with me about that one a while back I think… There was not much in the newspaper reports that came as a surprise. Just the Salford one is better remembered. People around Blackley don’t know much of it, at least not the people I spoke with.

  4. Al says:

    Came from the west? I think they often routed over the south on raids but that’s unusual?

    Found this which I hope you don’t mind me adding,Bomber Command were busy that night:

    “692 aircraft – 462 Lancasters, 200 Halifaxes, 30 Mosquitos – were sent to bomb 6
    German positions in front of a mainly American ground attack in the Villers
    Bocage Caumont area. The presence of cloud caused many difficulties and only 377
    aircraft were able to bomb, on to Oboe markers, and only 2 of the 6 targets were
    effectively hit. 4 Lancasters lost.

    2 Mosquitos carried out uneventful Ranger patrols”

    Reckon this one would be a good one for a look at the 1180.

    • Ian D B says:

      Not sure why such a convoluted route. I reckon it will all be in the book. Should’ve got a copy before I went!

      A bad day though, things certainly buggered by the cloud covering the target with the risk of hitting French civilians preventing bombing and ships in the Channel so the bombers had to land with their bombs still on board.

  5. ang wickham says:

    For not having the elusive book, as yet, this post is a solid grounding in the event! You even managed to chat with locals that were there [!]. Great variety in pix, nice to have the orientation added [looking south east] as not being local one starts to try to work it out [impossible but still worth a shot]. I also like how you’ve included more links [like the Cranage post] that help your site serve as a stepping stone for people that are interested in particular branches of the history to these events.

    Even though I’m not from the UK I had some idea that the aircraft was on the wrong side of country, Lancashire vs. Lincolnshire … in comments you mentioned Blackpool and that is truly out of the way! Until you get the book, a couple of guesses: the weather meant routing via the west coast [but other aircraft would have also done similar]; the supposed port engine problem occured at such a time in the journey that whilst dealing with this issue they ‘missed the turnoff’ toward their home base, also if there really was alot of drag off that left engine ‘steering’ right would have required continual effort .. or, perhaps after the engine trouble they considered dropping their load out into the Irish Sea [discount that one, as they didn’t do it]. .. It could even simply be a matter of ‘Gosh there’s Blackpool! We’ve hit the west coast and know definitively where we are, let’s go home via Manchester!’

    Very sad that they didn’t make it 🙁

    • Ian D B says:

      Thank you very much Ang! You are too kind. Grovelling aside I am puzzled by the route. All I know is that bit about the seas being chock full of supplies for the invasion forces. The RAF were concentrating on bombing Wehrmacht positions in France so presumably that meant more aircraft in the skies coming and going, maybe that was the cause of the return via the north west? Am sure the answer is out there!

  6. richard holt says:

    Hi,heres some photos of the area around Regatta Street from 1949.
    There is obvious damage to the houses,but i cant see any damage on the river bank.there are a total of eight pictures,some better than others,from the Britain from above site.If you sign in,you can use their zoom facility to get a close look.here is a shot of Regatta street,the link may show the others available,or search Universal metal.
    http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/eaw023602?search=universal%20metal&ref=7

    • Ian D B says:

      Thanks Richard. I shall have to take a closer look to see Regatta St but it is a very interesting site, thanks for the link!
      Ian

  7. Ian D B says:

    Yes I certainly think that the full load of bombs and the activity in the air at the time, with all that stuff needing to be transported over to the Normandy front will have had some bearing on the decision. Bombers with engine trouble tended to put down at the first airfield they came across. For example, Halifax HR727 crashed on Kinder Scout in the Peak District after being damaged over Frankfurt. If I recall correctly the pilot was criticised for pressing on to reach the base in Yorkshire when he should have put down as soon as possible. Besides, flying over Manchester doesn’t really improve the crews chances of putting down safely. I certainly don’t think they were lost but it is such a peculiar route, there must have been some logic in the planning. I really think it was to ensure the airspace above England was organised like this to avoid mid-air accidents during and after the invasion. I don’t suppose bomber crews having been to Berlin would have been able (because of fuel capacity) to undertake such a route.You have reminded me though, I still need to get that book, am sure that will tell us! Thanks for your visit and comment.

    • l Reid says:

      It was just a theory. You keep mentioning a book and I’m not too sure which book that would be but I do have a copy of the one titled The Salford Lancaster by Joe Bamford and gave it a quick read over last night(shamefully been sitting in a box of things I’d get around to someday) & your assumption that some answers to the question of why they flew that route home is correct. Apparently as strange as it seems to us now, a number of aircraft took a circuitous route home that day after the orders to abort their missions were given. As a matter of fact it mentions that at least one other aircraft (Wellinton Bomber I believe)landed in Blackpool. Apparently orders were given in the a.m. briefing that they were to return any bombs not used on the target and were, under no circumstances to jettison in the Channel yet it is clearly documented that some did, in fact jettison partial or even full loads. Also apparently orders were sent out that crews were to ” lighten their all-up weights. Who issued the order is most likely unknown and the crews could have interpreted that in one of two ways, to either jettison their load or to burn off fuel, explaining the routes many of them took while they waited for the weather to clear. The weather (low cloud cover/poor visibility)that day played a large part in decisions that were made both by the Master Bomber and the crews flying the aircraft. There were also reports of poor communications which could have further increased the confusion of some of the crews.I shall put aside some time over the next couple of weeks and read through the book in more detail, maybe have better answers then.

      • l Reid says:

        Yes, the flight officer was my uncle. His brother, a career officer in the RCAF, was my father. Although I did not come along until many many years after WWII I’ve always been well aware of the crash. The book is readily available on Amazon. All of your answers are in it.

  8. Colin Chambers says:

    Heard about this crash on Radio Manchester this morning. They spoke to Joe Bamford about the local connection with one of the crew. I used to live in Eccles, most probably read the book, but had not seen anything about it until the radio programme this morning. The booK is available on Amazon.

  9. Colin Chambers says:

    I did hear of a Lancaster making a landing at Barton Aerodrome(now City Airport Manchester),on a training flight. How true it is I am not sure but the comment was it was a close thing on the take off.

  10. Tony Flynn says:

    Very interesting website, I used to work in Swinton 30 years ago and was unaware of the story and I used to drive past the crash site on my way home. I read the book and found it to be an excellent account. I thought aicraft returni